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!

Does Therapy Really Need To Be Weekly?

Wouldn’t less therapy be just as good? After all, I’d have more time to work on things between sessions, right?

One of the problems with going to therapy is that it’s a weekly commitment. Which, let’s be honest, can be a real pain. This is a large time commitment. Not to mention a considerable cost.

Yet, why do the majority of therapists and counselors recommend weekly sessions? Why not every two weeks?

Why Have Weekly Therapy Sessions?

Attachment and Emotional Safety

One of the main reasons that, I, and many other therapists recommend weekly therapy is that it helps make that work deeper. Weekly sessions allow for you to build the healing relationship necessary for trust, emotional safety, and vulnerability deep clinical work.

Reinforcement for Learning

One week is just enough time to review skills or try out a homework assignment if you use one.

“Use it or Lose It”

Long gaps in therapy can mean forgetting important themes, trends, and what you were working on. It can allow for defense mechanisms to take hold and lead to longer term therapy.

Builds Trust and Openness

It takes a lot to start therapy and open up. Having too much time between sessions can make your inner self less accessible for change.

Less to Catch Up On

Having longer gaps between session can keep the focus on catching up rather than diving into the deeper work.

Slippery Slop

Two-week sessions can easily become monthly or less, if you are sick or away and miss an appointment. If you miss another now it becomes weeks before you are in session.

Practice and Repeat

Making changes involves repetition and in the moment feedback. Weekly sessions allow clients to practice what they are learning and insights they are gaining and process them soon after.

Avoiding Relapses

Change is hard. We naturally like consistency. When things get stressful, old behaviors arise. Longer gaps between sessions make it easier to fall into old habits and behaviors.

Provides a Sense of Consistency

Between sessions is when a lot of therapy work is done. Thoughts, feelings, and insights can arise. This can be overwhelming. Knowing your next session is right around the corner and on a consistent basis can provide a sense of security.

Therapy is a commitment and if “you work it works.” When you or your teen is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious weekly therapy is fastest most effective way to develop long-lasting coping skills and heal underlying triggers so you can live a life you love!

If you want to learn more about therapy options that might be right for you contact us today!

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!

4 WAYS TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS

Children from toddlers to teens face a variety of problems every day, ranging from

 confusion to emotional crisis. Yet, few children have solid problem-solving skills. Children who lack problem-solving skills are more likely to avoid facing their problems. Rather than putting energy into trying to solve their problems they avoid the situation. That’s why many kids fall behind in school (or stop going all together) or struggle to maintain friendships. This leads to increased crises and decreased responsibility and independence.

Children who lack problem-solving skills often blame others for their problems and expect others to solve the problems for them. That’s why many kids struggle to take responsibility for their own behaviors. As your kids avoid dealing with problems it can lead to an increase in intense emotions and a poor ability to manage them.

Kids who are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless often won’t attempt to solve a problem.  But if you give them tools to understand how to tackle their problems they are more likely to try.

Here are some ways to teach your children problem-solving skills:

  1. Don’t Be A Helicopter Parent.

Whatever age your kids are give them room to make mistakes and find their own way. Give them space and allow them to feel independent from you as they are growing up. This will create a sense of confidence and trust in their own decision making.

  1. Don’t Rescue Your Children

Allow them to experience natural consequences. If they didn’t study for a test, don’t call the school and ask that they be allowed to retake it.  If they spend all their money on one shirt don’t give them extra money.

  1. Ask Solution Focused Questions

Whatever age your kids are asking questions that teach them to come up with solutions teaches problems solving. Try not to rush in and give them answers when they are faced with a problem. Instead try asking…”What are you going to do next?” “How are you going to handle that?” “How can you get that done?” “What will you need for that?” “What did you learn?” “What do you think will happen next?”

  1. Routinely Ask Your Children For Help

Make sure your children understand that you respect their problem-solving skills. Chances are with IT problems your kids know more than you do anyway.

 

Throughout your child’s life there will always be problems, challenges to face and decisions to make. For more parenting support email me to register for a space in my Parenting Workshop on June 30th or click here for more information.

4 WAYS TO DEAL WITH COLLEGE STRESS PREP

You may not believe this, but I start hearing about college admission anxiety from 7th or even 6th graders. The pre-teens and teens I work with share that teachers start asking them what they want to do for a living, where they want to go to college and “preparing” them for what they will need to do to achieve these goals. This is well-intended. Teachers want to help kids achieve higher education. However, Gen Y is experiencing this as extreme pressure to decide their future, and believe this requires near perfect grades to achieve it.

Research is showing that Gen Y is quickly becoming America’s most stressed generation. With exam pressures and college admissions anxiety at an all-time high, academic stress can become a daily struggle. According to an Associated Press/MTV survey, school was the most frequentlymentioned source of stress for 13 to 17-year-olds.

Whether it’s parents pushing teenagers to boost their GPA, teachers criticizing them for less-than-stellar test scores, or their own drive to get in to their first-choice college — or some combination of the three.- academic pressure is rising and impacts stress, self-esteem, and mental wellness as a whole.

That’s why it’s important for YOU to learn how to support your teen without adding pressure and more stress.

Here are some ways to help cut down on some of that stress:

1) Stress breeds stress

Teenagers will often say that their parents are more anxious or care more about where they go to college than they do. Or that they don’t get a say because their parents want them to go to _____ School. Remember that your teen can feel your anxiety even when you don’t say anything. As pressure amounts and reactions grow stronger instead of having your teens back you may find yourself harboring frustration, or yelling at your teen. It is important for you to do your own de-stressing. This is an anxiety provoking process for you too. Do your own self-care!

2) Stop Being a Helicopter Parent

I can’t tell how often I hear from my teens that they feel they need to be better for their parents. They feel pressure because their parents are always checking their grades online, looking up application statuses or college admission requirements. STOP checking online. These behaviors come from a good intention in you. As parents you want your children to succeed and you are trying to help. However, the message they get is that you don’t think they can do it on their own. Give them space to find their own way through the process. This takes me to our next skill:

3) Ask If They Need Help

Many parents see their teens stressed and try to fix the problem. This leads to the situation we just discussed (helicopter parenting). What parent wants to see their child in pain? None that I know. But teens don’t want to be fixed;  they want to heard and supported. Ask them what you can do rather than telling them how to do it. Take the time to listen to their stressors. Be a team and come up with a plan together.

4) Be the voice of reason

There may be moments when your teen feels like they are having a breakdown. “I am never going to get this all done.” “I will never get into a good college.” “No place will accept me.” “I am stupid.” Be the voice of reason. Remember that stress breeds stress. Remain calm and remind them they will be okay. There is no perfect college. They will survive the process.

5) Take a Stress Break

Nothing beats taking a break. Remind yourself and your teen that breaks are important. We work better and smarter when we are de-stressed.

Overall, I find that the best way to de-stress is with some laughter and fun. Try and find some humor in the process or in some of your reactions. College prep is the first step children take as they prepare for adulthood. Make it work for you, not against you and give yourself a break!

If your teen needs additional support with dealing with college or academic stress Mindful Healing, LLC can help. To learn more about our services click here or contact us today!

PLEASE STOP SAYING THIS TO YOUR TEENS

“I’m so proud of you”

You are probably thinking, “what, that is a positive and encouraging statement.” It is said with the best of intention. I often find myself wanting to say it because it feels encouraging. But it isn’t and here’s why:

  1. Who’s taking credit?

The word pride implies in oneself. When you say “I’m so proud of you” your teen may feel as though you are making their achievement about your feelings. Of course this may not be true for all teens. Some of your teens may feel praised by this. Which takes me to my next point…

  1. Proud is a form of external praise

Again, you must be thinking…”why is that a bad thing?” External praise can set a standard. When say you are proud of your teen for an achievement you have set the standard to reach for your praise. In order to keep seeking your praise and approval teens will begin to feel they need to be perfect, that they cannot fail.

  1. The opposite of Pride is Disappointment

What are we really trying to do when we say with the best of intentions and innocently to our teens “I’m so proud of you”? Praise our children? No. We are probably trying to encourage them or instill a sense of success in their own achievements.

However, what do our teens hear? An external judgement, a verdict of our success or failure rate. If we can succeed and create pride in our parents, we can also fail and create disappointment. Again, this is a tremendous amount of pressure to be perfect. An impossible goal. I don’t know about you, but I have never met anyone perfect.

I try to avoid “well done” or “good job” as well for the same reasons. Here are some alternatives to saying “I’m so proud of you:”

  • “Wow! That’s so impressive”
  • I’m so happy for you
  • You must be so happy
  • You must be so pleased
  • I’m so pleased for you
  • “You look really pleased with your effort”
  • “Congratulations”

If your teen is struggling with self-esteem or other overwhelming emotions, click here to learn how we can help.

DO THESE 3 THINGS TO OVERCOME ANXIETY

“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!

7 WAYS TO BUILD RESILIENCY IN YOUR TEEN

Working with teens I hear a lot of comparing and high expectations they put on themselves. One common things I hear from them is “other people don’t seem to be bothered by this” or “I should be able to handle this.” So why is it that some people seem to be able to handle stress and disappointment without missing a beat and others seem to be overwhelmed?

The answer is resiliency. When teens are resilient, they cope better during and after difficult situations. They ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong. Your teen needs resilience to navigate life’s challenge. All teens can build resilience.

Here are so are some things you can do to help your teen become more resilient:

  1. Spend quality time with your teen

We live in a world that is constantly busy with work and other distractions. Make planned time each week to spend with your time without distractions to listen to them.

  1. Foster your teen to be independent and learn to stand alone.

Let your teen become responsible for waking up, making lunch, etc. Let them suffer their own consequences if they don’t. Let them be responsible for their own homework. Help them without taking over. When they are in the real world you won’t play an active role it is important they start practicing now

  1. Allow your teen to make mistakes, or even FAIL, without trying to fix the situation or take away their pain.

Sounds crazy, I know. The hardest thing for a parent to do is see their child in pain. However, learning to fail and feel distress is an important skill. Failure is an inevitable part of life. We are all imperfect. If your teen forgets an assignment, don’t bring it to them. It will be better for them to learn the responsibility AND to learn that they are okay, they survived, their worth didn’t change. Experiencing mistakes and failure can actually increase self-esteem!

  1. Praise the effort your teen puts into school/sports/etc not the result.

Let your teen know how happy you are that they are studying so hard and practicing rather than the grade they got. This puts the focus on them and what they are doing. When we praise the grade we send the message that the grade is more important. For example, you can say “You have been so responsible studying for your test. I am happy to see all your hard work.”

  1. Nourish your teens interests outside of school.

More and more I hear of teens wanting to quit outside activities so they have more time to study. Academic pressures can become overwhelming. While goals to do well in school can be healthy they should not overshadow the rest of your life. Interests in sports, dance, music, art, scouts, etc help to foster independence, socialization, and more.

  1. Encourage your teen to communicate their needs directly.

Self-advocacy is a skill that can be gained through practice. Help your teen learn how to talk to teachers, administrators or even you. When they need help encourage them to talk to the person directly first. If you must meet with a teacher, include your teen in the conversation. You won’t be able to do this for them later in life.

  1. Know how to argue

Families that work well know how to argue. Family is where we learn how to resolve conflict. Reality is conflict happens. If we grow up in a home that is chaotic teens don’t learn to manage feelings. Children learn to resolve differences of opinions and disappointment is from watching their parents. Teach your teens that it is okay to disagree and how to disagree.

Your teen will inevitably be face challenges and have to learn to cope with them by themselves. Let your teen have a go at sorting out their problems and fighting their own battles before you step in. Fumbles and failures are part of the process.

If your teen is having difficulty coping with challenges or feeling independent there is hope. I’d love to connect and discuss the next best steps in helping your teen find happiness. Click here to schedule your parent screening.

SMART PHONES: FRIEND OR FOE?

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!