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?

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!

How to Get Teens Motivated to Work from Home

Anyone else having a hard time getting motivated to work at home during our national stay home advisories? How about your teen? While today’s current events stemming from COVID-19 are no doubt stressful for everyone, teens and young adults who deal with anxiety and depression can find coping with the added stressors of society to be even more difficult… especially now that most of them are having to be home away from their normal routine.

One quick tip that I’ve found to help my own transition with having to get work done at home is to create a comfortable space where I can be productive. Yes, this meant creating a space away from my couch where I could dedicate certain times of the day to do work. Teens especially need a space of their own to do their school work, reading, etc. to help them prepare for coping with what could be a new normal for the next few weeks or so. In fact, studies have shown that organization can help those with anxiety reduce stress, improve sleep, improve relationships, make better food choices, and more.

I encourage all parents to work with your teens on creating a comfortable space where they can be focused, creative, and productive.

Here is a list of ideas that can help jumpstart your teen’s productivity and keep them motivated in a chaotic time.

  1. Get organized
  2. Get dressed in the morning
  3. Create checklists
  4. Create daily routines
  5. Designate a clean space for schoolwork
  6. Make time to get outdoors for fresh air
  7. Don’t forget to make time for meals and snacks
  8. Stay hydrated
  9. Unplug after working and take time to reflect on positive things
  10. Try to get to sleep and wake up during the same time each day

Does your teen need additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic? Sign up for our FREE online meet-up for teens hosted via video conference.

This group is for teens who are anxious, isolated, out of routine, and are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 shut down.

Join us to talk, to do artwork, stay connected to others, or simply just to share the space silently while being with others.

We are here for you. This is a space for you! No expectations. No judgements. Just a place to connect and belong.

Stay well!


11 Ways to Minimize Anxiety During Stressful Times

Stress is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure. This pressure can come from different aspects of our day to day life including current events that we have absolutely no control over. Sometimes stressors feel like they’re building on top of one another to a point where we feel helpless. 

For teens with high anxiety, it’s important to look into strategies that can help manage or reduce anxiety in the long term, like skills therapy or medication. But everyone can benefit from other ways to reduce stress with steps you can take in the moment when anxiety starts to take hold. 

  1. Stand Up Straight: For immediate relief from anxiety, stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, and open your chest. Then breathe deeply. This posture, combined with deep breathing, helps your body remember that it’s not in danger right now, and that it is in control (not helpless).
  2. Watch a Funny Video: Watching a funny YouTube video, for example, will help you stop feeling anxious fast. Why? Because you can’t laugh and stay anxious at the same time, physiologically. Your body relaxes after laughing in a way that gets rid of anxiety. Plus, according to the Mayo Clinic, laughter brings in oxygen-rich air, which stimulates your heart and lungs, and spikes your endorphins.
  3. Stay Away from Sugar: It may be tempting to reach for something sweet when you’re stressed, but that cake pop can do more harm than good, as research shows that eating too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings. Instead of reaching into the candy bowl, drink a glass of water or eat some protein.
  4. Go Outside for A Walk: Exercise is a long-proven way to lower anxiety. In addition to boosting your level of feel-good neurotransmitters, a brisk walk clears your mind and gets you breathing more deeply again–and anxiety is intimately linked to shallow breathing.
  5. Listen to Relaxing Music: Turn down the base and update your Spotify playlist with soft tunes. Studies have shown that listening to relaxing music can actually calm your nervous system. 
  6. Do Something Productive: Checking something off your to-do list can help alleviate that one more thing you have to do. Making your bed, clearing off your desk, organizing your closet, for instance, can make you feel productive and relieve anxiety.
  7. Chew Gum: According to several studies, chewing gum can help you relax and promote wellbeing. One possible explanation is that chewing gum causes brain waves similar to those of relaxed people. Another is that chewing gum promotes blood flow to your brain.
  8. Practice Being Mindful: Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment. It can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking. Some studies have suggested that mindfulness may help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  9. Cuddle With Your Pet: Positive physical contact can help release oxytocin and lower cortisol. This can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of stress. Fun fact, humans aren’t the only animals who cuddle for stress relief. Chimpanzees also cuddle friends who are stressed.
  10. Light A Candle: Ever sit in front of a fireplace and instantly feel relaxed? Well lighting a candle can offer the same sensation. Light a candle or use essential oils to benefit from calming scents like lavender, orange, or sandalwood.
  11. Write It Out Of Your Mind: Write it down. Recording what you’re stressed about is one approach, another is jotting down what you’re grateful for. Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.

Danger Will Robinson Danger!

The body’s response to anxiety is a response to danger. When we feel anxious, our bodies release adrenaline into our bloodstream to enable us to get to safety quickly (flight response). The danger doesn’t have to be real for this to happen. All we have to do is think it is real.

For people who suffer from anxiety, this response kicks in when it isn’t needed, often due to exaggerated thoughts… that many, especially teens, struggle with: “They all hated me…I’ll never be able to talk to anyone…I’m a loser and I’ll never amount to anything…”etc. These thoughts lead your teen to the flight or fight response of real danger: they will avoid (flight) friends, places, leave early, etc. or they will be angry (fight) over something as simple as a question you may ask, such as “did you do your homework?” (their thinking: “I’m stupid. You know I’m stupid. I am going to fail. Stop making me feel worse.”) These flight or fight responses give them the illusion of safety when in reality it perpetuates your teen’s anxiety.

The more they avoid friends, for example, the harder it will be for them to read social cues, to engage in a conversation, to feel good about themselves. The angrier they get when you ask a question, the less able they are to identify the fact that what they are really upset about is their fear that they are “stupid”, for example. 

At Mindful Healing, once we help teens identify their responses as anxious responses, we then teach them how to cope with the anxiety itself. One of the techniques to our body’s adrenaline response is Mindful Breathing. This one technique can drastically reduce the frequency and the intensity of both thoughts and physical sensations of anxiety. 

If your teen needs support learning contact us today. 

My Coping Skills Aren’t Helping

Have you ever been having a great day and then all of the sudden felt sick to stomach? You start feel nauseous. Your heart feels like it is going to pound out of your chest!

There you are just trying to go on with your day and you literally feel like your body is attacking itself. You might if think “I am having a heart attack?”

You are feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and your vision is blurry.

You can’t focus on your thoughts that are cycling through your head on repeat.

You wonder if this is anxiety or a sign or symptom of something much worse. Should you go to the hospital or doctors?

Eventually, things get better, but you still fell unsettled. You don’t know exactly why this happened and you feel like you are walking on eggshells just waiting for it to happen again. The fear of having a panic attack becomes its own constant anxiety.

The problem with panic is the level of intensity. No amount of journaling, thinking of something positive, or listening to music is going to bring you out of your panic attack.

Let’s be real here! These coping skill just don’t work for panic. The reality is that coping skills don’t mean that we don’t feel our difficult or distressing feelings. Coping skills teach us to cope with them…how to feel them without going into crisis. They can help decrease the frequency and intensity of distressing feelings.

So how do you cope with panic you ask?

Great question? A huge part is accepting your anxiety. The more we avoid something the bigger it gets. Buried feelings never die. So acknowledging your anxiety and panic is the step. Then creating some space from it by being the observer.

Acknowledge your anxiety and panic. Focus on what’s happening and acknowledge that physical sensations and try to shift out of the thoughts. Similar to going for a jog, your heart-rate is high, breathing deeply, muscles might be sore (especially me). Your body will need time to return to status quo.

Shift your mind to the physical aspects of your panic and remember that your body needs some time to return to status quo.

When you learn to identify your anxiety, accept it, focus on it as an observer you will feel better able to cope. If you or someone you know needs help developing coping skills for anxiety and/or panic we are here to help.

What is EMDR and Can It Really Help?

To be fully transparent, I thought Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) was a load of crap for a really long time. I mean, just look at the name, Eye Movement Desensitization, what the heck does that even mean? How is moving my eye’s around going to heal my panic or trauma? Let’s get real here! Sounded like another fast fix promise meant to prey on people in pain.

BUT…One year, close to my birthday (that’s when all our yearly training requirements are due) I realized I still needed to take more training courses to meet my annual requirements. The only course that fit my schedule was an introduction to Mindfulness and EMDR. “Ugh,” I thought.

Turns out, everything is always as it should be. I got to experience first-hand the fast and immediate benefits of EMDR. We did a simple practice exercise in the training. Going through the protocol on an insignificant frustration allowed me to let go of a frustration and wound I didn’t even know existed, least of all how significantly it was impacting my daily life! Each day after that was brighter, easier, and more peaceful for me. I literally felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders (and for those of you who know me, know I not the rainbows and optimistic type). This was truly an amazing experience.

So, naturally I sought out my own EMDR therapist to see if it really worked or if it was a fluke. I needed to know I didn’t drink the EMDR Kool-Aid. “Had to be a fluke, right?” “Eyes moving, still sounded silly to me.” But low and behold, it was not. Next thing I did, was sign up to become an EMDR therapist. Extensive training later, I can officially say I drank the Kool-Aid and am honored to be part of the club.

So you are still probably wondering…


EMDR is a form of therapy that allows you to deeply heal from symptoms of emotional distress. This type of deep healing is often believed to take years of processing and talk therapy. Repeated studies have shown that by using EMDR therapy you can have the same benefits as years of other forms of treatment.

EMDR was originally used to treat clients suffering from trauma and has proven to be the most effective method of treating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It has since been proven to be an effective treatment for anyone with anxiety, eating disorders, phobias, relationship issues, depression, grief, addiction, and more.

During EMDR sessions, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation (right/left eye movement) to stimulate both sides of the brain. The theory is that this continual movement releases traumatic or emotional experiences that reside in the nervous system. This then taps into the mind/body connection, allowing you to heal both emotional and physical symptoms simultaneously.

Many people like EMDR because they can begin to process experiences or feelings they aren’t able to easily talk about.


Absolutely! EMDR is a therapy that allows clients to heal from past negative experiences and core belief systems that are holding them back, similar to CBT. However, it often is combined with other forms of therapy to meet your individual needs as the client. For example, EMDR can be combined with CBT or DBT. Many times panic, depression, anxiety, or PTSD can prevent you from learning the day to day coping skills and interpersonal skills that are needed to be effective in your daily life.

If this sounds like something that would benefit you or you want to learn more contact us today to schedule your free consultation!


“You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking”-Bill Wilson

Anxiety can be debilitating. Fear and anxiety can cause significant life problems and leave us left out of some of life’s most rewarding experiences.

Anxiety often looks like:

  • That inner critic consistently telling you you’re not enough
  • That thought that races through your mind over and over
  • That ache in your stomach that doesn’t go away
  • That shakiness of your hands and legs
  • That avoidance of situations you are uncomfortable in (even when you want to go)
  • That voice that tells you something bad will happen
  • That urge to run away, hide, or stay in bed
  • That constant fear of what will happen next and attempt to control the future

Anxiety can be overwhelming to say the least. The difficult part of dealing with it is the natural response to anxiety is to avoid. If you wait until you feel like dealing it is pretty much a non-starter.

So what do you do then? In we DBT we teach a skill called Opposite Action to help teens handle challenging feelings without making them worse.

How to Use Opposite Action With Anxiety:

Step One

Think about what you are worried about

You can start small. Don’t have to overwhelm yourself. Stop avoiding your fears all together. Think about what you are worried about. Think about approaching the situation and how you would do that.

 Step Two

Stop Avoiding

Avoidance of your fears only makes them bigger. Feelings aren’t facts. Our feelings exist for reason, they communicate to others, motivate action, let us know what is happening in our environment. However, sometimes our feelings get it wrong and miscommunicate to us. This is anxiety. It tells us there is something to be afraid of when there isn’t.

So stop avoiding and begin to face your anxiety. This will be hard and uncomfortable. Do it anyway and do it often. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Step Three

Now that you have begun to face your fears. Do something every day that faces your fears. Here are some examples of opposite action for anxiety:

  • If you have social anxiety and withdrawal, then actively reach out to friends
  • If you have a fear of failure then try mindfully doing something without judgement (drawing, journaling, etc)
  • If you are anxious about going to school then keep going everyday

Opposite Action is a VERY hard and can feel overwhelming and stuck without the support of a professional and others who are going through it. When done right it DOES WORK.

If you or your teen need help learning to manage your anxiety so you can feel calm and at peace, I would be happy to help. You can reach me here to schedule your consultation to discuss best next steps!


Teens today are growing up in a different world than any of the generations before them. They are the first generation to be born with Smart technology already completely in existence. Even the millennials to some extent grew up as the technology advanced. Though tech is always advancing, for the iGens internet, apps, FaceTime, and more have been at their fingertips from birth. I have watched my 2-year-old niece know how to unlock a cell phone and by 3 know how to use YouTube for kids.

There is a growing mountain of research that shows a correlation between the rise of smartphone usage and rates of depression, suicidality, and anxiety in teens. The pressure of always being connected to your social life doesn’t allow teens time to relax and decompress after school. Not to mention that social media is not an accurate representation of a teens social world. The pressure to “fit in” or be “perfect” is unrealistic (but I could probably fill a page on social media alone). So the downside of smartphones/technology seems overwhelming apparent:

  • Social media pressures
  • Seemingly unavoidable access to damaging or dangerous apps
  • Argument inducer between teen and parent
  • Increases rates of depression and anxiety/decreases ability to cope
  • Can be addictive

However, nothing is ever one-sided, there are positive aspects of smartphones. There are apps that help with mental health issues and teach coping skills. Many of them are FREE: Calm, Moodpath, SuperBetter, and Happify for example. There are also apps that help you as parents organize your life, which can make things less stressful. As a parent of a teen this can make a big difference. I personally use apps tracking grocery lists and weekly recipes, such as Yummly or Anylist. Taking as much work out of chores as possible is a lifesaver in any busy household. Teens often feel the same way, they use apps to help them study and organize their school/homework.

Sometimes, I think to myself, I wish there was app to make me want to work-out or stop me from eating sweets late at night. However, that is some of the downside again. Smartphones can do so much for us we stop practicing doing things for ourselves. That is where parenting comes in. Not only do the iGens, your teens, have it harder now than ever, as parents so do you. You have to set limits around screen time. You have to teach them how to wait and be patient; how to feel distress, how to fail and how to succeed. You have to teach them how to be in the moment not just take pictures of the moment, how to have a conversation not IM in code, how to enjoy activities and relax not just engage screen time to distract.

I was talking to one of the parents I work with the other day who stated that she feels that kids shouldn’t have phones until at least 7th grade. I don’t know that would ever happen. Kids today often have smartphones in elementary school. Then I heard about this school cell phone pilot program in Boston:

At the City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston, students entering school in the morning are met by administrators fanned out at the front door with their hands out. One by one, they take students’ phones, slip them into a soft pouch, and lock them closed with a snap that works like the security tags you find on clothing at department stores. Students take their pouched phones back, but can only unlock them with a special device at dismissal time, nearly eight hours later. 

Naturally, the students were outraged. How could this be happening? How can they live without their phones? How will they socialize? Connect? Communicate?

However, much to their surprise it turned out to freeing for them. Forced freedom!

One student reported that” she doesn’t reach for her phone as much anymore because if you don’t feed the habit; the habit eventually slows.” Students reported having more conversations and paying attention more in class.

Smartphones are a part of our lives. There is no way around that. As parents you can help your teen learn to not feel tethered to their phone. Ironically, there are apps that help limit screen time.

If you need help support your teen with screen time or other parenting issues I can help. Contact us to schedule your parent screening today!


If you’re having a hard time getting a convo going, and it’s upping your anxiety, try visualizing it first. “Take a moment to visualize how you would like to interact with others,” says Lianna Tsangarides, LCSW, in an email to Bustle. “Practice what you would say, role play it in your head. Take the time to use imagery to feel more comfortable and prepared.” Then give it a go.

Read full article here


A key component of DBT is skills training. DBT has 4 modules of skills, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance. Each module helps individuals develops skills to manage their emotions more effectively and develop improved quality of life. The skills training and treatment of DBT is applicable to people with a wide range of mental health conditions to improve overall well-being, emotion management, and decrease negative emotions and distress. Therefore, DBT treatment or DBT informed therapy may be beneficial for individuals with depressionanxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read the full article on Psych Central