3 Ways to Help Your Teen See The Positive in Things

Anyone with teenagers knows that teenagers’ feelings can be intense. Even small issues can sometimes turn their world upside down and create an outlook of doom. And when life really gets hard, some teens don’t even know where to begin to find just a sliver of silver lining. As a parent, you of course can’t help but feel overwhelmed not knowing what to do or how to help your teen process their massive list of emotional stressors.

We’ve outlined three simple ways to help your teen see the positive during life’s challenges. Whether your teen has a seemingly minor issue, to a full blown crisis, these tips will help you help them.

ONE: Validate Their Feelings And Stressors

Reassure your teen that their feelings are valid and that what they are experiencing is real, even if you don’t quite understand the extent of their concerns or from where they may be stemming. Sometimes, simply having someone acknowledge you and your feelings can go a long way in coping and healing.

TWO: Acknowledge Positive Things Around You

In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), we have a skill called Accumulating Positive Experiences/Emotions. Often times, when we are in the midst of negative emotions and feelings, we can’t readily acknowledge anything positive around us. Help your teen find their way out of this auto-pilot way of negative thinking by encouraging them to acknowledge the positive things in their life. Spend time identifying something they are grateful for, take notice of something good that happened to them that day, or remind them of something funny or exciting they did recently.

THREE: Identify New Ways To Add Positivity In Their Lives

Having something positive to look forward to can inspire hope and enthusiasm in life. Help your teen identify what short-term positive experiences they can begin to add to their routine. Does your teen have a short term goal they want to achieve? Is there a particular cause they value and would feel good contributing to? Perhaps there’s an activity your teen has always wanted to try? Whatever positive experience it is, encourage your teen to go for it while also making it your priority.

Adding positive experiences to our life is a great way to boost our mood long-term. Mindfulness and pleasant activities are shown to decrease depression and anxiety. Remind your teen that stress and feeling overwhelmed are normal feelings. They can feel both stressed AND have positive experiences.

Coping With Negative Emotions

One of the techniques we teach our teens at Mindful Healing, is… no surprise…Mindfulness. Now that is a word that is used a lot but what is it really… and how do we teach teens to utilize it?

Mindfulness is a practice, which is very relevant for our lives today. It simply means being in the “now,” paying attention to the present moment, observing our thoughts and physical sensations without judgment. This means that as we observe our thoughts, when, for example, we are anxious about the possibility of failing an upcoming test, we are not saying to ourselves, “I am ‘stupid’, but are just observing we have that feeling and it pass. Also, we are not, for example, narrating a catastrophic scene, when a thought such as “I am feeling anxious about going to that party tonight” pops into our mind. We simply are aware of the thought, accept it and let it pass. As we become more practiced at using mindfulness, for breathing, for body sensations, and for routine daily activities, we automatically learn to be mindful observers of our thoughts and feelings, and more accepting of them. This results in less distress and increases our ability to enjoy our lives. 

With mindfulness, even the most disturbing sensations, feelings, thoughts, and experiences, can be viewed in the mind, almost as if it were a movie, and not as if it were actually true. (Brantley 2003). 

As we become more skilled at being mindful, then even in times of emotional crisis, we will be able to automatically use these observer skills and the mindful breathing that is part of this process where, as we focus our attention on our breathing.  We simply observe the distressful thoughts without believing or disbelieving them or arguing with them. If our thoughts become overwhelming, too strong or loud, we just move our attention once again to our breath, to our bodily sensations and to the sounds around us. 

Jon Kabat-Zinn (2004) uses the example of waves to help explain mindfulness:

“Think of your mind as the surface of a lake or an ocean. There are always waves on the water, sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes almost imperceptible. The water’s waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our mind. It’s possible to find shelter from much of the wind that agitates the mind. Whatever we might do to prevent them, the winds of life and of the mind will blow. 

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”!

Does your teen need support in learning to manage negative feelings?

Contact us to learn more. 

5 Steps To Staying Emotionally Strong

Let’s face it. Life is going to happen and it won’t always be happy. We can often let circumstances emotionally overwhelm us and at times it feels as if an avalanche of emotions is overtaking us. 

This is especially true for teens who are already adjusting to emerging hormones that are playing havoc with their emotions. Add to that, a brain that is not yet fully developed and social situations which magnify their sensitivities and you have a recipe for an emotional potboiler. 

At Mindful Healing, we believe that there are techniques your teen can learn to help them navigate the emotional minefields that assault them as they are learning to transition to adulthood. The key to this is following 5-steps, 5 simple steps to staying emotionally strong through all the turmoil. 

Just follow the acronym. PLEASE:

PL: Physical wellness and well-being. When your teen is tired, sick, not taking needed medications, they are going to be overwhelmed by the slightest disappointment, least of all, the occasions for the big emotional events in their lives. When they get sick, they need to see the doctor, take their meds and do all that they can to ensure their physical well-being.

E: Exercise. Part of good physical self-care is exercise. We now know that exercise not only reduces stress but actually changes the brain into making it a healthier one. Consequently, exercise becomes part of the foundation for staying emotionally strong. Yoga, aerobics, strengthening and stretching exercises all contribute to your teens emotional as well as physical well-being.

A: Avoid drugs and alcohol. Drugs may give temporary relief. Your teen may say that marijuana, for example, “makes me feel less anxious.” Your teen’s brain is not the same as an adult’s and what they need to learn is how to manage their emotions, emotions that won’t always be so intense, without drugs that will help them escape from their feelings. Being emotionally strong means being able to handle your feelings without becoming crushed by them!

S: Sleep well. This means a regular bedtime and rising time, even on weekends. It means a minimum of 8 hrs sleep, and for most teens, 8-10 per night. Do remember also, that regular exercise can help teens to sleep better. 

E: Eat balanced meals. Food provides the physical building blocks of our emotional systems. Without the proper balance of proteins, good fats and carbs, your teen will have a harder time coping with their emotions, especially crises. 

Just remember, that if they can PLEASE their bodies through healthy habits, they will become a lot more resilient and emotionally stronger!

Want to help your teen learn to manage their emotions? Contact us. 

12 Prompts To Help Your Teen Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Many teens who are depressed, anxious or overwhelmed struggle with finding things to be grateful for. I hear them say that they know they have good things or feel they “should” be grateful, but they don’t feel it. The good news is that research shows that gratitude practices work just by spending time searching for things to be grateful for. That act of thinking about it alone is beneficial. 

So this Thanksgiving here are some fun prompts to help you and your teen get your mind thinking about gratitude: 

  1. Write down 1 experience you are really glad you had. 
  2. Name 5 technology gadgets you are grateful for. 
  3. Did you do something nice for someone recently? Write about it. 
  4. What family members are you most grateful for? Write about what makes them special.
  5. Who do you trust most and why? 
  6. What is your favorite song? 
  7. List 3 things that make you laugh?
  8. Who knows you the very best? Who is your closet peer? 
  9. What are 3 things you take for granted?
  10. What is something that has made your life easier? And why?
  11. What’s something that you’re looking forward to?
  12. What’s one of your personality traits that you’re grateful for?

Teens value authenticity. You can help your teen learn to be grateful by being authentic with them and treating them like an expert in their own life. 

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough and more.” – Melody Beattie 

 

Helping Teens Respond To Failure

Teens are often harder on themselves than we as parents could ever be on them. In fact, sometimes it seems as if our “cheerleading” attempts, our positive encouragement,  have little or no impact on them. Sometimes it feels that no matter what, our teen is overwhelmed by feelings of failure. 

As parents we often want to “fix” this for them when what they really need to learn is how to cope with that feeling, to realize that it is temporary and is not reality. 

At Mindful Healing, we teach teens a technique that helps them deal with these big emotions by  Riding the Wave. The “wave” is the emotion, and as they ride it, they observe the feeling: notice what they are feeling, any physical sensations, allowing themselves to feel the feelings without judgment.  They then describe the feeling: this includes describing the feeling without getting stuck in the thought itself. Next, they learn to accept the experience and then, just like a wave, they allow it to pass. 

Many of us experience our feelings like a wave, getting bigger and bigger. We often get stuck in the thoughts, which increase the size of the “wave.” If our teens learn to ride the wave without getting stuck in the thought much like waves at the beach, their feelings will rise and then they will decrease. It might come back and they’ll ride it again… until the tide finally goes out! 

If your teen needs help learning to respond to distressing feelings contact us here.

The #1 Skill To Help Your Teen Cope Long Term

Of all the different techniques that we, at Mindful Healing, can help teens learn, Belly Breathing is the most important. Why? Because it can be applied to just about every distressing situation your teen may encounter from being bullied to having to do homework they would rather avoid. 

Belly Breathing-The goal of belly breathing is to help your teen learn to be calm and non-judgmental. Simply allowing thoughts to come and go without being attached to them. 

Simply, ironic isn’t it? It is simple AND it isn’t. Belly breathing takes practice both physically and mentally. Learning to belly breath has more benefits that I can possibly list here, but I will give some of my favorites. 

Benefits

  • We learn to become an observer of our-self creating space between thought, feeling and behavior.
  • We learn to have more control of our thoughts and increase focus.
  • We calm our central nervous system and its reaction, we connect our feeling brain and thinking brain. This one is crucial. This is the only way to connect our feeling brain and thinking brain. Want your teen to be able to think when upset? Belly breathing is the #1 skill!

How to practice: (Belly breathing) Sit comfortably, imagine a balloon in your belly…allow thoughts to come and go…just notice sounds, physical sensations, emotions, be non-judgmental.

Just remember that the use of mindful breathing is the basic brick in the foundation of all the other techniques that can help your teen cope with life events!

If your teen needs additional support with learning actionable coping skills contact us today to learn more!

5-Steps To Personal Well-Being

Teens are often so wrapped up in their own emotions that they have a hard time getting out of themselves and seeing the bigger picture. At Mindful Healing, we teach a 5-Step process that helps them with this. By learning to follow the acronym, CLEAN, teens learn how to take the spotlight off of themselves so they can more fully enjoy life:

C: Connect with family and friends. One of our basic human needs is connection. How many of us would not get to exercise, for example, if we didn’t have someone to go with? Or go to a movie, if we were alone? By connecting to others, we can receive and give empathy, validation, caring, step outside of ourselves and feel good about being with others.

L: Learn something new and challenge yourself. Let’s face it- teens can get into ruts, glued to their phones, focused on their video games, obsessed with social media… ruts that cause them to isolate, dull their minds, and narrow their world. By learning something new, your teen can discover new aspects of themselves, develop confidence in new ways and find connections with others.

E: Exercise. Exercise is essential to emotional well-being. Just as trauma and unhappy experiences can create negative chemical pathways in the brain, exercise can also affect the brain… in positive ways by reducing stress, creating new neural pathways that will increase the ability to become emotionally stronger, and resilient.

A: Acts of kindness. Acts of kindness to others are acts of kindness to ourselves! By doing something for another person, your teen can get that “feel good” surge that helps them not only connect to others, but also feel good about themselves!

N: Notice. Be curious. By becoming aware of their environment, they are not being focused on themselves. Awareness leads to curiosity which leads to new experiences which leads to new challenges which then often leads to connecting to others. Being curious means, above all, savoring the moment!

If your teen needs help managing their emotions contact us here. 

How To Have Good Sleep Habits This School Year

School is once again rearing its head! One of the most important aspects of self-care, emotional well-being, and strength, (and good grades!) is getting quality sleep. We are only a couple of weeks into the school year and many of my clients are complaining about being tired and having a hard time focusing in class and getting there work done. 

Why is this? 

Most teens need 8-9 hours of sleep and the school year isn’t conducive to this. Teens natural sleep cycle also tends to stay up later and sleep in later. So here are some tips your teen can use so that they can be prepared for this school year!

  1. Set a schedule (most people don’t realize our schedule is set by when we wake up not fall asleep so get up within an hour of the same time every day. Yes, teens that includes weekends). However, your body will naturally start to wake up at this time and you will actually feel more rested.
  2. Don’t force yourself to sleep -if your not asleep in 20 min to get out of bed. Avoid any stimulating activities like screens or eating.
  3. Avoid caffeine for 12 hours before bed.
  4.  Avoid napping!
  5. Use your bed only for sleep-avoid doing homework, reading, playing video games or using your phone in bed.
  6. Exercise and eat well. Try to be active during the day and have at least 3 balanced meals.
  7. Sleep in a comfortable environment. Make your room your safe space. Be sure it is quiet, at a comfortable sleeping temperature, your bed is comfortable, have a good pillow, etc.  Pleasant dreams…!

If your teen needs support contact us today.

5 Tips To Reduce Stress

Teens deal with a lot of stress. Between school, friends, social media, etc it is no wonder anxiety and depression rates are on the rise. When teens don’t have the skills to manage stress emotions can build up and are later expressed as “behavioral problems.”

Behaviors aren’t the problem they are the solution. They are solving the problem for your teens. The problem of being overwhelmed. The problem of being stressed. The problem of having too much school work. The problem of being anxious or fearing being judged.

This week in DBT we discussed how bottling emotions negatively impacts behaviors and explored skills to help relieve daily life stressors. To learn more watch this video…

 

Riding The Wave From Crisis To Coping

What would happen if you actually felt your feelings? Sounds awful right? At least it does to many of the clients we work with at Mindful Healing.

What happens, if you are used to  feelings being overwhelming and unmanageable your natural response is to avoid them and push them away. All distressing feelings become “the enemy.”

Creating Crisis

The problem with this is it actually makes things worse. If every time you feel distress you avoid it, you never learn to feel distress.

An important part of learning to tolerate difficult emotions is learning to Ride The Wave.

Here is the distinction:

Crisis Management Skills: When you are experiences overwhelming emotions that create an urge to engage in self-harm, impulsive, or self-destructive behavior it is recommended to use distraction skills to help you manage your feelings.

Emotion Regulation Skill: If you are feeling sad, anxious, lonely, stressed etc, avoiding your feelings will only make them worse. Buried feelings never die.

At Mindful Healing, we teach the DBT skill Riding the Wave to help clients learn how to tolerate distressing feelings without acting on negative impulses. We focus steps to learn and practice riding the wave:

  1. Notice and Observe the emotion
    • Non-judgmentally notice how you are feeling
    • Try to name the emotion if you can
  2. Accept the emotion
    • Don’t try to avoid the emotion
    • Don’t try to change the emotion
    • Don’t judge the emotion
    • Don’t attach yourself or values to the emotion
  3. Sit with the emotion
    • Notice any physical sensations of the emotion
    • Allow yourself to focus, experience, and breathe through the feeling
  4. Allow and Release the emotion
    • Allow yourself to feel the emotion as it rises
    • Know that the feeling has a peak, like a wave and will then fall. Be a witness to this process.
    • All the emotion to pass. Don’t ruminate on it or get caught in a thinking trap