Managing Crisis with Wise Minds Accepts

Why Managing Crisis Matters

A crisis can be small or large, although it can vary based on who’s having the experience. Your teen’s or young adult’s crisis may seem small to you as parents, yet catastrophic to the teen experiencing it. And that’s what really matters! It’s up to your teen having the challenge to say of it feels like a crisis and to be able handle the difficult situation. 

Where DBT and Wise Mind come in is to shift the perspective or outlook on the experience. Sure, it might still present itself as a challenge or something to avoid. Make it go away, if possible. However, avoiding distress only makes things worse in the end. The point is to decrease the intensity of the pain and tone things down a bit.. Once your teen can start to do that their perspective shifts. This happens as they learn new coping skills. The sort we’re presenting here. Skills for you to try as a parent. Skills to share with your adolescent. And, like anything based on skills, this too requires practice. It wants your attention, and then pleases you, as step by step you notice changes. A shift to the middle, that place where things feel better, a bit less overwhelming with maybe some hope of “can do.”

Even though these are “Steps” let’s run through them quickly so you can move on to giving them a try! First is the acronym. Remember that in DBT you can use this ACCEPTS mnemonic to readily recall each step. This helps a lot when you are under stress. Begin by realizing you ACCEPT that the situation you’re in is troubling, so you’re using your ACCEPTS practice to guide you to your middle ground.

Wise Mind Steps

It helps to find ways to practice one or more of these skills every day. That includes when you’re not having a crisis. Why? Because that is how you grow your distraction abilities. You learn what works and what doesn’t. Then you can try it out on mildly irritating situations. This gives you the feedback that helps you build crisis-managing skills.

A is for Activities or Actions: These are things to do that distract you or soothe you. They can include going outside, playing a game, doing a hobby, and listening to favorite music. These can change over time as you find whatever has the best effect for you. Then, write them down in a couple of places. Keep the list on your phone or nearby so you can refer to it when need be.

C is for Contributions: This is when you’re kind to someone, volunteer in the community, or share your skills at home or in your neighborhood. It may be as simple as thoughtful words or hours spent clearing a local hiking trail. Either way, you have brightened someone’s day! Be sure to keep a list, including what makes you aware of the gift of giving.

C for comparisons: Comparing yourself with others in about the same place as you can aid with tracking your improvement. Some prefer to continually compare themselves from one month ago with today. That is because your life is unique, with ups and downs. The point is to find what sort of comparison shows if you’re gaining ground or have more steps to take.

E is for emotions: You can distract yourself with these by moving yourself from one emotional state to another. When you’re down, watch a funny movie or stand up comedian. Music can alter your mood too! Some suggest starting with the emotion of the moment and then shifting it. That happens when you pick something that gives you energy, increasing your feelings of what you can do.

P is to push away: You take whatever is upsetting you and push it away. Or you picture putting the discomfort or gray cloud feeling in a trash can and taping the lid shut. Whatever you choose for an image, you’re moving away from the cause of distress and placing a physical barrier between you and it. 

T is for thoughts: Move your thoughts to something other than what’s currently on your mind. Some people pick an inner picture of their favorite getaway place. This method is good for when you need to create a quick shift. You transport yourself in your mind to the local park, gym, or safe space. Or count backwards from 100 or even 1000! That concentration helps to quickly distract your attention.

S is for sensory input: Use your senses as a form of distraction. Running your hands in cold water, drinking warm cocoa, or wrapping up in a blanket or quilt. Noise, an intense video game, rolling on the grass, and eating something spicy are all actions that use different senses to distract. Try different options to decide what is best for you!

Everything that you learn about your responses you can try again. Those that give you good results help with moving toward the middle!

If you or your teen need support in learning skills to manage distress our DBT specialists are standing by to help. Contact us here to learn more! 

 

Freedom From Shame

There is a huge difference between guilt and shame. Guilt comes from knowing you have done something you should not have, acknowledging it, taking accountability and changing the behavior. Guilt is not bad; it leads to growth and change.

Shame, on the other hand, keeps your teen stuck in an endless cycle of self-condemnation, which leads to anxiety which leads to repetition of the behavior, self-hatred, anxiety… and on and on. Shame involves the inability to forgive oneself, to see oneself as they imagine others see them, to feel everyone is constantly judging them harshly and to feel humiliated to the point that your teen wants to hide from everyone, including their own family.

Freedom from shame comes with understanding the difference, identifying the incident that caused those feelings, mapping out the thought processes that lead to the extreme conclusions and distortions that arose as a result, and replacing them with a wise mind. Recovering from shame involves mastering a number of DBT skills: distress tolerance skills such as self- soothing, radical acceptance skills, as such accepting that the past cannot be changed but we can control how we react to it. It also involves learning to listen to the Wise mind: this is the balance between the emotion mind and the reason mind. With the Wise mind we are able to feel our emotions and to focus on the facts. The Wise Mind enables your teen to take care of themselves and to act effectively. Ultimately it can guide them out of the pit of self-condemnation and shame.

Cope Ahead for Managing Crisis (Suicide Prevention Month)

Managing Crisis. Even the words can make a person pause. Each of us responds based on our definition of crisis. For some it’s car troubles, for others it means health concerns. Even now, many families are dealing with the public health crisis of Covid-19. The stressors are multiple. Especially now, as you and your adolescent are making decisions about a return to school. Of course, you both want life to be as normal as it was a year ago. Truth be told, there was no normal then. There’s no normal this year either. The potential for increased anxiety and a crisis seem greater. 

This is the time to remember all you’ve learned about managing crises, small and large. Looking back to recall past tough times helps with planning ahead. That involves forecasting the options you have for coping. The first step to Cope Ahead is to pause, slow down, take a breath. Take another, releasing it slowly. Check in with your emotional state. If you’re still tense or anxious, allow yourself more quiet breaths, remembering the reminder to be gentle with yourself. Your life experience means you’ve gathered information on how to cope with lots of situations. Think and then focus on the last one that went well for you. This boosts confidence.

Now time to plan your Cope Ahead steps. First, identify the potential crisis. You’re worried about your kid either getting ill, being harmed, or doing self-harm. Part of coping ahead is to survey the situation. Has your adolescent’s school instituted learning options and astute health measures? Have there been teen crises of any kind in your area during the last year? Has your family’s health, finances, or living situation been affected by the pandemic? How’s everyone doing with each other? Some families are quite stressed and others have found meaning in more time together. Chances are a lot of families are somewhere in the middle.

After you have thought through these questions and come up with your own, jot down any ideas that have bubbled up with how to cope. Which ones pop out at you? Don’t hesitate or judge them; it’s time to accept your inner knowing, your wise mind.

Next step is to talk with your teen. Keep it simple, be open, and listen a lot. Let them know about the focus of your Cope Ahead planning. Before getting into the steps you’ve taken, ask what’s on their mind about the coming days and weeks. Then observe. The silence or bursting forth of pressures and worries. Remember to breathe, and ask your child to do the same. Pause. Ask them which concern is in the middle. Not the hardest or easiest to deal with. Talk about the middle one, gently sharing your own planning process. Let them know their process will be their own. And you’re there to be with them, each step of the way. 

At Mindful Healing, we are here to talk with you and your teen about managing crisis and the many benefits of developing Cope Ahead skills. To learn more contact us here.

Four Questions to Help You Better Understand and Connect with Your Teen

If you have a teen you have probably experienced being told to “leave me alone.” You may have noticed your teen becoming more distant or feel suddenly shut out of their life.

Here are four questions you can ask your teen to help you better understand their perspective and to gain a closer connection: 

  1. What led up to feeling this way? Do not ask “why” do you feel this way? “What” is always a question that will more likely elicit information. “Why” can feel like an accusation. Sometimes a teen has no idea what they are feeling. In that case, simple empathy can make them feel less alone: “That has to be extra painful, not knowing what is causing your unhappiness.” Sit with them in silence with warm compassion and allow them to feel their distress. And-manage your own feelings! They do not need to know that their pain is causing you distress/anxiety!
  2. When did you first notice feeling this way? (trying to understand the emotion). If their feeling is a result a situation they got themselves into because they violated a rule or failed to use common sense, this is NOT the time to point that out! Focus on their feelings, not the behaviors. Oftentimes, their shame and fear of how you will react is what is keeping them from sharing to begin with.
  3. What does this feeling motivate me to do? As a parent, observe what they do and how they are coping/not coping. It would be wiser to ask how you can help. You can also explore the same question with your teen. What does their feeling motivate them to do? Take revenge? Hurt themselves? Confront someone? Etc.
  4. How is my feeling impacting others? As a parent, if you are panicking, you will be sending a message that the situation is worse than they even imagined. As a parent, if you are motivated to give advice or fix it, it may be because you are not comfortable with your child’s distress.

You may not get suddenly open and engaged teen. What you will get is a teen who feel more understood and is more likely to share and connect with you willingly.

Want IN on the science-backed program that we’ve seen radically change the way that parents and teens interact and had resulted in major shifts in the parent-child relationship for the positive?

Click here to learn more about how DBT for parents can help!

Why My Teen’s Anxiety Isn’t Getting Better Even Though They’ve Been in Therapy

The answer to this question lies in what kind of therapy is being utilized because anxiety leads to what is known as “hot logic,” that is, logic based upon emotional reasoning which includes sensitivity to our bodily sensations and influences our decision-making. Anxiety is based in “hot logic” it is an emotional response and often disregards reason. “Cold logic” on the other hand, involves factual logic and critical analysis. DBT teaches teens how understand their “hot logic” thinking AND access “cold logic” reasoning at the same time. In DBT, we refer to this as “Wise Mind.”

Teens are often overwhelmed by their emotions which leads to poor decision-making and consequences. Cold logic, or just “talk therapy” is often not effective because they don’t understand their own physical reactions and underlying feelings that drive them. Not only that, “talk” only therapy may help them develop insight at the intellectual level, but it just isn’t enough. Teens need to identify and understand the feelings that drive them.  At Mindful Healing, we help them explore this in session and use apps to help teens track their feelings in the moment, process them and learn skills for real life change. This approach helps them connect their feelings with their mind so that they can develop real life coping skills.

Want to learn more about how to help your teen manage anxiety? Contact us today!

Anxious and Avoiding Teen? The Anxiety Cycle

Teens today feel pressure in a way that many parents have a hard time understanding. Social media has created a whole new world, a world in which teens feel monitored, judged, worried, anxious about their peers. Add parental fears and expectations to the mix and kids today are struggling more than ever with school, social pressures, and consequently with self-esteem, confusion, and isolation. Their response is often to shut down, to give up, to avoid. The anxiety of having to cope is often just too much and they retreat more and more into their own world, a world made more comfortable through video games, socializing without leaving their rooms, and other avenues that enable them to isolate even more.

How Can You Help Your Teen?
DBT:

At Mindful Healing, we adapt different therapeutic tools to move your kids forward. One of them is DBT. What is DBT?  Well, the acronym sounds intimidating, Dialectical Behavior Therapy. What it really is, is a set of over 100 skills to help others cope with life, with the tasks of living that for parents seem easy, but for teens today, can be overwhelming -such as making phone calls for appointments, driving, getting up on time and actually doing their homework.

 Exposure Therapy:

Not all teen problems are treated only with DBT. At Mindful Healing we also utilize exposure therapy. In exposure therapy, say fear of driving is the problem, a teen may be encouraged just to drive down the block and back. Day after day, just for a short time, until they are so comfortable, they are bored and itching to go a little further. As exposure and task time is increased, their confidence grows, and their anxiety lessens. In addition, they may also begin with a DBT skill such as square breathing, a skill that will help them when they first get in the car and feel panicky, paralyzed. By grounding themselves with this breathing technique, breathing deeply to a count of 4 (or 8), holding for the same count, breathing out to the same count, and then breathing into that count, they can calm themselves and be ready to drive down the block. The more they realize they CAN, the more they will be motivated to WANT to do it!

Walking the Middle Path: Helping Parents and Teens Connect

Let’s face it, raising teens is challenging! At times, you feel as if you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It is difficult to find the balance between being strict and being lenient, between being secure in what you know works and taking a chance on change. Probably the worst approach is the authoritarian, “I know what is best” or head-on style

One final thing: How can you achieve a balance between being strict and being lenient? Often when one parent is lenient, the other, in reaction is strict. It is hard to find that balance! DBT skill Walking the Middle Path, teaching parents how to find this balance.

Middle Path skills

Authoritarian parents focus on discipline and honoring the rules. The upside is that they are consistent, provide structure and predictability. If not too extreme, they help teens avoid getting into trouble and foster success at school. If more extreme, they create perfectionism, a harsh inner critic and low self- esteem or feelings of being in trouble or not good enough. They tend to not give as much emotional support or warmth.

A lenient parent is either permissive or uninvolved. Rules that exist tend to be inconsistent, nonexistent, or unenforced. On the upside, teens have lots of room to explore and build independence which can lead to creativity and new skills. The downside is that teens don’t have limitations or guidance which can lead to problem behaviors. On the downside, teens with parents who are too lenient can expect others, such as school authorities, to also make exceptions for their tendency not to follow the rules or in relationships, expect others to cater to their freedom to do what they want. They also may feel unimportant and the lack expectations that can lead them to feel not cared about.

Balance

Finding the balance is referred to as authoritative (not authoritarian). These parents have reasonable rules, expectations and limits and also have flexibility and some leniency. In other words, parents who find this balance are mindful of the battles they pick, have clear predictable consequences which they follow through on, and allow their teens to make mistakes and some freedom to make their own choices. They have learned to manage their own fears and anxieties and can separate who they are from who their kids are. They have learned to accept that their kids are not necessarily going to follow the path they had mapped out for their lives and are willing to go on that journey with them!

If you want to learn more DBT for parents, click here. 

Parenting Teens During Quarantine

This is tough! Teens are struggling with their own losses, loss of graduation, loss if summer camps, loss of connection with their friends etc. On top of that being stuck all day with siblings and parents at a time in life when they are supposed to experimenting with independence, preparing for launching into young adulthood. Add to that stressed parents with “real life” worries such as finances, job security, health, family management, especially with everyone at home at once…ALL the time (or most of the time as we are opening up slowly)!

What can you do?

Our families at Mindful Healing who have been successful at this are those who are creative in how to meet each other’s needs. Drive-by birthday celebrations, a specially decorated basement, prom dress, and music experienced with close friends on Zoom, etc.

Parents who step can away from their own stresses and understand how real the losses and anxiety-creating uncertainty are to their teens, parents, in other words who can validate their teens’ feelings, help them understand they have loving support and are not alone. Validation is a key in all of this: reflecting not what is said, but what is meant; acknowledging how real that feeling if for your teen, not giving unsolicited advice or in any way, trying to “fix’ their feelings, learning to sit with your own discomfort in order for you to be patient and to allow your teen to be okay to sit with their pain and to tolerate it.

The best way parents can be in the frame of mind to help their teen is to develop routines for their own self-care. Learn meditation techniques- find an app that you like that can guide you; set time aside to be alone and regenerate, learn to tolerate your own feelings and find a place to compartmentalize your own fears and anxieties and any guilt you may feel over your teen’s suffering.

If you are struggling with how to best support your teen, click here to schedule a FREE parent consultation.

Are You An Enabler?

What is enabling? When we help or rescue our children we are reinforcing their belief that they cannot do it themselves. This increases their own self-contempt and sense of powerlessness.
When we help them we also take away their ability to learn to be independent.

A  poll by the New York Times revealed that many parents are doing things FOR their adult children in ways that are actually UNHELPFUL to learning and living a independent life.

Here are some stats:

☑️ 76 percent reminded their adult children of deadlines they need to meet, including for schoolwork

☑️ 74 percent made appointments for them, including doctor’s appointments

☑️ 15 percent of parents with children in college had texted or called them to wake them up so they didn’t sleep through a class or test.

When your role as a parent includes fostering a reliance on you in order to complete daily tasks and responsibilities, your teen doesn’t learn the skills necessary to successfully navigate life.

So what leads to these behaviors by parents?

There is a vicious cycle:

The parent cannot tolerate to see their teen struggling and in pain. This leads to parental feeling of guilt, anxiety, fear, worry, etc. To alleviate these feelings they need to fix their teen and save them from emotional distress. They step in to rescue and save. The teen takes advantage because it is easier. The parent then feels anger and resentment. And ultimately, the teen believes they cannot do what their parent feels they cannot do.
What can you do?

  1. Name your limits
  2. Be clear and direct
  3. Be consistent
  4. Give yourself permission
    1. To feel
    2. To struggle
    3. To say no
  5. Never set a boundary you won’t keep

Encourage positive behavior by focusing on the positives no matter how small; ask encouraging questions, don’t make assumptions, ask questions rather than accuse.

Make a family agreement that you are committed to following through.
Break the cycle of enabling: Moving out of that cycle of rescuing, disappointment, anger, resentment and blame is one of the best things we can do for our child.
The way out is knowing how to set boundaries and believing in them! Know your limits, be consistent and direct; feel free to say NO!- it may be a lifesaver! And never set a boundary or do a family agreement that you cannot keep.
Never underestimate the power of positivity. Your child is so used to feeling shame. Telling themselves what they do wrong. Having someone notice what they do right and believing in them can be a game changer (just don’t over do it)

Strong Fathers Strong Daughters

With Father’s Day approaching, it is important to understand how significant a father (or male role model) is in their daughter’s life. A father’s love and approval, his admiration for his daughter’s qualities such as her independence, maturity, integrity, beauty (all daughter’s should be made to feel beautiful by their dads!), intelligence, character, are important.

Every teen should have moments where they feel like “daddy’s princess,” that their father loves them and even more importantly, believes in them. Believes what? Believes they can manage their lives. Believes they have the capacity to solve their own problems but at the same time, knows they can count on dad to be there if they need help, solicited (note the adjective) advice, need comfort, support and encouragement. A strong loving, compassionate father can make all the difference in creating a strong, loving, compassionate capable young woman!

Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers, Dads, and Men playing an important role in raising ALL children today!