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!

Worried Because Your Teen Is Too Calm During Our Pandemic?

Many teens are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the shutdown BUT many are not. Some teens with intense social anxiety or who are bullied are feeling relief. Relief from being consumed with a fear of being judged…from being picked on…or from having to face their social fears. 

One parent described her teen as being “happy as a clam.” Another told us that her teen “hasn’t been this calm in years.” 


You are probably wondering what the problem is? Happy as a clam seems great. What’s the problem?? Well, though not planned avoidance, the very act of avoiding discomfort is what actually creates more discomfort!! The more we avoid our distress, the more we experience intense problematic behaviors as the cycle of avoidance continues. 

Anxiety naturally limits interactions and healthy risk taking that develops our confidence. Parents are worried about the long-term effects of social distancing because this forced avoidance actually increases anxiety. 

What will happen when school shutdown ends? 

* “How will I get her back to school whenever this is over?”

* “How do I get him to socialize and make friends after this if he already struggles?”

* “Will he lose all the progress he was making in therapy because of social distancing?”

These concerns are valid and real. Exposure therapy helps treat anxiety because it is the opposite of avoidance. 

As teen specialists, we are seeing two types of teens right now. 
  1. For some teens it is torture not being able to socialize and see their friends. They never thought they would miss school and structure, but they do. 
  2. For others, it is heaven. No more constant worrying, exhaustion, stomach aches, and more. They are relaxed. BUT this will end. 

If your teen is socially anxious and suddenly thrilled to be home, it is time to REFRAME social distancing. Rather than looking at this time as avoidance, help your teen to view this as a time to reset. 

If your teen needs additional support to reframe or reset their thinking, online therapy can help your teen develop skills to expose themselves to their anxieties and experience managing them successfully!

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!


Celebrities Who Have Found DBT Useful

Just what is DBT Therapy?

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is a cognitive-behavioral treatment developed in the 1980s by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. originally developed to treat people who are suicidal or with borderline personality disorder. Today DBT is evidence-based to be effective for the treatment of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bi-polar disorder, self-destructive or impulsive behaviors, and substance abuse.

Those who may benefit from DBT often experience extremely intense, negative, and uncontrollable emotions and impulsive decision making. Individuals often experience these extreme emotions when interacting with others, for example, friends, family, or romantic partners, causing a great deal of conflict in their relationships.

The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense manner toward emotional situations. DBT suggests that some people’s reactions to situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significantly longer to return to baseline. These people see the world in black-and-white, and seem to always be jumping from one crisis to another. Because few people understand such reactions — they often feel alone and consistently invalidated — they don’t have any strategies for coping with intense emotions. DBT is a method for teaching coping skills that help in the moment.

Today, more people are getting behind the importance of mental health. In fact, many celebrities have expressed their own experiences with therapy and prioritizing mental wellness, making it less of a taboo topic from which others can draw inspiration.

In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, singer and actress Selena Gomez opened up about her feelings about therapy, praising DBT and how it has helped her change her life for the better. “I have this dream of mine that’s beyond all of this where I think that personally, it should be required in schools to be taught dialectical behavior therapy,” Selena said.

During Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour, singer and actress Lady Gaga sat down with Oprah to discuss her mental health in an emotionally candid interview. Gaga opens up about how DBT is a part of her mental health regimen. In addition to transcendental meditation, daily exercise, and “radical acceptance”, Gaga says that “medicine, therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive therapy,” are tools of choice to help her cope with some of life’s challenges.

Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams shared on the Happy Place podcast that fame has been detrimental to her mental health. She says that she once used to seek negative online criticism so that she could “sit in a hole of sadness.” “I think there was a period of time where I was very sad, and then I came out of that, and now it’s just really terrifying that you’re ever going to slip back into it.” Maisie then offers a more optimistic insight, “As soon as you start digging, you start asking yourself bigger questions than ‘Why do I hate myself?’ It’s more like, ‘Why do you make yourself feel this way?’ The answers to all of these questions really are within you.”

Mindful Healing LLC offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy for teens. Our Coping Skills Group helps teens with overwhelming emotions develop skills to live the life they love.

One Skill To Boost Your Teen’s Happiness

February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. Sure, performing a random act of kindness is intended to make the benefiting party feel good, but did you know that random acts of kindness can have positive impacts on the person giving the nice gesture?

Being kind can have a positive impact on your teen’s mood and physical health. Studies have shown that kindness can reduce stress, boost immune systems, and help reduce negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression. Afterall, kindness is chemical.

When random acts of kindness are practiced, neurochemicals that result in a sense of well-being are released. The same neural circuits that are involved in chemical “highs” are the same ones activated by kindness and compassion. Kindness literally can reduce physically and emotional pain because it releases dopamine, serotonin, and endogenous into our system (the natural chemicals responsible for happiness, mood regulation, and pain management).


Random acts of kindness can enhance the release of oxytocin in interactions where two or more people are engaged in kind behavior. Oxytocin plays a role in forming social bonds such as trust among people, which is essential for teens because social connection is one of their primary developmental needs.

Acts of kindness can release hormones that contribute to a positive mood and overall well being. The practice is so effective it’s being formally incorporated into some types of psychotherapy. In DBT random acts of kindness is part of the Mindfulness Module, accumulating positive experiences skill, and gratitude skills.

These skills help teens manage feelings of depression, anxiety, and overwhelm. It utilizes mindfulness meditation, documenting gratitude, and acts of kindness that are incorporated into daily routines.

Speak with your teen about ways in which they can perform random acts of kindness at home, at school, or in the neighborhood. Encourage them to think of small gestures of kindness that they can incorporate into their daily routine. February is just a start to a lifelong practice of gratitude and kindness!

If your teen needs support with managing their emotions and learning how to bring mindfulness into their daily life contact us here to learn more.

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. 

3 Steps To Healthy Choices

Teens struggle with impulsive decisions and/or choices that are not fully thought out, without regard to potential consequences. Teens have a hard enough time thinking about how their decisions will impact them tomorrow, least of all next week or year. Their frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until age 26 or 27 and that is where sound decision making occurs.  

At Mindful Healing, we teach teens to utilize the acronym ACT to make healthy decisions. ACT is a 3-step process that provides your teen with a blueprint, that if they practice, will actually enable them to evaluate situations in a more mature manner so they can be true to themselves.


A: Accept. Accepting involves breathing, being observant of the present, watching your thoughts and feelings knowing they are not necessarily representative of reality; taking an outside perspective so that you are not looking just at your momentary desire, for example: “I really want to go to that party tonight, but…” (I have homework to do, or I am not comfortable with all the alcohol that will be there, or my friend’s parents won’t be home and I know my parents would be furious if they knew that…)

C: Consider. Consider your values. Which values are related to your situation and how do they apply? (alcohol at the party, not getting my schoolwork done, not following parental guidelines .. for the above example).

T: Take Action. Process mindfully honoring your values (“I can’t go tonight. I have to study for a test.)

At Mindful Healing, we not only teach these skills, but we encourage our teens to Practice! Practice! Practice! This way, when they really need to use it, it won’t be an effort.

If you have a teen who needs support in making effective choices 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.