Mental Health Self-Care Stress

Stress Relief for Teens During the Holidays

Did you know that stress relief for teens during the holidays is important for maintaining mental health and/or mental health conditions?

The holiday season is not particularly well-known for being a source of grief and hardship – yet for a surprising number of Americans, teens included, the holidays are often more synonymous with unwanted or excessive stress than just the feelings of cheer and joy.

Whether it’s the deep winter blues, the costs of heating and rising gas prices, general inflation, the pressure to prepare and host a large feast, the logistics of meeting with family, the financial realities of gift-giving, or the fear of loneliness and isolation in a season punctuated by gathering with family and friends, there are countless reasons why adults and teens alike struggle with stress during the holidays and need healthy (and effective!) outlets for their emotions.

Why Do Teens Need Stress Relief?

Teens aren’t children anymore. They’re quickly entering some of the most stressful years of their lives so far, and for many teens this year, the coming winter season is punctuated by the fears of an ongoing global war, non-stop supply chain issues, another historic inflation and financial crisis, and the deaths and grief of a prolonged pandemic. Let’s dive deeper into some of the reasons today’s teens might feel stressed out.

1. Financial Problems

COVID hit Americans hard, but it’s far from the only reason millions of Americans find themselves closer to poverty than in previous years and more likely to struggle with the coming winter as heating costs soar and the cost of living remains catastrophically high.

Most teens are not in a good position to help their families with these costs and can do little but stand by as the holiday season arrives. For many families, there’s doubt about the bounty on the table, let alone the bounty under the tree.

These stressors and financial anxieties are felt by teens every year throughout the country, but they’re at a historic high right now.

2. Changes In Sleep and Diet

It’s universally known that the holiday season usually means plenty of food and plenty of festivities. And while these are usually good things, they can make life harder for some people – especially teens who thrive on consistency and struggle when their schedule starts to fall apart. This means restless nights, oversleeping, an unbalanced sleep schedule, and copious amounts of overeating.

The holidays maximize these issues, leading to many teens struggling to return to a healthy rhythm in the coming weeks and finding themselves “recovering” from the holidays throughout the first portion of the next year.

It’s important to indulge yourself every now and again. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater every time all the end-of-the-year celebrations turn the corner is often a bad idea.

3. Longer Nights

The holiday season means longer nights for the northern half of the world, which can have a marked impact on a person’s mental state. Some people respond more heavily to a lack of sunlight than others, and loss of daylight can be a major contributing factor in the onset and development of seasonal affective disorder or winter depression. More than just a regular bout of sadness, winter depression is a real mental health issue that is often exacerbated by other holiday woes, including financial trouble and isolation.

But even in people who aren’t diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, the longer nights and shorter days can lead to an increase in doom and gloom.

Some teens find themselves headed to school early in the morning and headed back home later in the afternoon, with a net zero amount of sunlight for the day. This can be detrimental both to a teen’s mental health and physical health – we need at least some sunlight to restore our vitamin D supplies for healthy bones and skin, as well as certain brain functions.

4. Reminders of Loss

The holiday season is a time for family – and while that’s often a good thing, it can also be a painful reminder of what we’ve lost, especially recently.

The pandemic took many people’s lives, and their loss can be a very difficult thing for teens to process – if it’s the first holidays without a loved relative, for example, your teens might have a hard time focusing on the holiday cheer.

Feeling down after the loss of a loved one is normal, but a loss in combination with other stressors can lead to so-called complicated grief or unresolved loss. This can become a complicated and traumatic issue for many teens, and professional counseling may be recommended to help your teen find healthier and better ways to cope.

Looking for Holiday Fixes

Stress relief for teens can be hard to come by during the holiday season. Consider implementing the following to help your teen (and your family) combat the winter blues and have a more pleasant holiday.

1. Keep a Consistent Schedule

While the winter break means more time for family and for fun, consider encouraging your teen to stick to certain elements in their schedule, especially if a consistent schedule is important for their overall mental well-being.

This includes continuing to go visit the gym or practice an instrument, for example, or swapping studying for a new skill or hobby over the winter break. While it might be tempting to spend the whole holiday season in front of the PlayStation, an unstructured winter break can make it much, much harder to get out of the holiday blues when January rolls around.

2. Consider Volunteer Work

In the spirit of the holidays, consider taking some time with the rest of your family to volunteer for a local cause, whether it’s caring for shelter animals or delivering warming blankets and food to the homeless.

Volunteer work can be a positive way to highlight the spirit of generosity and giving, and research shows that going out of your way to do something for someone else has an immediate positive impact on your mental health. In other words, giving is a gift in itself!

3. Keep Gifts Simple

Another way to help take some of the pressure off the holiday season is by keeping the gifts simple this time around. If your teens feel inclined to take part in the gift-giving ceremony, then they won’t feel as pressured to spend the remainder of their allowance trying to find the right gift for everyone.

Take a “break” from gift-giving this year, especially if you’re a little more hard-pressed at home due to current circumstances, and instead pool your money together for a “family gift” that everyone can enjoy, like replacing an old and broken appliance, or putting a little fund together for a short family trip.

Take Care This Holiday Season

While the holiday season can be stressful one way or another, there’s a lot you can do to alleviate that stress and try to make this holiday season one to remember fondly.

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

Adolescence Mental Health Self-Care

12 Ways to Practice Self Care for Teens

The topic of self-care and mental health conditions has grown in interest over the years, especially over the course of the pandemic – more than ever, people report struggling with professional burnout, stress-related illnesses, and social isolation. Yet these issues are not exclusive to adults. Teens, too, have been hit hard in recent times, and teenage rates of anxiety and depression continue to grow – making self care for teens and adults alike a priority.

Learning to manage your thoughts and minimize stress is valuable but difficult. Anxieties and worries can perpetuate themselves through the way they affect motivation, productivity, restlessness, and physical health – the longer you struggle with your mental health, the harder it is to improve it.

Can self-care help? Absolutely. While not a substitute for professional treatment, learning to incorporate different methods of self care for teens at home can help improve their mental health and even help combat symptoms of mental health issues like depression.

What Does Self Care for Teens Look Like?

Self-care does not need to be strictly defined. For some people, it’s a nice warm bath. For others, it’s a jog through the park. In some cases, self-care can be as specific as putting on your favorite song from a childhood movie and dancing around the living room or finger painting.

Self-care does not replace professional care – for teens who need therapy, self-care can be a supplemental regimen used to manage stress at home and avoid mental flare-ups.

For teens who aren’t diagnosed with anything but feel stressed out by exams, studies, relationships, or world events, self-care constitutes emotional awareness and learning to listen to your needs. Let’s go over a few concrete examples of proven and effective methods of self care for teens.

1. Start Journaling

Journaling is a powerful and often underrated tool for productivity, emotional awareness, and mental health.

More than just the ability to recount your dreams or go over your day, journaling prompts teens to be privately introspective, think back on and second-guess impulsive thoughts or negative impulses, and reinforce a healthier mindset – through journaling, a teen can come home from an upsetting day, write about it, calm down, review what they’ve written, and learn to come to a positive conclusion.

2. Create a Healthy and Realistic Schedule

As teens’ responsibilities grow, they quickly find out just how few hours there are in a waking day. Some teens overbook themselves, trying to manage school alongside friends, relationships, and a packed extracurricular program.

Teaching kids to leave time to dabble and experiment and then prioritize the things that interest them or bring them the most joy is important. Plan your day! Set aside the time you need to comfortably do your schoolwork and your chores and create timeslots for hobbies and interests.

Don’t cram for a test at the last minute, do homework an hour before it’s due, or play video games until the early morning hours. A sound, solid, and realistic schedule that leaves plenty of room for fun can help teens achieve their next big self-care goal.

3. Prioritize Good Sleep

Sleep can never be overrated, especially in the context of mental health. Even just an hour of missing sleep can have a significant impact on a person’s cognitive abilities and mental load, reducing their capacity for stress and ability to fulfill the day’s tasks and goals.

4. Using Video Games for Good

Video games have been a part of the mainstream for well over thirty years, ever since Nintendo and SEGA revitalized a dying industry in the 1980s. Yet despite polarizing headlines and worries about gaming addiction, there’s also been a lot of research showing that used sensibly, video games become an excellent tool for stress reduction as well as cognitive improvement.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying video games as a medium, especially if it’s your personal method of winding down after school – and in the modern era, video games have become one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with friends over the summer, or even over a pandemic.

Just don’t let your gaming habit eat into the rest of your schedule!

5. Swap Out Your Snacks

When it comes to self care for teens, it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about what you eat. A healthier diet can have a marked improvement in a person’s mental health and mood regulation.

If you’re not a big fan of eating your greens, for example, find other more appealing ways of getting your daily vitamin and nutrient intake, whether it’s dried fruit, berries, salted nuts, or health-oriented snacks, like edamame and cacao nibs.

6. Get Moving

You don’t need to do laps around school or struggle on a pull-up bar to benefit from the mental health effects of exercise. Any kind of regular movement will do, whether it’s a long walk through the park or a round of Just Dance in front of the TV.

The most important thing about exercising isn’t what kind of program you choose or which equipment to buy – it’s about finding exercises and activities that you can do consistently.

7. Exercise a Creative Muscle!

Creative endeavors can be a wonderful way to release stress and enter a state of psychological flow. Not only is this great for skills development – whether it’s learning to play a musical instrument or learning to sketch – but it helps build a healthy habit that you can use to deal with adult stressors later in life.

8. Spend More Time with Pets

Spending time with your pet can be incredibly cathartic and stress relieving.

Animals like cats and dogs have been our companions for hundreds of generations, long before any of today’s existing civilizations were around – and the bond between humans and companion animals has significant evolutionary benefits for both.

9. Don’t Ignore Your Friends

The worse you feel, the easier it gets to isolate and stay away from others. When you notice that feeling is encroaching, try to spend more time with your friends.

Don’t stay away! Do the opposite. We’re social creatures, and interactions with other people are important for our mental well-being, regardless of whether you thrive in larger crowds or prefer hanging out with just one or two best buddies.

10. Be Outdoors

Whether it’s a longer hike or the occasional walk in the woods, being one with nature – even if that boils down to hanging out near a tree and reading a book – has a marked effect on mental and physical health, to the point that it’s become a researched phenomenon.

11. Go On a Social Media Break

You don’t need to radically delete your profiles or turn off and lock your phone away in a safe, but going through a social media cleanse every now and again can do a lot to reduce your stress levels, recalibrate your self-esteem, and even improve your empathy.

Social media is a wonderful tool – it’s a borderline miracle to be connected with so many people at once. But with it comes a heavy burden, as well. There’s just too much noise and far too much content, and it can become wildly distracting, especially when you’re in the middle of trying to build good habits and healthy schedules. Take a break every now and again, especially if you feel overwhelmed.

12. Volunteer (In Any Way!)

Doing good for others is a surefire way to feel better yourself, ironically. While it might not seem like we’re the most altruistically inclined species, there are genuine selfish benefits to doing something without asking for anything in return. Join the fire brigade for a summer or two! Help a homeless shelter. Work with rescue animals. Choose any cause that interests you, and give it a try.

Start Practicing Self Care Today

Taking care of your own mental health is difficult but important. Prioritize the things you need to function well – three meals, good sleep, enough water, and a nature break every now and again, for example, as well as less basic needs, like the occasional outing with some friends or a little alone time with a good book.

But when tough situations get tougher, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it from time to time.

For more tips on self care for teens and mental health treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

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.

Communication Education Mental Health Self-Care

Juggling Mental Health and School this Fall

If you or your teen is headed back to school this Fall, then awareness of common mental health problems and how to identify them can be invaluable. Teens today face mounting pressures as they pave their way towards college and the workspace. Building a better skillset for tackling and addressing mental health and school can help you or your teen deal with future stressors, become more resilient, and learn how and when to seek help.

Did you know about one in five teens will struggle with symptoms of mental illness, ranging from depressive episodes to major anxiety and everything in between? More than just a rare occurrence, mental health problems are a common issue in modern society and one that compassion, community, and a societal commitment can help address.

Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are treatable, yet only a fraction of those who need treatment get the help they require. Our responsibility as a society is to ensure that mental healthcare is not just available, but easily accessible and well-known. Fostering an open and understanding relationship toward mental health issues begins at an early age and needs to be especially emphasized during adolescence, a time in which many mental health conditions have their onset.

Work On Your Coping Skills

To cope is to deal with something negative. We cope with death, with grief, with stress, with loss. We cope with the things that may bring us down and keep us down. But coping skills can be both positive and negative.

Negative Coping

An effective, but negative coping skill, is having a drink. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and can have both a calming effect, and encourage the release of neurotransmitters that make us feel happier.

But both effects are short-lived and come at a heavy price. In the long-term, alcohol use actively feeds anxious thoughts and makes negative episodes more frequent, negatively impacts cognition and problem solving, affects memory, and leads to a whole host of dangerous, physical ailments and symptoms. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever drink alcohol, once you’re of legal age. But it does mean that alcohol is a poor answer to life’s problems.

Positive Coping

Similarly, there are positive coping skills. Going for a run or channeling your anxieties and negative thoughts into physical activity can be a healthy and effective outlet for stress. Exercise and physical movement have a positive long-term impact on your mental and physical wellbeing but are also useful in the short term, leading to the release of endorphins.

However, that doesn’t mean working out or breaking into a sprint will solve your problems, and just like anything else, you can overdo exercising, leading to overuse injuries and joint pain.

Coping Is Not the Answer to All Problems

Coping skills help us feel better, but they are not an answer to our problems. They are meant to help us deal with them, directly or indirectly, without introducing new ones. As such, we can split coping skills into maladaptive (such as resorting to substance use or self-harm) and constructive (such as exercises and creative outlets, like journaling and painting).

Building positive habits and finding effective, constructive coping mechanisms are both important tasks in adolescence, because these habits can carry on into adulthood, and help you deal with life’s future stressors, like mental health and school.

Planning a Schedule to Balance Mental Health and School

Being overwhelmed is a major source of stress for teens and adults alike. Effective time management is important for mental health and school to avoid overwhelming amounts of stress, such as concurrent deadlines, mounting pressure from parents and teachers on late projects, or your own sense of guilt for procrastinating. That is where learning to create realistic and helpful schedules – and finding ways to stick to them – is important.


First, we need to address procrastination and feelings of guilt. Many of us grow up to learn that being lazy is bad and that procrastination is a character fault. However, research tells us that putting things off is often a natural consequence of poor mood and psychological health. It becomes a vicious cycle, as procrastination leads to negative outcomes, which leads to poor experiences and even more procrastination.

We avoid the things that we are worried about but, in turn, only make them worse, as the pressure to address them mounts to a breaking point, at which point we rush to complete our tasks and feel a momentary sense of relief before the cycle restarts.

Creating Realistic Time Management Skills

Building healthy time management skills and realistic schedules can help avoid this destructive cycle of procrastination and guilt. Consider creating a list of everything you need to accomplish in a given week and break that list down into manageable daily tasks.

Break each task down into chunks of 30-minute to one-hour working periods and plan your day around these work times. Interrupt the monotony of your tasks with frequent snack and water breaks, music, and stretching.

Have a friend or study group hold you accountable to your schedule and remind you to focus or refocus on your work. By breaking your weekly tasks down into individual daily segments, you can take your time and focus on the tasks at hand without rushing to get a week’s worth of work done in a single day.

Put Together a Mental Health Kit

If you are prone to episodes of anxiety or depression, then it might be a good idea to put together your very own mental health kit. These are emergency kits you can refer to, to boost your mood, help you cope with your feelings, take a break, or seek help. A few examples of kits you can put together include:

  • Digital playlists of videos or music that make you feel better.
  • Your favorite (healthy!) snack, kept in your bag or close at hand.
  • Something to fidget with or stimulate your hands or mind, such as a puzzle toy.
  • A pocketbook you enjoy rereading.
  • A journal to create notes, list your thoughts and go over your emotions.
  • And more.

Tell Your Friends and Form a Support Network

Positive coping skills, mood boosters, and better time management habits can help us keep our negative thoughts in check and promote a healthier state of mind. But it’s dangerous to assume that our mental health is something we can control entirely on our own. There will be tougher days than usual and times when nothing seems to help. It’s important not to blame yourself for these days or feel like a failure for needing help. No one is an island – we are all connected and help each other through life.

As such, it’s important to discuss your condition with your closest friends and family and emphasize the need for a support network. Set up a group chat to talk with your friends and share your feelings. Get on calls frequently. Spend time together. Organize a plan for how to help one another on darker days. And share resources for emergency situations, such as self-help numbers, the numbers of a good therapist, the school counselor, or a reputable psychiatrist.

When Is It Time to Get Help?

Mental health professionals, such as those at Visions Treatment Centers, are trained to help whenever they are needed, and not just when a person has reached their breaking point.

Do not wait for a “rock bottom” of any kind, learning to effectively deal with mental health and school is essential. If you are feeling confused about your emotions, if your mood has been down a lot lately, if you can’t stop feeling sad, or if you are just beginning to feel burnt out – even before school has begun! – it’s time to ask for help.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.” 

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.

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