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Mental Health Self-Care

Commemorating National Teen Self-Esteem Month in 2021 and Beyond

May is National Teen Self-Esteem Month! While we should take the time to commemorate the importance of building self-esteem in our children and our peers, building self-esteem is a matter of long-term consistency. So let us commit to lifting each other in 2021 and beyond.

Bridging the Gap Between Teen Self-Esteem and Mental Health

Adolescent self-esteem is a critical protective factor for good mental health – and crucially, low self-esteem is a common risk factor for symptoms of depression and anxiety. Self-esteem also plays a protective factor against attention problems (ADHD), although to a lesser degree. The effects of self-esteem on behavioral issues, however, are inconclusive.

Having a healthy and robust sense of self can help teens feel more secure in the face of certain stressors and be less prone to self-deprecating thoughts. However, just as self-esteem can help improve a teen’s mental health, it bears mentioning that teens who have a proclivity towards anxiety issues or depression (due to family history or environmental factors such as early trauma) will generally struggle with poorer self-image.

The two are intertwined, and addressing one can help address the other. But building up a person’s self-esteem is no easy task, regardless of whether the initiative comes from the inside (self-motivation) or the outside (a concerned friend or loved one). So, this May, we are encouraging teens, as well as friends, families, and communities, to take part in uplifting one another.

This year’s effort is significant, as teens face a mental health crisis unlike any we have seen in decades. Worse yet, we have no idea how this period of their lives will affect them in the years to come. Your contribution could be as simple as refraining from hypercritical comments or considering your words more carefully before you speak, or making helping a close friend develop in a way that might give them a personal boost to their self-esteem.

Teen Self-Esteem, Depression, and Anxiety

Mood disorders and anxiety disorders constitute most mental health diagnoses among teens. The most common ones include major depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder, including low self-esteem as a major risk factor. While there are other factors behind the development and cause of these conditions, the link between self-image and mental health is undeniable, and it is often a two-way street.

Boosting teen self-esteem – or more practically, helping them boost their own self-esteem, may go a long way towards reducing or even preventing the development of a disorder, or at least majorly improving quality of life and helping prevent suicidal ideation.

It Starts With You

Our sense of self is a complicated thing, developed over the years through observation, social interaction, as well as our own inner headspace. A person’s voice can be naturally self-critical or conditioned that way over the years, and they may have a harder time registering or even accepting praise as genuine.

Others have a harder time recognizing their own flaws – or, in an ironic twist, possess such a fragile sense of self that they brutally lash out at even constructive criticisms. Learning to recognize and differentiate between healthy and problematic voices in our own head, at least with regards to how we treat ourselves and comment on our own thoughts and behavior, can help address self-esteem issues.

It might sound silly to start with the voice in your head, but just learning to identify the downward spiral before it goes completely out of control can be a good first step. It is healthy to be humble and reflective, but it is not healthy to constantly refer to yourself with harsh words or think in such negative extremes like “I’ll never amount to anything,” and “of course I couldn’t do it, I could never do something that great.”

Instead, consider rephrasing such sentiments. For example, “I’m just starting, and there’s a long and tough road ahead” is a much healthier response to an early stumble or initial failure. No one who has ever done anything great in their lives has gotten to where they got without many moments of self-doubt and failure. Similarly, “I didn’t get it this time, but I’ll keep trying” or “and that’s okay” are important sentiments, too.

Your Friends Matter

Unsurprisingly, who you surround yourself with can have an impact on how you feel, both about yourself and in general. We are all human and rely at least in part on each other to better understand how to think of ourselves – and if your “friends” or family include bullies and scolders, then you will find yourself becoming overly critical of not only your actions but your personality, your temperament, and immutable characteristics. This can lead to self-hate and depression. On the other hand, when those around us are patient with us and accepting, it teaches us to accept ourselves. Bullying does not make someone stronger – it breaks them down.

Learn to Set Better Goals and Expectations

Failure hurts, and a life well-lived will see many failures before any successes roll in. But that does not mean we should only ever set our sights on the stars. Instead, it is important to learn to set healthy and realistic goals and expectations and benefit from meeting them.

You do not have to look and move like an athlete, be a valedictorian, speak three languages, and play an instrument all at the same time. Instead, start with daily goals that you can consistently work towards, prioritize in a direction that interests you, work with your strengths and recognize (and accept) your weaknesses, and focus on being grateful for the things in life that go well for you.

Embrace the Power of Giving

Studies have shown that giving is a much more satisfying feeling than receiving – and it can go a long way towards helping you improve your self-esteem. We are not just talking about charity or good intentions. Making an effort to give your time to someone else, for free, whether by volunteering at a local organization or making a nice meal for your friends as a show of appreciation, generally makes us happier than receiving the same kindnesses from others.

Are you or a loved one struggling with self-esteem issues? Working on developing a healthier sense of self and being kinder towards yourself can go a long way, but some people struggle with thoughts and emotions that cannot be dealt with alone. It’s okay if you need help; we all do eventually! Thus, if you feel discouraged about asking for help, know that you are not alone! Get in touch with a mental health professional today.

Categories
Adolescence Communication Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care

I’m Sorry but I’m Not Sorry

“I’m sorry.” “No, really, I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry. Can you help me?” “I’m sorry. I really appreciate it.”

Is “I’m sorry,” the unconscious mantra you use when you engage with the world? For years, I said, “I’m sorry” for some of the most banal reasons:

  • To a server who brought me the wrong order;
  • To someone who had issues pronouncing my name;
  • To a person who didn’t know an answer to my question;
  • To someone for a mistake that they made;
  • For asking a question, and better yet, for asking a “stupid” question.

The list can go on and on, but the truth is, many of us have said this or continue to say this day in and day out. It’s become a conversation filler, a verbal crutch for times when we might feel uncomfortable asking for what we need…and deserve.

Perhaps this is the real issue: fear around owning our own voices and honoring our needs. Punctuating a request for help with “I’m sorry” devalues the very thing you are asking for. Are you really sorry because you need help with your homework? Are you really sorry because you need a ride to school? Maybe there is embarrassment or concern that you are being demanding or needy. And maybe someone has hammered that negative message into your subconscious enough times that it’s become part of your internal dialogue. Time to turn that tape off: It’s time to take your power back and honor your voice.

These days, I very rarely punctuate my statements with “I’m sorry,” but this shift took time.

  • First, I had to become aware that I was saying it in the first place. In early recovery, I had several people point it out to me over and over and over again. I finally heard it.
  • Second: Once I was aware of my language, I had to shift my awareness to notice when I was about to say I’m sorry. This is the time when the real internal work begins. Because every time you may want to say “I’m sorry,” you are now aware, conscious of your words and methods of communication. This is where you can stop and pause in order to truncate your phrase and remove “I’m sorry.”

This is a habit. Sure, it’s not a habit that will cause you great physical harm, but it is a negative habit nonetheless. The positive shift that occurs once this habit is broken is one of quiet empowerment. Self-esteem perks up, self-worth perks up, self-love perks up. The need for an apology should be been remanded to a time when there is really something to be sorry for: stealing, lying, cheating, hurting someone’s feelings, et cetera. It no longer has a place as the perpetual grammatical prefix in your sentence structure.

Categories
Depression Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Stress

New Study Talks About Stress and Teen Girls

Adolescents experience a lot of stress, more than we may even realize. Stress can come from the natural ups and downs at school because of academic pressure, or via social circles, or from an overwrought family system. For some kids, one thing leads to another, and they find themselves trying to process all of that at the same time. How often are these kids who are struggling in this way, boxed into the at-risk nomenclature? Naming the problem and doing something about it are very different things. Further, if we tell these kids they are at-risk, it evokes a negative connotation. These kids are, in reality, under-served and often ignored.

I teach a yoga class to tweens/teens, and I was warned that one of my new kids was a “problem.” I was told she would be a “nightmare” because she was caught smoking last year, implying that she was also a “bad” kid. I chose not to view her as a problem, or a nightmare, or bad. Instead, I approached her with compassion and kindness and boundaries. I recognized that this kid doesn’t need to be judged; she needs to be seen. She has become one of the most dedicated students in my class. She looks forward to being there. She is kind to her classmates and respectful to me, the teacher. This young lady has allowed herself to be vulnerable enough to allow the process of yoga and conscious breath to disassemble her stress–even if it’s in incremental amounts. The shift has been profound.

A new study talks about teenage girls being more prone to depression when they are exposed to a lot of stress. My class is comprised mostly of girls, most of whom share that they are under stress.  In this recent study, “Jessica Hamilton a doctoral student in the Mood and Cognition Laboratory of Lauren Alloy at Temple University hypothesized that life stressors, especially those related to adolescents’ interpersonal relationships and that adolescents themselves contribute to (such as a fight with a family member or friend), would facilitate these vulnerabilities and, ultimately, increase teens’ risk of depression.”

Researchers examined data from 382 Caucasion and African-American students in an ongoing study. Their findings corroborated Hamilton’s theory, showing increased levels of rumination, depression and emotional vulnerability. Seven months later, when they did follow-up testing, the girls showed higher levels of depressive systems than the boys did. The study also showed that the girls had been faced with more stressors than the boys had. The theory is that if boys and girls faced the same amount of stress, the results of the research would have reflected higher rates in depression regardless of sex.

Stress can be a direct result of consistently not having one’s needs met, feeling disconnected or alone, and from unmitigated change at home: divorce, job loss, violence, poverty, or chronic illness. Additionally, the new independence that comes with the teen years can also be stressful. As much as teens want to individuate, the reality that they have to suddenly do many things themselves can be overwhelming for some.

 

How can we de-stress? Try one or all of these on for size:

1: Time outs are a time in. They are an opportunity for us to reset our minds and bodies.

2: Ask for help.  You don’t have to do this alone.

3: Get some fresh air: go for a walk, or find a way to get outside!

4: Take a media time out: unplug for an hour, and dedicate that time to self-care. If you really want to challenge yourself, turn your phone off for the day!

5: Breathe: 10 deep breaths, extending the exhale each time. Do three or more cycles of this.

6: Say no. No is a complete sentence. Remember this!

Each of these tools encourages an emotional reset. They help turn that fight-or-flight response off and help your body engage its rest-and-digest system. Sometimes, we have to consciously remind our bodies to slow down, but we have to practice. Studies like the one above are a good reminder, a wake-up call, telling us that we have to slow down and process our emotions in a safe, reflective way. Teens need to know they will be ok.

Categories
Recovery Self-Care Service

Taking Care of Yourself While Being of Service in Recovery

We need to be of service in recovery. Getting out of ourselves and helping others is a time-tested component in the recovery puzzle. When we suffer, helping someone else can be liberating. Being of service acts as an unexpected and welcome emotional salve. Being of service shows us that we are not alone in our suffering; it shows us that relief is available. Being of service provides support, and it encourages community. Service work is a wise requirement.

 

There is a shadow side to service work, though, and it rears its head when we don’t take care ourselves. Sans self-care, we risk being overwhelmed, stressed out, tired, and depleted. If you are a gardener, and you tend to everyone else’s garden before your own, your garden will wilt. The same thing applies to taking care of ourselves–Being of service is also an inside job.

 

Where are YOU on your list of priorities?

 

On an airplane, we are told to give ourselves the oxygen first in case of an emergency; Similarly, we must apply this same ideology in our day-to-day lives. If we are depleted, we cannot effectively be of service.

 

Is ensuring someone else’s happiness more important than safeguarding your own?

 

The feelings that emerge when we are of service can be profoundly positive. It feels good to help others. However, we cannot sacrifice our own needs in order to do so.  It’s important not to lean toward people-pleasing behaviors — behaviors that inevitably feed resentment and drain our personal resources for self-care. When we people-please and neglect ourselves in the name of being of service, we risk resentment, which leaves us sitting miserably in silent rage and frustration.

 

Remember that sacrificing yourself is not tantamount to being of service. Pushing yourself to the point of emotional exhaustion will tap your nervous system and leave you overwhelmed, tired, depressed, and frustrated. We are no good to anyone when we are depleted.

 

Yes, you can take care of YOU and be of service!

 

1: Take care of your needs first: If that means taking a walk or going for a run or taking a nap BEFORE helping someone else, do it. Fill your well.

 

2:It’s okay to say NO: If you are exhausted, and tapped out, saying no is a way of being of service. You are no help to anyone if you are worn out.

 

3: Maintain healthy boundaries: If your go-t0 answer is always “yes,” then you are likely to end up overwhelmed. Are you overcommitted?  Practice saying “No.” Practice taking care of YOUR needs before taking care of the needs of others. You are just as important.

 

I love this Buddhist quote and share it often. It’s definitely apropos here:

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” 

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
Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Trauma

Acknowledging and Honoring Grief

With addiction and mental illness comes something that we often don’t want to look at, which is grief and the deep sense of loss that arrives when we or a family member steps into recovery. Drugs and alcohol and/or mental illness are often viewed as the villains in the aftermath of addiction. But the underlying weight of grief often gets shoved to the side or bypassed entirely.

 

The truth is, grief can be crippling. It can take the wind out of us and make us feel like we’ve landed flat on our faces, gasping for air. When we ignore it, or devalue the importance of the grieving process, we suffer more.

 

Mental illness and/or addiction may have ripped your family at the seams. It may have poked holes in your belief system, and placed a shadow on your hopes and dreams for your family. The truth is, everyone suffers: the one with the disease and the ones close to them.

 

I grew up with a parent mired by the tragedy of her own childhood, which was fraught with a mentally ill mother and a stoic father. Now, I see this same parent as an adult and it affords me the opportunity to recognize the untended grief and loss she’s endured and the great suffering that has resulted. A large portion of our existence in a scenario like this revolves around survival and learning how to endure the shame and fear associated with our circumstances. It’s not uncommon for the grief we feel to be ignored or for us to feel as though it is something to endure.

 

How can we stand tall in the midst of suffering while honoring our grief?

 

Talk about it. Develop a relationship with someone you trust that can help you process your feelings. It could be a counselor, a therapist, a psychologist, a good friend. What we hold onto holds onto us. Processing grief is part acknowledgement and part letting go. It evolves and becomes something we can hold with care instead of treating it like a hot stone.

 

Practice self-care. Take walks, meditate, do yoga, surf, get a massage, take a bath. Indulge in yourself. Healing is hard work; it’s important to nurture ourselves in the process.

 

Lean toward your difficulty. As counterintuitive as that may sound, this is ultimately the way out. That which we fear, can hold us back. We have to find a way to feel our feelings, touch our own hearts with kindness and compassion, and begin the process of finding acceptance and letting go. Take baby steps here. You don’t have to take on the high dive just yet.

 

Grief is present all around us. In adolescence, we grieve the loss of childhood and the inference of responsibility. In recovery, we grieve the person we were, the things we missed, and the damage we did. We also grieve the perceived “fun” guy/gal we thought we were. Be patient: recovery will afford you many more fulfilling ways of having fun.  This list goes on, but it doesn’t have to be daunting.

 

My experience has shown me that when I lean toward the thing I fear, the fear lessons. When I acknowledge the shadow side and hold the difficulties with compassion, the light starts to trickle in. I suffer when I turn away, and when I ignore the suffering, it becomes more unbearable.  The work in recovery teaches us that we can walk through difficulties with grace, we can begin to feel our feelings and we can crack open the barriers around our hearts. With our feet planted on the earth, and our minds open to possibility, the plight of suffering has a place to fly free.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Wellness

Asking for Help and Self-Care are for Everyone

Asking for help is a radical act of self-care.

Removing oneself from the isolation of overwhelm and exhaustion and stepping into vulnerability is part and parcel to taking care of our own needs. It’s not necessarily a sign of strength to strong-arm our way through our difficulties; however, we often get stuck in this idea that we have to “soldier on,” regardless of our own immediate needs.

 

Emotions come in waves. They can be placid waves or they can feel hurricane-like in their strength. It’s ok to fall apart and feel what we are feeling. It’s how we heal, how we lean into the shadow side, and how we traverse the difficult path of getting the help and support we need.

 

For some of us, we were taught early on that asking for help is a good thing. We were shown by example that it’s ok to take breaks to nourish our mind, body and spirit. We were shown that by engaging in acts of self-care, the ability to show up for others is greater.

 

Many of us have had different experiences and were shown that asking for help is a sign of weakness. The indication here is to place others first and do what we need to do for ourselves later.  In a worse case scenario, “later” ends up being in the ER with symptoms of hypertension, a heart attack, or a stroke. Not taking care of ourselves sends the wrong message to our loved ones.

 

Self-care, asking for help and developing resilience are healthy practices for everyone. They are not limited to someone in recovery or someone who has experienced difficulties. If we engage in these practices and teach our loved ones to do the same, self-care and asking for help become second nature.

 

What is resilience anyway?

 

Simply put, resilience is being able to recover quickly from difficulties—to “spring back into shape.” More definitively it is,

1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.

2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

Resilience isn’t something we are born with – it is cultivated through the development of self-regulatory and self-management skills. The more informed and aware we become around our feelings and needs, the more we cultivate and develop resilience.  We become skilled in the ways we work through our difficulties. The more we are fortified (by self-care and asking for help), the easier it becomes to “spring back.”

 

Resilience is fostered by:

  • Having healthy and close relationships with family and friends
  • Having a positive view on yourself and and confidence in your abilities – Yes, you are enough.
  • The ability to self-regulate
  • Wise communication skills
  • Asking for help when you need it, and seeking resources outside of yourself when necessary
  • Viewing yourself as resilient and not as a victim.
  • Healthy coping skills (instead of substance abuse)
  • Being of service and helping others
  • Being able to notice the good and the positive things that are happening around you.

 

Self-Care can include any of these things and many more:

  • Taking a bath
  • Getting a massage
  • Restorative yoga
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Taking a dip in the ocean
  • Going for a hike
  • Gardening
  • Playing with a dog
  • Going to a park
  • Walking

 

Remember to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength and self-preservation. You are worth it. You deserve to be supported.

Categories
Mental Health Mood Disorders Personality Disorder Recovery Self-Care

Mental Health is Mental Wealth

When someone suffers from mental illness, there is a deprivation of the joy and emotional wealth that’s present when there is ideal mental health. Mental illness can drain our joie de vivre, and make for a muddy emotional existence. Relationships with loved ones tend to be difficult, and there tends to be a propensity for loneliness and isolation. Worse yet, when mental illness is left untreated, the toll it can take on the one suffering and their loved ones can be taxing and sometimes devastating.

 

Some types of mental illness are more straightforward in their treatment: anxiety and depression, for example, are often treated with various modalities of psychotherapy and balanced with medication. Personality disorders are complex and there are some instances where the patient doesn’t recognize their illness despite their deep suffering. The work involved in treating all mental illness requires a nexus of therapeutic support and a desire for positive change from the patient themselves. The question many have is, Why are personality disorders so challenging?

 

Personality disorders are grouped into three clusters:

  • Cluster A personality disorders are “characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are:  paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder
  • Cluster B personality disorders are “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
  • Cluster C personality disorders are “characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior.” The disorders that fall into this category are: avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

 

Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for all types of mental illness; the most efficacious modality is determined by the needs of the client. Findings show that DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) in particular is the most effective therapeutic treatment for personality disorders and bipolar disorders. Other effective tools used in treatment may include:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction)
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Neurofeedback

 

To date, the FDA hasn’t approved of any medications to treat personality disorders. However, medications are often used to treat symptoms that are detrimental to the individual’s recovery. Medications like:

 

  • Antidepressents: for depressed mood, anger, irritability, mood swings, impulsivity and hopelessness.
  • Mood stabilizers: to even out mood swings, and to reduce impulsivity, irritability and aggression.
  • Antipsychotic medications (also known as neuroleptics): if symptoms include losing touch with reality (psychosis), and sometimes anxiety and difficulty with anger
  • Anti-anxiety medications: For anxiety, agitation or insomnia. Note, in some cases, they may increase impulsive behavior and are avoided with some personality disorders.

 

Treating mental illness requires the cultivation of balance. Participation from the client, a cohesive treatment team, and the correct combination of medication can create the desired environment of mental health.  It takes work, dedication, and a willingness to unveil one’s difficulties in order to create a healthy shift toward mental health. I have experienced the shadow side of untreated mental illness with family members who are unwilling to get help. It does, in fact, take a toll on everyone involved. I have learned that one of the key pieces for my own recovery is developing clear communication skills, creating firm, compassionate boundaries, and building consistent program of self-care. Families struggling with mental illness need to ensure that their own wells are filled, that they are getting their own needs met, and that they have a community of support around them.

Categories
Adolescence Alumni Guest Posts Bipolar Disorder Recovery Self-Care

Wise Words on Self-Care: A Guest Post from Alumni

Self-care is one of the most important things we learn to do in recovery. When we drink and use, or when we suffer from mental illness, we look for outside sources to self-soothe. Our internal resources are often verboten to us; they are either non-existent or significantly unsafe. The recovery process helps us cultivate that inner resource, where we become able to self-soothe, and take care of our own needs without sacrificing our well-being.

 

Occasionally, one of our alumni writes guest posts for us, sharing what it’s like to be a young adult in recovery from mental illness and addiction, and how she is learning to live fully. To every woman I work with, I encourage self-care. To every newcomer I meet and extend my hand, I encourage self-care. This young lady really breaks down some of the necessary components of finding and cultivating self-care. I’m honored to share her voice:

Personal or self-awareness is essential when acknowledging and learning about yourself. Recognition of your needs is the first step. Second would be to put those things into action. In dealing with physical needs you must first distinguish the basics.

Sleep is essential for all humans; it plays a major role in ones emotional state. Exercise also has a sizeable portion in a healthy life. Staying active is vital in maintaining ones physical health. Whether it be a lot or a little, it is incredibly important. Keep in mind that exercise of any kind releases endorphins in the brain, and this is equally significant in supporting and preserving a healthy emotional state of mind.

When it comes to both of these forms of self-care, moderation is imperative. Where sleep and exercise are helpful and quite necessary, too much or too little of each of these things are not. Too much sleep may indicate a person who is suffering from depression. Sleeping the day away could be a direct result of trying to hide or suppress feelings. Sleeping too little could also suggest that a person is overworked or even depressed.

On the other hand, exercise, while very important, should not become your main focus. If exercise becomes an obsession, this could be viewed as a type of disorder (specifically having to do with your health concerning your weight and appetite). And exercising too little may force you to become sluggish and will not help your healthfulness.

Hygiene and nutrition are two more exceedingly important factors to be aware of when handling self-care. Hygiene goes without saying, but nutrition is something that many either do not take into consideration at all, or become preoccupied with. Overall, physical needs transfer to emotional wellness when you begin to take your health and wellbeing into your own hands.

For emotional security, taking pride in yourself is crucial when working on self-care. Doing things for you should be your main priority. As my mom often says, “You cannot help someone else without first taking care of yourself.” Happiness comes from doing what you love, so pursue hobbies that you find joy in and take pleasure in. For me, that means going on a bike ride, playing the drums, taking photos, and writing. It took me a long time to find things I genuinely liked. For some people, they have known their whole life and even turn it into a profession. Others may pursue their passion as a hobby and many people have yet to find out what they love to do. Even if you don’t really pursue something, there are plenty of things that you can do to have fun and enjoy yourself.

Some other activities one can partake in are singing, dancing, taking a drive, or riding a train, taking a bath, going to the beach or for a swim, getting a massage, or even being of service to someone else in some way.

Doing kind things for other people is probably one of the most helpful things you can do for you. Helping others encourages you to get out of yourself.

Acknowledging my own specific difficulties and balancing love and patience for myself with gratitude and recognition for what I already have is a critical balance. For example, I personally struggle with manic-depression, or Bi-Polar disorder. This means that taking my medication for the mental illness that I face is a fundamental and key part of upholding and literally balancing my life.

Reaching out to others whether it is a friend, relative, or a therapist, is a productive way to take care of your mental state. Checking in with someone to not only talk about your struggles and/or triumphs, but also about theirs, is a great method when encouraging self-care for you and others. For those of us in 12-step programs, calling a sponsor and going to meetings is a positive way to turn your frown upside down. Relating to another person is almost always helpful when you are struggling with something. Going to a meeting can get you out of your head and into the open arms of a fellow 12-stepper.

Many people believe that spirituality plays a large role in turning one’s attitude around. I believe that no matter what religion you practice, faith you believe in, or Higher Power you trust and respect, you can find self-care in spirituality. My teacher, and someone that I look up to and greatly respect likes to approach every situation with a level of compassion that is almost unheard of. However you practice self-care, do it kindly, but whatever you do, get into action.

Categories
Anxiety Parenting Recovery Self-Care Stress

Is Your Teen Stressed About Graduation?

It’s time for Graduation!

During graduation time, it’s not uncommon for many teens to fall under great pressure from parents and teachers to exceed in academia or to get accepted into the ideal university. Stress tends to be high at the end of the year, no matter how you spin it. Often times, stress is somaticized (converted into physical symptoms) and it shows up in the form of : stomach aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping, eating more or eating less, and even mood swings.

 

Unfortunately, some kids turn to drugs and alcohol to attempt to quell the anxiety and physical manifestations of their stress, while others may sink into depression. Under stress, our nervous systems go on the fritz, thrusting the body toward a fight/flight/freeze response. If there is no healthy outlet to discharge that stress, it manifests physically.

 

At the end of the year, when graduation looms, there’s a very real potential for an increase alcohol and drug use, anxiety, and depression. We know that adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. But facts aside, what can we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals do about it? Can you commit to this:

  • Create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us.
  • Create a  safe, open environment to facilitate healthy dialogue.
  • Be present for your kids, emotionally and physically.
  • Take care of your own needs and make sure your history is not spilling onto your kids’ present.

For teens already in recovery, managing that end-of-year stress around graduation is crucial:

  • Use your resources and ask for help from parents, teachers, your sponsor, mentor, or another safe adult.
  • Create prioritized lists, checking things off as you go.
  • Create a schedule.
  • Make time for self-care. Healthy physical activity is great for getting the endorphins going, a bubble bath is self-soothing, yoga or meditation will help you get grounded and settle in.
  • Take breaks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take short 10-minute breaks every half hour and stretch, get up, walk around. You’ll notice an increase in your productivity.
  • Hang a picture of something or someone that inspires you near your workspace.

Try and remember that graduation is something to celebrate. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and something you’ve been working toward since childhood. All of the scraped knees, tears, trophies, reports, dissections and memorization got you to this place. Celebrate it healthfully!