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…

WHAT THE HECK IS EMDR?

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.

WHAT ABOUT SKILLS? DON’T I STILL NEED THEM?

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!

What’s Your Real Problem?

I get calls from concerned parents all time. They are worried about the behaviors their kids are engaging in. What parent wouldn’t be concerned if they see their child struggling? Maybe your teen is avoiding school because they are anxious. Maybe your child is in college and drinking and partying too much led to them not returning for second semester. Maybe your teen is isolating or self-harming. Regardless of the behavior, I have to tell you, the behavior is NOT the problem, it is the SOLUTION.

I know, you probably think I am crazy at this point, but just keep reading. The problem is that they lack coping skills! Your kids don’t know how to feel intense or difficult emotions and they don’t have any real coping skills to manage them in the moment.

So, what do they do? They find another way. The “solution.” For each child, teen, or young adult (and let’s be real some of us as well), this might look different, but the concept is the same. They are all managing their feelings or essentially avoiding their feelings because they don’t know what else to do!

GOOD NEWS, There is a better way! 

There are coping skills that very effectively help teens learn to manage their feelings in the moment! Your teen can learn them today! You can learn them too and how to help your teen put them into practice on a regular basis. Any day now you can be on your way to having a happier healthier teen.

We help your teen envision a life worth living and imagine that they can be in control of their emotions. We help them to identify what their current behaviors are doing for them and teach them how coping skills can help them reach their same goals without the negative consequences (such as shame).

Sound good? Schedule your free 15-min phone strategy session to learn more about how coping skills to help you and/or your teen start the year off right!

Break The Negative Thought Cycle For Good!

Have you ever noticed yourself stuck in a negative loop of thinking similar to a hamster running on a wheel? Your thoughts just keep spinning and spinning, yet, you’re going nowhere. Well, this may be due to “Thinking Traps.” Don’t worry, we all have them.

“Think Traps” can impact more than just our thoughts, but our mood and actions. When we get stuck in a negative thought our mood starts to go downhill, and this impacts our actions. What makes this even more dangerous is that if we don’t break the cycle our “Thinking Traps” can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Let me show you how it works:

Teen’s thought: No one likes me…Which Leads to..

Teen’s Mood: Feeling Depressed…Which Leads to…

Teen’s Action…Isolation…Which Leads to…Teen’s friends not reaching out as much which reinforces the belief that “no one likes me…” which leads to

Teen’s new thought: I’m unlovable…So forth and So on…

What To Do? Tips To Break The Thinking Traps Cycle:

Let me be real with you for a minute. One of the most common suggestions for this is to “challenge the distorted thinking.” This is all fine and well, BUT, when your thoughts are betraying you how are you going to believe your new more positive thought?

I find breaking the thought cycle first is the most effective way to deal with a Thinking Trap. This can be accomplished by reestablishing your mind/body connection. In Teen DBT Group this week we learn how to use mindfulness to observe and describe the physical sensations of our feelings to help break our thought cycles. This allows us to experience our feelings as mindful observers without the being on our judgmental hamster wheel.

Once you have reestablished your mind/body connection and your thoughts are no longer going round and round then you can gently challenge the thought. For example, asking yourself, “How do I know if this is accurate?” “Is this thought effective for me?” “Am I making assumptions?” or “Is there another explanation?”

The ability to begin to recognize your thinking traps and mindfully break the cycle can improve your mood. It can help shift you out of negative thinking and help you to engage in more positive behaviors!

Want help breaking the cycle? Click here to schedule your Free 15 Phone Consultation!

Tis’ The Season To Be Stressed…Tips To Support Your Teen During The Holidays

The holidays aren’t Merry and Bright for everyone, especially teens with depression, anxiety, or overwhelming feelings. Teens often experience more stress than adults. NO, really they do! The holidays can be a stressful time for teens. Preparing for the end of the school quarter (which means pressure for grades), managing family events, change in schedule, etc.

Many people feel that they are supposed to be happy and smiling during the holidays. This adds an additional pressure for individuals that suffer from depression. Often these teens worry that they will “ruin” the holidays or be a burden to the family so they put on a fake smile which is exhausting for them.

Here are some tips to help you support your teen this holiday season:

1) Focus on only 1 or 2 events rather than trying to make every celebration. Focus on time with your teens and family, celebrating the holiday, rather than having to make it to a specific location. There is always next year!

2) Remember that no holiday is perfect. Try not to worry about making every tradition perfect or having the perfect meal or cleanest house. Enjoy the celebration.

3) Try to be a host to your teens friends. As your teen is getting older it is stressful to spend all of school break doing family events. Try to create time where your teen can just have peers over to the house. Maybe they can have a” friends-giving.” It is nice for them to feel like your house is a place that is safe and has good feelings.

4) Try to focus less on traditions and more on shared activities. It is easy to get caught up in holiday rituals and family traditions. This may take away from actually spending quality time with your teens. Try to focus on having shared time together. Maybe they have traditions they would like to add.

No matter how you celebrate or if you celebrate spending quality time with your teen and giving them time to relax is important.

If your teen needs additional support this holiday season we are here to help. Contact us today for your free 15-min phone consultation.

What The Heck Is DBT and Why Will It Help My Teen?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive treatment model that offers hope for teens who have not seen improvement in other therapies. It is based on actionable skills and focuses on problem solving and acceptance-based strategies. DBT is led by a DBT-Certified therapist who is intensively trained by Behavior Tech.

At Mindful Healing, LLC our DBT program for adolescents involves group skills training. These actionable skills focus on helping teens learn to feel in control of their emotions rather than their emotions being in control of them. To transfer skills to the home and school environment, many teens also participate in individual DBT and parent coaching.

DBT is used to treat teens with anything from school avoidance to suicidality. It is the gold standard of evidence based treatment for emotion regulation in teens.

What Skills Does DBT Teach?

DBT skills group is a co-ed open-enrollment group. It runs for 26 weeks.   Group has a maximum of 8 clients to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully engage. We ask that you make the commitment to attend for a minimum of 12-weeks to give your teen ample time to develop skills and begin to see progress.

DBT skills training is very structured and consists of five modules.

Mindfulness skills: Teaches teens how to focus the mind and to observe and describe what they are feeling and thinking in the moment without judgement. These skills can help teens reduce reactivity to painful thoughts and emotions.

Distress Tolerance: Learning how to accept yourself and the situation. More specifically, learning to tolerate a crisis and being able to recognize urges to do things that would be ineffective, such self-harm, without acting on them.

Emotion Regulation: Addresses emotional sensitivity, mood changes such as depression, anxiety, or anger. In addition, recognizing and coping with negative emotions, and reducing one’s emotional vulnerability by increasing positive life experiences.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: It’s often relationships with others that are the triggers for self-destructive behaviors in teens. Interpersonal effectiveness skills teach adolescents how to engage more effectively with others. In addition, it enables them to feel more supported by others.

Middle Path: Teaches teens how to shift perspectives and see more than one viewpoint rather than only extreme thinking and behaviors. These skills involve learning about how to compromise and negotiate, as well as methods of behavior change, validation and acceptance.

Additional DBT Supports Available At Mindful Healing:

Individual DBT psychotherapy: This is the main way of developing and refining the ability to apply skills taught in DBT skills group to daily life. Individual DBT focuses on helping teens identify personal triggers for behaviors and explore skill based solutions.

Parent Tele-Coaching: Many parents feel unsure of how to approach a particular situation, when or how to set limits, if setting limits will make things better or worse, how to encourage skills use, etc. Parents can contact our intake corrdinator to arrange an individual parent coaching session for assistance in developing their own skills!

Commitment Strategies: “Commitment strategies” are a cornerstone of DBT treatment. Not all adolescents choose to come to therapy. Some are encouraged by parents or friends to seek treatment, and may not be “motivated” initially to attend therapy. Special commitment strategies are used to help adolescents gain a better understanding of their behaviors, and how DBT skills will help them meet their own unique individual goals!

In a nutshell, DBT teaches teens actionable skills to help them learn to live a life they can love! DBT targets the issues that cause distress. It teaches teens skills to deal with them without having to resort to self-defeating behaviors.

UNDERSTANDING NORMAL VS. ADNORMAL TEENAGER BEHAVIOR

With the school year starting I have been getting a lot of calls from parents worried about their teens. School anxiety is spiking, teens are beginning to feel overwhelmed and their dread of the new year is sinking in.

Parents ask me: “Lianna, how do I know if what my daughter’s is doing is a ‘normal teenager thing’ or if it’s something more serious? How do I know when I’m at the point where I should get my teenager some help?”

One of the hardest aspects for parents raising teenagers is understanding the difference between normal teenager behavior and unhealthy, abnormal teenage behavior. It’s normal for teens to become cranky, withdrawn, and — let’s be honest — irritating at times. But how can you tell if a teen is being moody or showing the warning signs of anxiety and depression? How can you distinguish typical teenage behavior from dangerous red flags?

WHAT’S NORMAL AND WHAT’S REASON FOR CONCERN?

I put together this list to help you get an idea of some of the differences to keep an eye out for. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but hopefully will help give you an idea of the basics.

WHAT CAN PARENT’S DO TO HELP?

Teen’s are always communicating with us, verbally and non-verbally. Sometimes we are just too distracted to notice all the signs. Listen to what they are saying and what concerns are on the minds. Ask questions for clarification, if you are a nag. Just own up to it, admit to being annoying and ask what they mean. Pay attention to their body language or any changes in behavior.

If you think your teen is in need of additional support contact me today!

3 Tips To Help Your Teen Cope With Back To School Anxiety

As you know school is starting and you know what happens next feelings of overwhelm, stress, and anxiety. I am going to address some of things you can do as a parent to help your kids be successful this year despite feeling anxious.

Many of us believe that by the time our kids reach high school they have back-to-school anxiety under control. Nope. Many of the teens I work with talk consistently about worrying about returning to school. They worry about a number of issues including classes, being liked, fitting in, finding their way around, what to say, managing their schedule and work load, etc.

Something I see a lot of with the teens I work with and I am sure many of you parents are familiar with too as that when teens get this anxious and uncomfortable they beg and plead to stay home. They actually can make themselves sick.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP…

So bearing in mind that your teens are nervous not only about the first day, but the first few weeks or months here are some tips you can use to help your teen adjust to returning to school:

  1. Look At the Basics

Have a routine. Start about 1-2 weeks before school starts. Get their sleeping back on track for a school schedule. Eat breakfast! No one copes well when they are hungry. Pack your book bag the night before, decide on your outfit, etc.

  1. Avoid reassuring instead focus on problem solving

Parents this doesn’t mean solve the problem for them. However, try to avoid statements like everything will be fine. Your teen doesn’t believe this and it can feel invalidating. Instead try to ask them problem solving questions, such as, If (worst thing) happened what would you do? Use things they identified as being anxious about (try not to come up with your own things, this may increase fears).

3. Encourage them to breathe

Practicing their coping skills will help them feel more confident when school starts. Try making this part of your house-hold routine. Role model using this as a skill or practice it as a family before or after dinner.

If your teen needs support with coping skills for returning to school contact me here  to learn more.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF YOUR EMOTIONS

Does your teen feel overwhelmed by emotions, hide from them or shove them down? Facing distress is difficult and a common reaction for teenagers is to shove those feelings away. Sometimes the emotions we are having feel so overwhelming we don’t want to feel them or deal with them so we shove them away, we are not even interest in going close to them because we are afraid to of what might happen if we connect to them.

It’s normal to have a range of emotions and every day is not going to be perfect. It’s okay to experience them.

How To Face Difficult Emotions

We have discovered that if you acknowledge them and label them the intensity with decrease and you will get through it quicker. In DBT we use the skill “riding the wave” to help teenagers learn to experience their emotions in the moment without their emotions being in control.

A surfer doesn’t fight the powerful ocean wave; he moves with the wave riding its natural tide. “Riding the wave” is also a practice of surfing your own powerful and negative emotions. Rather than fighting sadness, anger and other negative emotions, it’s about allowing your emotions to wash over you like a tidal wave, riding them out until they pass so that you can make wise decisions from a place of calm rather than a place of emotional turmoil that can often lead to destructive or ineffective behavior that doesn’t serve your goals.

When your teen is in distress it can be challenging to control or manage intense emotions. They may be flooded and inundated with negative emotions and harmful urges. There may be a feeling of hopelessness as the emotions are too overwhelming to deal with.  This is when riding the wave comes in handy.

Also known as Urge surfing, riding the wave involves observing and coping with the experience without trying to change it. As the more frequent tendency is to avoid, escape, or shove the feeling away, so riding the wave may seem unnatural. Riding the wave will give your teen a sense of personal control over uncomfortable feelings. Riding the wave allows one to sit with his or her discomfort, sorrow, and pain, instead of fighting the feeling by acting impulsively and engaging in harmful and self-destructive behaviors.  Although it can seem counterintuitive, accepting painful emotions allows for freedom from suffering.

It’s challenging to accept our thoughts and manage our emotions, but if we can learn how to “ride the wave” of our feelings we can prevent our urges from dictating our behavior. Your Teen will be more secure in knowing they have more control over their behavior and be able to respond rather than react!

This can be a difficult skill to learn. If you think your teen might benefit from riding the wave or other coping skills contact me here to learn more about Teen DBT Skills Group!

SHIFT OUT OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS (GOAL IS NOT TO CHANGE THEM)

If your teen struggles with negative self-talk the DBT mindfulness skill “Fact or Judgement” may be the solution. They can enjoy the moment without negative thinking.

Thoughts and Feelings aren’t Facts

Anybody who has worked with teens or has teens know that negative self-talk teens are very hard on themselves and this impacts their behavior. Using “Fact or Judgement” can help teens notice what’s happening in their mind and have more control over their emotions and reactions.

For example, if a teen fails a test in school they may think “I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. I’m never going to succeed in school.” Thoughts like this just keeps going and going in their head and by the time they get home they may not be willing to talk or have an angry outburst and as the parent you have no idea why. They may even not want to do their homework, or not want to go to school anymore.

When using “Fact or Judgment” helps teens observe their negative self-talk and ask themselves is this a fact, or is this a judgment? This will help to give emotional distance from the thought.

Teens can say: “I’m having the that I am stupid because I failed this test and this is a judgement. The fact is that I didn’t study. I am passing the class.”

This will in turn impact their behavior: If your teen is no longer feeling like a failure or stupid and has stopped the negative-self talk wheel, they may be more open to studying, going to school, talking to you, etc.

Don’t Let Your Thoughts Drive You

Remember don’t let your thoughts take control. Thoughts are not facts. Practice noticing your thoughts and letting them go. Remind yourself of what the facts of the situation are. Ask yourself what is true here? What amI reacting to?

Some teens have even mentioned that it is helpful gain distance from their thoughts by saying them out loud or talking to them in third person (ex. Lianna this negative thought is just a thought, your facts are…).

This doesn’t mean to invalidate our feelings, just to acknowledge that the thought is just a thought and a fact is fact.

Need more support or tricks for your teen? Book your free parent consultation here.