Categories
Communication Feelings Parenting

How to Talk to Teenagers for a Better Relationship

It’s no surprise that books on teen behavior sell millions – while we’ve all been teens at one point or another, it’s very difficult for an adult to remember what it was like, and it’s even more difficult to try and empathize with another person’s teenage behavior or mental health problems, even when they’re your child. For example, learning how to talk to teenagers to develop an awesome relationship can be unique and pose its own challenges for every situation.

How to Talk to Teenagers for a Great Relationship

If you struggle to communicate with your teen and are finding that it’s affecting your relationship, it’s time to take a step back and analyze how you approach conversations with your teen and where your inadvertent priorities lie.

1. Don’t Be a Judge, Be a Listener

Sometimes, all your teen needs is a sounding board – someone to talk to who will listen without trying to address every issue or step in with unwanted advice. This is even more important if your first reaction to your teen telling you anything is to figure out what kind of judgment you should make as a result of their experience.

If you tend to scold your teen more than anything else, don’t be surprised if they eventually stop telling you what they’re really doing and start trying to hide things.

It doesn’t matter if what your teen did was wrong – most of the time, your teen knows that. It matters more to understand why they did it and talk to them about that. Be there as your teen’s champion, your teen’s coach, your teen’s guidance – not another reflection of the world around them enumerating all the things they’ve messed up in the last week or two.

2. Don’t Try to “Fix” Their Problems, Because You Can’t

At least, not all the time. The crux of this piece of advice is not to treat every question or encounter with your teen as an opportunity to deliver a straight answer.

For example, if a teen is having trouble with their friend, avoid giving specific advice or telling them what you’d do. Let them figure out what they should do – and provide guiding principles to help them make the right choice.

Similarly, when your teen misbehaves, ask questions. What were they thinking? Did they have a plan? What do they want? As parents, it’s impossible sometimes to control certain frustrations and avoid lashing out with accusations or condemnation. But whenever possible, use the situation to help your teen navigate their problems themselves.

3. Provide Guidance

It’s a popular sentiment that teens continuously pull away from their parents on the way to adulthood, but while that is true, it’s often paired with the misconception that parents become a waning influence on the health, well-being, and personality of their children.

Teens are absolutely shaped by their parents more than any other individual at that point in their life, provided their parents are around to shape them – much more so than their peers or teachers. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it’s usually a teen’s parent-child relationship that affects who they choose as their peers, and it tends to be the greatest influence on their overall mental health and likelihood to struggle at school or with substance or drug use.

Your teens will continue to mirror your attitudes and behaviors whether they realize it or not and will be reliant on you as their main role models until they leave home. That’s a significant portion of most people’s teen years as well as their young adulthood, especially as the economy worsens and more young adults opt to live with their parents.

All this is to say that no matter how it might feel at any given point, remember that what you say, do, and think as a parent will continue to impact your teen substantially, even as they become increasingly independent.

4. Manage Your Emotions

A lot of teens thrive on eliciting conflict. It’s not really something they do on purpose – teens are just generally getting accustomed to managing their emotions and, as such, are quick to resort to the dramatic. That means yelling, screaming, “I hate you!” and running away at the first sign of confrontation.

The worst thing you can do as a parent is give in to your inner frustrations and start scolding them or lobbing insults and yells of your own. Always, always, try to keep your cool.

Again, we’ve mentioned that we aren’t robots, and frustrations can seep through sometimes. But as much as possible, you need to emphasize rising above as a parent in order to provide proper guidance and set an example of emotional maturity. Show your teen that, while it’s healthy to let loose and blow off steam sometimes, it’s never appropriate to deal with a situation – especially a problem – by venting emotionally, especially towards other people.

5. Don’t Press the Issue, A Stone Won’t Bleed

As much as it pains a lot of parents to hear this sometimes, timing is quite important. Your teen won’t be open to a conversation all the time, and you can’t always press the issue just because you demand it. Your authority isn’t absolute anymore, especially when a teen feels quite strongly about something.

All you achieve by pushing when it’s no longer time to push is a much more antagonistic teen and an increasingly frustrated mindset.

This circles back to why it’s important to treat teens as individuals. They’re at a point where their development necessitates boundaries, privacy, and the ability to make choices that matter. Teaching them that also means understanding that there will be times when they draw these boundaries against you, and you need to give them some time to calm down.

6. Don’t Escalate

This last piece of advice can be very simple and very powerful. When your teen disagrees or responds aggressively, don’t immediately match their tone. Parents sometimes think the best way to respond to a teen with aggression is by displaying that aggression back towards them, but more often than not, this just seesaws into a screaming match.

Instead, try to take a pause. A moment of silence can mean a lot more than a loud yell. Sometimes, frustrated teens – whether it’s school stress, relationship problems, or even just simple hunger – can respond to questions like “have you done the dishes yet?” or demands like “take out the garbage, like you were told twice today” with venom.

But if you give them a moment to reconsider what they’ve said with a simple, stern look, you may be surprised how often you’ll get a begrudged “okay, fine.” In moments like that, a win is a win, and it’s better than taking on their energy and spewing it back at them to no avail.

Practice Talking to Your Teen Today

Talking to teens isn’t easy. The context of any given moment, the million things on your teen’s mind, the way their emotions are at play at that given moment, and their individual personalities can make each and every conversation a minefield of its own.

Learning to deal with that takes time, patience, and a keen mind to understand how your teen tends to think and work. But it’s worth it. Becoming a better listener and developing a healthier verbal relationship with your teen can be a good predictor for positive outcomes in life, including better academic achievements and mental health.

For more information on teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health

Can Low Self Esteem in Teens Affect Mental Health?

Did you know that low self esteem in teens can pose many effects on their mental health?

Self-esteem is intrinsically tied to mental health – our self-worth is not just a reflection of how we see ourselves but can reflect on how we see the world, how we perceive opportunities and react to certain circumstances, and how resilient we become to outer stressors.

Greater self-confidence and healthier self-esteem can help a person cope with more hardship, get back up after setbacks, and better stand up to life’s challenges. Conversely, struggling to retain any pride or suffering from insecurity can make it that much harder to contend with life’s more difficult moments and makes it harder to refute or fight back in times of anxiety or depression.

Studies show us that self-esteem and mental health are strongly correlative – when one is down, so is the other. But there’s also evidence to suggest that the reverse can be true: by improving your self-esteem, you can improve your mental health. And by improving your mental health, you may make it easier to work on your self-esteem.

Let’s look at some of the ways low self in teens has an impact.

Which Came First?

When it comes to self-esteem and mental health in teens, it is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

Which is more likely? That low self esteem in teens caused them to be more perceptible to stressors that led to a mental health issue? Or that their self-esteem is a reflection of existing mental health problems, such as a precursor of depressive symptoms in the formative years?

Sadly, it’s very difficult to tell – and it might not matter much in treatment.

For example, depression, like other mental health issues, is a multifactor problem. Inner issues, such as genes and a behavioral predisposition towards negative thinking, as well as outer problems, such as victimization, stress, trauma, or abuse, all contribute to a depressive cycle.

Treatment Modalities for Teen Mental Health

In the same way, treatment for certain mental health issues will require the use of several modalities.

There’s the therapeutic aspect:

  • Talking to a therapist, learning to regulate your mood, identify harmful thinking patterns, and use affirmations and more positive ways of thinking.

Then there’s the pharmacological aspect:

  • Utilizing antidepressants to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

And the use of non-therapeutic methods in long-term depression management:

  • Forest walkingspending time with your petjournaling, long walks with friends, better sleep schedules, a good diet, and taking a break from a stressful habit.

Self-esteem is one important facet of a larger set of factors that might help determine a teen’s mental health. Having healthy self-esteem is important and should not be mistaken for narcissism or grandiose thinking.

For example, someone with narcissistic tendencies – someone who might qualify for narcissistic personality disorder – will usually struggle with major insecurities, and part of their behavior and presented self-image hides a deeper fear that they cannot own up to that image, leading them to lash out when confronted about it.

Healthy self-esteem can be promoted through therapy and non-therapeutic activities alike, including skills-building and social activities.

Improving Low Self Esteem in Teens to Boost Mental Health

There are a million analogies for understanding how your sense of self reflects on your attitudes and behaviors regarding the world around you. In the simplest psychological terms, everything we experience is filtered through our perspective, and the more we struggle to internalize positive qualities within ourselves, the more we struggle to see the good and fortune in everyday circumstances. It can become a dangerous and self-destructive cycle over time.

Addressing self-esteem problems does not have to start in a therapist’s office. Low self esteem in teens can be identified long before serious mental health symptoms, and in many cases, they’re completely normal. Most teens are self-conscious and insecure, and it is part and parcel of growing up and learning to live in your own skin.

Yet certain teens are more confident than others, and a lack of self-confidence can be a strong indicator of future problems, mental health issues, and an even lower quality of life. Here’s how you can change that.

1. Learn a New Skill

One of the quickest ways to improve your self-esteem and work on your self-confidence is to teach yourself something new. It could be a relatively lofty goal, like achieving your first backflip, or something a little simpler, like learning to use an image editing tool to improve your scanned drawings.

With free online resources all over the Internet and YouTube, there are countless things you can learn to do in just a few days of practice. You don’t have to show them off or compete with anyone but yourself. Pick anything you’re interested in and achieve a minor goal – then work up to something bigger!

2. Improve an Old Skill

Let’s say you’ve already spent a few years learning to draw or know how to play a few tabs on the guitar. Hone those skills! Pick a goal for your existing hobbies or skills, and let that goal revitalize your interest.

Simply spending time to improve on something that you like doing can be immensely gratifying and can help cement the crucial concept that no matter how you might feel about yourself today, you’re always capable of greater things than you might expect.

3. Find Healthy Communities

Learning to approach the problem of achieving a new goal will usually lead to questions and the experiences of others. That’s how many communities are shaped and grown.

Entire communities online revolve around teaching parkour skills to one another, sharing drawing techniques, or finding new ways to reduce run times on “speedruns” of retro video games. These communities are full of people sharing their successes and failures, their trials, and their victories. Those experiences can help you, as well, to find other people with similar interests and to push yourself. If you struggle with consistency in a new habit or skill, finding a community can help you maintain that drive toward achieving your goals.

4. Talk To Your Friends

The more a person struggles with low thoughts, the more likely they are to isolate themselves. But this usually leads to even worse symptoms of self-deprecation and lower self-esteem. We need our friends to help us formulate a better and healthier sense of self – no man is an island!

5. Stop Negative Self-Talk

Negative thoughts are a common aspect of depressive thinking and many mental health issues. It becomes part and parcel of the day to blame yourself for everything, but that second nature can be very harmful.

Like positive affirmations, negative ones can reinforce negative thoughts and negative behaviors.

If you’re late with a book report, don’t call yourself lazy or stupid. Don’t get upset about procrastinating or forgetting. Take a deep breath. Focus on the task at hand. Ask for an extension.

Whenever the urge comes to insult yourself – no matter what the context might be – stop it. Not only is it not productive, but it can be actively harmful to your mental health, no matter how much you might feel you “deserve” chastising yourself.

6. Talk to a Therapist

For teens with low self-esteem, it can be hard to remember that how they might see themselves is not necessarily a true reflection of who they are, and compliments or comments from others get brushed aside amidst instances of criticism or negative attention.

You don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to talk to a professional. People can and do seek out a therapist’s help without struggling with major depressive disorder or conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A therapist can help you sort out your emotions, learn to manage irrational thoughts or separate impulses from smarter decision-making, and learn to implement habits and thinking patterns that control some of your worst tendencies, especially if you tend to see the worst in yourself and/or others.

Get Help at Visions Treatment Centers

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, whether it’s a professional, someone at school, or your parents. If you know a friend or have a loved one who consistently struggles with self-confidence, help them build that confidence through some of the activities mentioned above or by talking to someone together.

For more information about low self esteem in teens or how to get help, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Wellness

Celebrate Emotional Wellness Month

October is Emotional Wellness Month in the United States. This means we should take the time to bring awareness to the importance of emotional wellness in overall physical and mental health.

Emotional wellness can be defined as the sum of our moods – in terms of how appropriate our emotional responses are and in terms of how much our moods may vary. An emotionally healthy person will react in certain ways, such as feeling joy in happy moments, grief in loss, and anger in frustration.

Emotional wellness is not a form of Zen or an encouragement to be happy at all times. It is about being mindful of how we feel and recognizing that, sometimes, our emotions may be misaligned with the world around us.

We might feel deep longing and sadness when we should be content. We might feel nothing even though everything is in disarray. This is not an attempt to try and argue that there is a right way to feel in any given circumstance, but it is an acknowledgment of the fact that, depending on the circumstances around us, some feelings are inappropriate and should be heeded as a warning that something might not be right.

Learning to recognize when our emotional health has taken a major hit is important for addressing mental health issues before they grow.

What Does Emotional Wellness Month Represent?

Emotional wellness is something most of us are aware of, yet few of us truly embrace or cherish. As a whole, mental health awareness has massively improved over time. People understand the difference between depression and anxiety, they know about ADHD, and they may even know what an obsessive-compulsive disorder might look like.

Yet despite growing awareness, there are still many gaps in public knowledge, and a dire lack of access to crucial resources for mental health and treatment. People who are depressed rarely get the help they need, even if they know they might need it. And when they do go looking for help, many might feel rebuffed by the difficulty of getting access to consistent care.

If you are feeling well, then emotional wellness month may be your opportunity to help those who aren’t. On average, we all have a friend or family member struggling with their mental health, whether through diagnosed illness or simply due to excess stress and a tough time.

Assist them in navigating local resources to access mental healthcare, whether it’s through the address of a reputable counselor or psychiatrist, helping them sort through the paperwork for their mental health insurance coverage, or simply convincing them to consider an appointment with a therapist.

Taking Care of Your Emotional Wellness

How do you take care of your emotional wellness? The answer will be a little different for everyone. In general, fulfilling your own personal physical and mental needs can go a long way. This goes beyond running a hot bath or considering a humidifier and some essential oils for your living room – while these can be excellent tools for relieving stress, there are a few foundational needs that must be met first.

Addressing these needs and recognizing if others around you are doing the same is an important part of drawing attention to emotional wellness issues during emotional wellness month.

It’s about looking past short-term gains in mental health or seeing self-care routines as a band-aid for deeper personal health issues. It’s about recognizing the importance and value of seeking professional help and valuing the relationship between physical health and mental health, and how that translates into better mood regulation and emotional wellbeing.

Are You Eating Well?

It all begins with physical needs. The big three are eating wellsleeping well, and moving often.

good diet is important yet difficult, but it does not need to be. Time constraints and financial limits are usually the two reasons people cite most often when it comes to not eating well. Fresh ingredients can be difficult to source or expensive. Depending on where you live, you might not have access to good produce or quality proteins.

If you do get access to something healthy, it might be unaffordable. Then, there are storage concerns. Many people do not have large freezers or refrigerators to facilitate meal prep or bulk buying. Finally, it takes time to prepare meals. And if your emotional health is suffering, it becomes even harder to find the motivation to start cooking.

Finding Better Ways to Cook and Eat

A good way to overcome these challenges is by looking at easier ways to cook and eat. There are budget options for both vegetables and meat products, as well as simple recipes that take no more than fifteen minutes to prepare. Buy frozen vegetables, which are often cheaper, pre-prepared, and just as nutritious as fresh produce. Pick ingredients that are filling and nutritious, then rely on cheap spices to extend your palate. Play around with interesting flavors and learn about new food combinations from different cultures to keep your diet interesting.

Taking an hour out of the weekend to batch-cook refrigerable ingredients can make it easier to cook during the week. A few pieces of toast, some soft-boiled eggs, and slices of cucumber make for a good lunch that takes minutes to whip up. Reduce your coffee consumption to one or two cups a day, and drink more water or tea. Cut your costs by removing all snacks and sugary drinks from your shopping cart, or switch to sugar-free drinks for the same cost. Blend frozen fruits with a bit of milk and ice for a quick vitamin boost.

Eating better might not seem central to emotional wellness, but it is. A good diet is an important first step.

Sleep is Key

Sleep is just as important. While we mostly understand the value of sleeping well, we struggle to do so. Technology and caffeine consumption play important roles here.

Excess coffee might help you stay awake throughout the workday, but you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. Take a few days off to do a caffeine reset or work through it with lower doses of coffee (or a low-caffeine alternative, like black tea), and set a cut-off time for your caffeine needs.

Then, set a hard rule for screentime at night. Try to turn off all screens around 9 pm for the best sleep results. Although many screens try to minimize their blue light exposure in the evenings, they can still mess up and delay your body’s internal clock. The first few weeks are crucial – but once your sleep habits start to improve, it will be easier to maintain them.

Get Your Steps In

Physical exercise is also helpful, but not everyone has the time or the motivation to get up and work out. You don’t have to. If you work at an office, try to take as many opportunities as you can to get up from your desk regularly, whether it’s to refill your tea or water cup, go to the bathroom, or just take a quick break by the window.

If you work from home, set a time to stand up at least every half hour for a few steps. That, alone, can make a serious difference in your body posture, your daily step count, and your overall mental health.

Eating better, sleeping well, and trying to get just a little more movement in your day-to-day can each lead to marked improvements in your stress management and mood regulation. From there, we move on to other needs.

Building Bridges and Mending Bonds

Social health is crucial for emotional wellness. How well do you get along with your friends? Your family? Your loved ones? Do you have the ability to make time for your partner? Are you struggling with intimacy? Are you hanging out less and less with your friends?

These issues have been on the rise since the pandemic, leaving many people feeling socially stunted and increasingly isolated.

For some, it has even led to symptoms of agoraphobia and a reluctance to engage socially. It’s important to slowly wean off these new habits and get back into a social mood, especially for your emotional well-being.

If you feel that your emotional problems are becoming more than you can handle alone, it’s important to seek help.

Take the time during emotional wellness month to address your primary needs and improve your emotional health – and encourage others around you to do the same.

Categories
Adolescence Communication Feelings Mental Health Parenting

Supporting LGBTQ Teen Mental Health

LGBTQ youth (teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning/queer) are far more likely to experience victimization because of their identity, are far more likely to struggle with symptoms of mental illness, and are far more likely to resort to self-harm and suicide. With all of these variables at play, it’s essential to support LGBTQ teen mental health to provide help, empowerment, and growth.

These statistics are not inherent to being queer, but they are often a side effect of identifying as part of the LGBTQ community or living under circumstances that force repression and self-hatred. Getting help can be difficult, especially when teens worry about or fear the repercussions of coming out as LGBTQ or struggle with acknowledging their identity.

Acceptance goes a long way. Mental health rates and suicide have gone down among gay and lesbian teens, although they are still above the rates for their straight peers. In the same vein, suicide rates remained highest among trans teens, especially in the wake of a rise in violence against LGBTQ youth and continued attacks on LGBTQ groups – especially trans individuals – in both media and politics in America.

Helping your LGBTQ teen get the support they need to lead a fulfilling and happy life can be difficult, but it can be done. The resources are there, and the communities exist, both locally and online. You are not alone, whether as a teen or as a parent.

Beware of Conversion Schemes

Seeking help is an important part of getting better, whether you initiate it with your teen or through your teen’s own research. But with the desperation of wanting treatment comes the vulnerability that leads thousands of teens and parents into the trap of conversion therapy.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, research shows that conversion therapy is unethical and harmful to children and teens. It does not work and only causes lasting psychological trauma as a result. It is under no circumstances a form of “therapy” to begin with, and it is, with good reason, banned in 19 different states and jurisdictions.

Finding a Therapist with Knowledge of LGBTQ Teen Mental Health

The best thing you can do for your teen’s well-being, and to help your teen cope with the growing mental stressors associated with coming out as an LGBTQ+ individual, is to accept them as they are and, if they are struggling with their mental health, find a professional therapist or psychiatrist who has a history of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ teens, and/or LGBTQ teen mental health.

A therapist with a personal history and knowledge of the different struggles that LGBTQ teens go through today may be able to have more success in helping your teen find treatment than someone with no experience with LGBTQ.

Just as personal representation in media can make a difference for many teens and adults who feel invisible in a heteronormative culture, working with a mental health professional who has personal experiences in the LGBTQ community to draw on or can better relate to your teen professionally through their LGBTQ identity may be a better fit for them.

Comfort is important when choosing your therapist. A gay man or a trans woman may have a better idea of what it is like to be in your teen’s shoes, in addition to their professional training and academic experience as psychologists and therapists, to help identify valid treatment options, root out local resources, and help cope with individual stressors.

How You Can Help Your Teen

There are countless ways in which parents contribute to their teens’ well-being, knowingly and unknowingly.

While professional treatment is important, especially in the event of self-harm, suicidal episodes, or debilitating mental health symptoms, parents should never underestimate the significance of their influence and supportive parenting, nor should they lose sight of how their actions and behaviors continue to shape their teens’ lives. Here are a few things you could do or are doing that can continue to help your teen with their mental health.

  • Let your teen know they’re loved unconditionally.
  • Talk to them and hear them out. Listen to their thoughts and words.
  • Spend time getting to know their interests a little better. Spending time with your teen and showing interest in what they like can help them feel more comfortable talking to you about other things, and helps them understand that you aren’t out to judge them as many others might be.
  • Review your misconceptions. Well-meaning intentions may lead to ideas and sayings that are actively hurting your teen. For example, don’t shrug off their identity or their mental health issues as “just a phase.” Learning more about gender identities and sexual orientation can help you relate to your teen and avoid alienating them.
  • Advocate at school. Not all schools have LGBTQ+ ally groups or LGBTQ-friendly student bodies, but all schools have LGBTQ teens. Talk to teachers and parents about organizing queer-straight alliance organizations to help LGBTQ teens in your community feel welcome, and to reduce victimization.
  • Talk to the teachers. Teachers can be a good source of information about what’s going on at school. Your teen might not always be forthcoming about what’s going on at school, especially if they’re being hurt or bullied. They may blame themselves or feel ashamed.
  • Get into therapy together. If your teen is struggling with depression or anxious thoughts or has a history of self-harm, then getting help can be daunting. Mental illness, in particular, has a way of feeding on self-doubt and shame, and many teens who know they need help may be reluctant to get it. Encourage them by making an appointment together and tagging along the first few times. Alternatively, look into remote online therapy as an option, to begin with.
  • Give them privacy. Being there for your teen is important, but there’s a difference between being aware of what’s going on in their lives and spying without their consent. If you try to monitor all of your teen’s online activities, for example, they’re just more likely to go to greater lengths to establish secret accounts or carve out some other niche of privacy and foster resentment. The best way to keep your teen from keeping too many secrets from you is to ensure they know you’re always available to talk to and are willing to listen.

LGBTQ Teen Mental Health Services at Visions

Being a parent is hard, and it can be harder yet when your teen is struggling with depressive or anxious thoughts. LGBTQ+ teens are just like any other teen but are much more at-risk for mental health issues, often as an indirect result of their identity. Helping them protect themselves, know they are loved, develop stronger self-esteem, and feel proud in their own skin can go a long way towards helping them feel better.

If you or a loved one is seeking additional information on LGBTQ teen mental health, reach out to us. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer unique mental health programming for LGBTQ+ teens, addressing many issues often found in the LGBTQ+ community.

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Wellness

Adopting Positive Thoughts for a Healthy Mind

The power of positive thinking and positive thoughts is more than a mere joke. The way we approach life and our mindset during any given set of circumstances can contribute to positive outcomes. They also play a great role in our perception of life. In other words, convincing yourself of a positive interpretation of your current day-to-day circumstances can both help you be happier and lead to better, more positive outcomes.

Is it any different from lying to yourself? Yes, it is. Positive thoughts are not about trying to make up a different reality from the one you currently occupy, but rather, they are meant to help spurn us towards investing in constructive coping skills, becoming more adept at dealing with our surroundings, and building a greater level of resilience against stressors.

Positive thoughts are not about dissociating from certain struggles or the negative aspects of life but about regaining control over the things we can change, eliminating negative thoughts that contribute to maladaptive coping, and building a healthy support network for tough times.

Positive and Negative Thinking

Not all thoughts are necessarily positive or negative. Making a statement in your head about needing to remind yourself to grab some orange juice in the near future does not fit into the dichotomy of “good” and “bad” thoughts. Neither is it healthy to try and categorize every thought you have.

In most cases, positive and negative thoughts are more about learning to identify with the signs and symptoms of a low mood, or poor emotional state, and turning them around through self-care, support, and affirmations.

A pattern of negative thoughts may hint at a depressive episode or may be more common in people with a history of depression and other mental health issues. Meanwhile, positive thoughts can have a positive impact on these mental health issues and remain a central tenet in the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most common type of talk therapy for addressing conditions like major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder GAD.

Some common forms of negative thinking include:

  • Focusing entirely on negative outcomes and aspects of your life.
  • Blaming yourself for every bad outcome.
  • Spiraling thoughts (losing control of your thoughts, ruminating on negative thoughts).
  • Automatically anticipating the worst.
  • Constantly telling yourself you “should” do something, then blaming yourself when you don’t.
  • Maintaining impossible standards, effectively setting yourself up for failure.
  • Seeing everything as good or bad (and often more bad than good).

On the other hand, some common forms of positive thinking include:

  • Taking time for self-reflection and thoughts of gratitude.
  • Re-evaluating the last few weeks to identify good things or things you’re proud of.
  • Engaging in humor often, laughing more, seeking out comedies in life.
  • healthier lifestyle – better sleep, good food, regular exercise, frequent water breaks.
  • A more positive inner circle of friends and family, working to eliminate toxic relationships.
  • Frequently uttering affirmations or personal mantras.

Some of these “thoughts” constitute as behaviors, but it’s often a very cyclical relationship – positive thoughts help foster positive actions towards yourself, whereas negative thoughts lead to negative spirals.

Some affirmations work better for certain people than others. You might not be the type to stand in front of a mirror and psych yourself up with niceties. Perhaps you’re more the type to find a quiet corner, ball your fists, and recite a positive, life-affirming mantra. Or perhaps you do your best positive thinking while on a jog or a walk through the woods.

Associating certain behaviors with positive thoughts and vice versa can help you work towards converting your negative thoughts into healthier, self-affirming positive ones. It’s a long process, but it starts with just a single simple step in the right direction.

The Physical Benefits of Positive Thoughts

The benefits of more positive thinking extend beyond improving mood and mental states. Your mental and physical well-being is intertwined, and a positive mindset can contribute to better overall physical health. Studies show a strong correlation between a positive mindset and:

  • Greater longevity
  • Lowered rates of anxiety and depression
  • Higher pain threshold and lower reported levels of pain
  • Greater resistance to physical illness
  • Reduced cancer death risk
  • Reduced heart disease death risk
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • And more.

How can a positive mindset reduce the risk of death from something like cancer? Or reduce pain? Well, it’s complicated. We have to make it clear that promoting “mind-over-matter” thought is neither ethical nor scientifically accurate – you cannot will yourself out of a heart attack.

However, positive thinking can negate or reduce negative thinking, which can exacerbate worse health outcomes at the hand of many of these illnesses. Similarly, low mood and depression can actively inhibit your pain resistance, causing unexplained pains and raising your sensitivity to the slightest discomfort.

Furthermore, a positive mindset correlates with a healthier lifestyle and lower risk of death, as well as greater longevity. Positive thinking also contributes to better coping skills against daily stressors, reducing the impact of both chronic stress and acute stress on the mind and body alike.

The Importance of a Support Network

Affirmative thinking can help you negate negative thoughts and reinforce healthier behaviors. But positive thinking alone won’t always be enough. It’s important to have a number of people you can rely on to help lift your spirits or be there for you when times are tough.

A strong support network is not just central for mental health recovery or treatment. We all need people we can rely on, whether they’re friends, family, or a bit of both.

Seeking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Positive thinking can go a long way towards helping you improve your mental and physical health. But it is no substitute for guided therapy or the help of a mental health professional. If you feel you need help and don’t know where to look, seek the services of a therapist.

Therapists are trained to utilize talk therapy methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help patients identify self-destructive habits and thought patterns and replace them over time.

professional therapist can help you adjust your coping skills, pick up better habits, and develop a better toolkit for long-term mental health.

Improve Your Mental Health at Visions Treatment Centers

Are you or someone you know looking to improve their mental health? Then visit us online at Visions Treatment Centers. You may also contact us directly through our online form or get in touch with us by phone.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcohol Alcoholism Bullying Communication Depression Family Feelings Mental Health Prevention School Substance Abuse Treatment

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse for Teens


While there is no way to definitively predict which teens might develop a substance abuse disorder, there are a number of risk factors that considerably increase the likelihood an abuse problem will occur. By understanding these risk factors, parents and others involved in a child’s life can employ effective protective actions to minimize the risk. Below are a few of the common factors that raise the chances substance abuse could become a problem by the time a child becomes a teenager.

Genetics
Family history of substance abuse is one of the biggest risk factors for children develop a substance abuse disorder by the time they hit the teen years. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse later in life.

Environment
Children that are around substance use, either by parents, friends or members of their community, may regard drugs and alcohol as a normal part of life. They may not recognize the dangers of using these substances, which puts them at increased risk of addiction.

Behavior
Children who are impulsive or aggressive in the early years of life may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Aggressive behavior could lead to anti-social tendencies, while impulsivity is an individual risk factor that involves the inability to set limits on one’s behavior.

Mental Health
The connection between a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness is very high. In some cases, the person may use substances to cope with the painful symptoms of the mental illness. Other times, regular substance use may trigger the symptoms of a mental disorder.

Family Life
Children with parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to use the substances themselves. In addition, a home life that is stressful due to conflict or other difficult situations can also make a teen more likely to use substances as a way of dealing with the stress.

Social Life
Children that do not socialize well with their peers are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their loneliness. By the same token, teens who choose friends that use are more likely to use themselves as well.

Academics
Struggles in school, whether academically or socially, can also lead to substance abuse. The earlier the school problems begin, the more likely it is that substance abuse will become an obstacle over time.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a wide range of reasons. While prevention should always be the primary focus in keeping this age group safe and healthy, sometimes prevention efforts are simply not enough to keep a potential addiction at bay. The good news is there are also effective methods of treating substance abuse that help teens move away from their abusive behaviors and into a healthier, sober way of life. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Alumni Feelings Mental Health Recovery

How Can You Stay Motivated After Treatment?

It’s important to stay motivated after you leave treatment. But that’s not always as easy as it sounds

Treatment provides a protective and supportive cocoon where clients can discover, lean into and heal from their difficulties.  One discovers a broadening network of support and a plan to maintain it. Still, it isn’t always easy to stay motivated. Some clients move back to their home state, where there isn’t quite enough support or where meetings and sober options are slim.  Phone conversations are helpful, but often times, there is a need for real-time human interaction. Skype or FaceTime are viable options here.

Here are some tools to help you make a solid plan to stay motivated:

  • Know your needs. Write them down. Be specific and spare nothing.
  • Have a list of people you can call and connect with on a regular basis that not only know your goals, but also will support them wholeheartedly.
  • Understand that there will be rough days. Getting sober doesn’t mean everything becomes perfect or that you live happily ever after. This is life, after all, and that means that stuff will happen. Some days, we will handle the difficulties with grace, and some days, we may fall. It’s ok. You are human.
  • Expectations: Are they realistic? Unrealistic expectations can create more suffering then good. Thoughts like, “If I stay sober, I’ll get ____” or “If I stay sober, so and so will love me again.” Getting sober provides the opportunity for change, but positive change takes time. Addiction and untreated mental illness caused harm and restoring the good requires a commitment to affecting this positive change.
  • Remember WHY you got sober. Some experience the “pink cloud” syndrome in early recovery, where everything is all sunshine and roses, but when that pink cloud dissipates, one is left with reality, and reality sucks sometimes. Especially when everything was so “perfect” for a period of time.
  • Make an effort to remember the good. According to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., in his book Buddha’s Brain, “Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences; as we’ve said, it’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” He goes on to wisely say, “The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it is to foster positive experiences – and in particular, take them in so they become a permanent part of you.”
  • Journal daily, or write as close to daily as you can muster. This can help you process what’s going on, experience the negative and revel in the positive.
  • Gratitude lists: I swear by these. Even in the darkest of times, there are things to be grateful for. Write them down. Sometimes, the things you are grateful for are simple and seemingly plain, but they are something. Yes, that means if on Tuesday, you are grateful for toast, and hot tea, and a shower, it’s ok. Nothing is too small, or too insignificant.

Staying motivated means that you have an inclination of enthusiasm for what you are doing. Note the good that is coming from your recovery, the positive things that have arisen and the negative ones that are beginning to move through. You cannot magically think your way out of your troubles. Feel them, name them, and give them emotional space to heal; The only way out is through.

Categories
Adolescence Family Feelings Mental Health Parenting Prevention Recovery

Why Listening to Your Adolescent is Invaluable

Do you know the difference between hearing someone and listening to what they are saying to you?

 

Hearing refers to the reception and perception of sound, whereas listening is an action: Listening refers to actively paying attention to what is being said. It also requires the listener’s full attention to the speaker, demonstrated by eye contact, and positive body language. In other words, you can’t listen fully to someone if you are also on your phone, your computer, or watching television. This is an important piece to understand as we positively shift the way we interact with adolescents.

 

One thing I often hear from teens is that they don’t feel like the adults in their lives are listening. The polarizing statement, “You never LISTEN to ME!” punctuated by a slammed door is not an unusual experience for parents of teens. In order to listen to our kids, we have to set aside our reactions and our need to direct or advise. Sometimes, kids need to vent and our best response can be something like, “It sounds frustrating when…” or maybe, “I hear how frustrated you are.” We have to remember that adolescents feel things far more intensely than we do as adults. An issue that is banal to us can FEEL like the end of times.

 

Adolescents have reduced dopamine and serotonin levels, making them more prone to high-risk activities and addiction. A child who feels listened to and heard, has a higher chance of making a healthy decision than the kid who is perpetually dismissed, talked over or ignored. When a child is saying, “I hate you,” or “This sucks!” there’s probably something else there. They don’t really hate you, but they may not be able to communicate that beyond the natural reactivity of their developing brain. What would happen if we listened instead of reacted? A statement like:  “When you are ready, I am available to listen to you” can go a long way with a teenager.

 

Our children mimic our reactions, our problem-solving methods, and our behavioral examples. If we are always nervous, they may be nervous. If we are angry all the time, they may be angry all the time. If we are overcautious, they may be overcautious. The list goes on but the outcome is the same.

 

I am prone to sarcasm. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and have my whole life. This has come back to bite me in the bum with my son, who’s 13 and…sarcastic. Instead of punishing him about the trouble this sarcasm often breeds, we looked at this and processed as a family. Our conclusion: We will curb our sarcasm as a family in an effort to shift the negative perspective others may have. My son felt listened to, we felt listened to, and in the end, a dedicated period of reflective listening proved to be an effective and positive way of dealing with a burgeoning family issue.  We have conversations like this often and as a result, we have a teenager who is willing to share his frustrations and difficulties with us more transparently than most. Conversely, I have observed some of his classmates spinning down the spiral of negative and harmful reactions: eating or starving to process their feelings, cutting themselves as a means of processing their feelings, smoking to process their feelings, et cetera. There isn’t an easy fix, silver bullet, or magic potion. Creating an environment where listening is part of an everyday process takes work and dedication. And sometimes, we may have to drop our parental need to “fix” things so we can listen.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care

Parenting Teenagers and Maintaining Our Self-Regulation

Teenagers are changeable creatures. Their moods shift rapidly, their bodies change non- stop, and it’s sometimes difficult to notice if something is really wrong or if the persistent eye-rolling, parental irritation is par for the course. In addition to the eye-rolling, teenagers are also not known for their critical thinking skills or wise decision-making. This might mean they will intentionally like/not like a person or situation you dislike, or they may do something just because you don’t approve. It’s frustrating for parents, but it may also be a subtle sign for us pause and look at the larger picture.

 

Sometimes, your child may align themselves with a friend or their family whom you view as undesirable. Perhaps you know something your teenager doesn’t know, but you have to keep it to yourself. Or perhaps you are relying on your parental intuition. Unfortunately, to a teenager, you’re just being annoying and reactive. This reactivity will only push your teen away from you and into the arms of that which you fear.

 

Parents are wise to take some steps to curb reactivity. As we encourage our teenagers to self-regulate, we have to self-regulate too! We have to mirror the behaviors we want.

 

Our reactions are often fueled by our experiences and the stories from the past. These stories inform our present, particularly when we are dysregulated. Bearing witness to our children’s difficulties is not easy when we haven’t been able to grapple with our own.

 

Understanding how to self-regulate allows us to tap into our internal resources so we can be less reactive.  The process of self-regulation requires us to tap into our mind and body connection. When a person is dysregulated, they are disconnected. A fundamental tool in learning to self-regulate is learning to connect with our physical sensations and our bodies. When we are dysregulated, we are reactive rather than responsive. Likewise, when we are self-regulated, we are responsive rather than reactive.

 

A dysregulated parent is an ineffective parent. Perpetual negative reactions propel our teens to become dysregulated as well. This is where parents need to take their own time out and get to a quiet space so they can begin to self-regulate.

 

1: Walk away from the situation so you can check in with yourself.

2: Bring your attention to your feet, and your hands and notice your surroundings.

3: Bring your attention to your belly and your heart: are you angry? Why? Are you scared? Why? What’s present for you?

4: Take 5-10 minutes to allow your breath to settle. Count to 10 slowly, paying close attention to your inhales and exhales.

5: SHAKE IT OUT! Literally: stand up and shake your legs and arms.

 

When we are regulated, we can come to wiser, more succinct means of communication. Perhaps we can even find a way to persuade our teenagers from doing something we don’t like, or perhaps this is an opportunity to revisit the difficult situation at hand with compassion, kindness and a willingness to listen. One thing that I know for a fact is this: Teenagers all want to be seen, heard, and respected.

Categories
Family Feelings Mindfulness Recovery School Service Spirituality

Well Wishes As Visions’ Joseph Rogers Moves On

Joseph Rogers has been with Visions since 2005, first as a recovery mentor at our Mulholland facility and later becoming the Director of Education at the Outpatient Day School. Joseph has run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group since 2007, exploring how developing spiritual practice is applicable to recovery. He also co-facilitates the Outpatient DBT Skills group with Jesse Engdahl on Wednesdays. Two and a half years ago, Joseph stepped down from the Director position in order to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree and begin the process of stepping into his new role of Chaplain. This has been a long-time coming: Joseph has been in facilitator/teacher training with Against the Stream Meditation Society for the last 5 years, and has built a remarkable community of cohorts and students.

 

It with great pride and excitement, as well as a bit of a heavy heart, that we bid Joseph farewell as he steps onto a new path. Joseph will begin his residency at UCLA, earning his CPEs (Clinical Pastoral Education) at the top of September. As sad as we are to see him leave the Visions nest, we are excited to see where this takes him. Joseph offers a sense of calm assurance to the deeply suffering, and he is able to hold space for vulnerable people in a profound manner. UCLA has a priceless jewel on their hands.

 

Joseph has been a consistent members of the VTeam for almost a decade, seamlessly blending boundaries and compassion, while encouraging a love for learning. He has created a foundational resource for the kids and staff to look to for support as well as leadership. Many alumni and staff alike will joyfully reminisce about learning history through the various comedic voices Joseph uses.  He has been the rock for many, and the quiet storm of compassion for all.

 

Joseph isn’t completely leaving Visions, however. He will continue to run the Mindfulness Meditation/11th Step, Spirituality group and he will continue to co-facilitate the outpatient DBT Skills group. Despite our denial that he won’t be with us every day, we are really excited for him and grateful for his dedication and commitment to Visions. Joseph has carved out a thoughtful, compassionate path of service, dedicating his life to help others recover and find peace with their suffering. Reverend Joseph Rogers, M.Div as a nice sound to it, eh?

 

“A kind, gentle soul. I will miss seeing Joseph’s smile everyday. I always look forward to his gems and guidance. A true friend I have found. I wish him the very best as he sets out on his journey. The world is a better place for him being here. Thank you for the honor of working with you.”– Noelle Rodriguez

 

“Ahhh! JRO! We will miss you and your gentle ways. Throughout the years, you have been a driving force for our school. You provide so much more than a basic education to our kids; the love you have put into it has been so good for us and the clients. We are so proud of your hard work and making it into the UCLA program, you truly lead by example. We will miss you very much. Thank you for the years spent together!” Amanda Shumow

 

I befriended Joseph years ago while I was studying at CSUN in the credential program. I told him that I worked at a little place called Visions and he was immediately interested. Soon after being hired, he took the position at IOP as teacher. Over the years he has made his mark as a calm leader with a fierce passion for his work. Joseph is wise and knows enough to always be learning. He is an educator in the truest sense of the word and will be missed by staff and students alike. His contribution to Visions has been, and will forever be, immeasurable. Joseph embodies the words of Bruce Lee: “A teacher is never a giver of truth; he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.” – Daniel Dewey

 

“​Joseph is an amazing person, teacher and soul.  He is someone that you meet and instantly feel that you are in the presence of someone wise, calm, and fearless. I wish him all the best, in all that he does!” — Jenny Werber

“I’ve never known anyone to be more universally liked by clients and parents than Joseph. Joseph is the rare person with whom you can disagree, but still feel your view was thoughtfully considered, while not feeling imposed by his own.”  – Garth LeMaster

 

“Joseph, you are a man with great insight and gentle wisdom. I have seen you live your convictions, tenderly heal wounded children and be the doorway of understanding for lost souls. I wish you peace, joy, challenges and love. Thank you for your part in my crazy art lady journey.”  Ever faithfully yours — Susan “The Art Lady” O’Conner

 

“Joseph has not only been an amazing role model as a productive co-worker but has become an amazing friend and mentor for whom I will dearly miss. I wish nothing but the best for him and all the experiences to come. You will be missed and loved always ” — Nick Riefner

 

“Joseph’s energy is contagious in every way possible. Every time I see him, no matter what is happening, he seems calm and at peace… For someone as anxiety driven as I am, being around someone so serene is refreshing. I have so much respect for Joseph and aspire to one day walk with as much dignity as he does.” – Ashley Harris 

 

“Joseph will be missed.  He has a very special way of relating to our clients that involves, at times, an extraordinary amount of patience.  I often sit out here at my desk and listen in to the conversations going on between Joseph and the kids.  I am equally entertained, amazed, and grateful to have been a fly on the wall of Joseph’s classroom.” – Natalie Holman

 

“I’ll miss Joseph terribly, I think it’s been so beneficial for our teens to see strength in a man shown through kindness, non judgment and calmness.” Roxie Fuller

 

“Thank you, Joseph. Thank you for helping to create an environment for learning, healing and recovery for Visions kids and families. Thank you for your unique perspective for leading the education and meditation groups and classes. There is some thing very special about the way you gently lead the kids with confidence and class. Thank you, Joseph!” – John Lieberman

 

“Joseph has been teaching me since my first day – a friend, a mentor, and a big brother all in one.  I’ve been afforded so much of his wisdom and care from this relationship, it will be really hard not to have him here all the time.  Riding shotgun while he teaches mediation, DBT, or most importantly sober FUN, he constantly helps me take care of the kids and myself in the kindest and simplest ways.  No one can really imagine Visions without him; I’m just grateful for all the time I’ve had with him and that he will still be doing groups with me.” – Jesse Engdahl

 

“Joseph has been such a huge part of my Visions experience and I think I’m the saddest to see him go. He is my friend, my teacher, my mentor, and my right hand. He has always been so supportive and understanding of things only us Visions teachers would understand. He has a strange yet peaceful way about him that makes any day a good day. He always seems to have the right words of wisdom in any situation and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be around. After years of morning check-ins about life, love, and the pursuit of sanity I’m going to miss him dearly. I wish him the best in his new endeavors and I am forever grateful for the time, wisdom, knowledge, and random facts he’s passed on to me. I’ll continue to make you proud, Jofes… thank you for being my shoulder to whine on, my ear to vent, and my rock to keep me sane.” – Adriana Camarillo

 

“With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to an amazing man, father and colleague. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Joseph for nearly a decade and it’s hard to imagine my day-to-day without him. Joseph represents a quiet force, guiding his students with conviction and offering hope where there may be none. While he continues to be a spiritual inspiration to both staff and students, we will miss the man who, for so long, has been the core of Visions Day School.  The feeling is bittersweet. Selfishly, we want him to stay. But the truth is, he has another calling and with that, I honor his path and I am always grateful for this experience.” – Fiona Ray

 

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