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 

 

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. 

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!

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

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!

How Can Observing Something Help Me?

Observation as a coping skill, sounds ridiculous, right? For many people this can be one of the most basic, yet challenging skills. In DBT Core Mindfulness Skills are the foundation of all skills training. Observation skills teach us to take-hold of our mind. Observing is sensing ourselves and our environment without labeling or judging it. It allows our mind to be quiet!

Watch this video to learn more about DBT Observe Mindfulness Skill, the benefits, and how to build and use it!!

If you or someone you know could benefit from DBT skills click here to learn more about DBT at Mindful Healing!

FIND YOUR TRUE SELF

If your teen struggles with not knowing who they are or feeling lost negative core beliefs may be part of the problem.

Many teens are filled with these negative core belief systems. Core beliefs are belief systems that impact how we see ourselves, others, our future, and the world. They develop over time, usually from childhood and from significant life events and circumstances. They are strongly-held and ridged belief systems that are reinforced by the tendency to focus on facts that support the belief and ignore evidence that contradicts the belief system.

Many of the teenagers I work with at Mindful Healing believe that “They will never get better,” “They aren’t worth helping,” “They are hurting the people around them,” or “They don’t deserve to be loved.”

These beliefs are distress intolerant and can be activated by certain circumstances. When they are triggered they create such a pain response and such large emotional reactions teens cannot tolerate distress.

Core-Beliefs Are Attached to Values

One of the skills I teach at Mindful Healing is the DBT skill: Finding Meaning

This skill helps teens take a look at their distress intolerant beliefs and identify the value and meaning that it is triggering. If they say “I hurt the people around me,” they may value relationships. If they say “I will never get better,” they may value hope.

When teens are able to identify their values and begin to stripe away their self-doubt they are better able to tolerate distress. Adding meaning to life can help create a sense of purpose, life, and hope for the future.

It can help them begin to change their distress intolerant beliefs and find their authentic self!

WHY SELF-ESTEEM BOOSTERS CAN BE HARMFUL

Most teens have an inner critic, in fact many of us do, a voice that tells them they:

  • Are not good enough
  • Are not smart enough
  • Need to be prettier
  • Are not lovable
  • Need to work harder
  • And so forth and so on

This voice is can be all all consuming for teens. Many teens will either give in to the voice and say why bother or try to prove it wrong and be the “perfect” teen.

As parents and professionals we often tell teens to just think positively and say affirmations. That sounds great. I know I have said it. Watch this video to learn why that is actually counter productive and what you can do instead to help your teen build self-worth:

Self-Esteem Boosters Can Be Harmful