Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Wellness

7 New Years Goals for Teens

New years goals for teens and adults can vary, simply due to different stages of life. For some, a new years resolution centers around weight lost, picking up a new hobby, or even getting treatment for mental health.

And for millions of Americans, a new year often comes with new goals and resolutions. But is that a good thing? Most new years resolutions fail to uphold their commitment, which would usually indicate that it isn’t just a question of willpowerWhy is it so hard to do the things you should want to do?

The answer, in most cases, is that you don’t really want to do them. New years resolutions typically fail because people tend to select goals that reflect what they should do or be, rather than what they want. It makes little sense to set a goal for yourself that is not ultimately tied to an activity or result that you truly enjoy or crave. Teens struggle with this just as much as adults do.

You Don’t Need to Start Today

A lot of people fail to commit to their new year’s resolutions because they started working on their goals on January 1st, rather than when they were ready. Someone who dives headfirst into a goal without the necessary preparation is more likely to struggle as a result.

Going back to the popular gym and fitness example, you might feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and it becomes impossible to tell the difference between good and bad advice. Instead, use January as your exploratory month.

Do your research. Consult different experts. Formulate a concrete first goal. Determine what you need to establish your starting position – equipment, setting, space, and community resources. And then, get started in February or March once you’ve answered your day one questions.

New Years Goals for Teens in 2023

Goals that mean something to you – that are linked to your interests or guided by intrinsic motivation – are less likely to fail. Here are some concrete and productive new years goals for teens that you can work toward achieving this year for a better you and to improve your mental health too!

1. Set a Small Screen Time Limit

Excessive screen time is a risk factor for mental health and exacerbates symptoms of depression, lowered self-esteem, and anxiety. You don’t need to go cold turkey on social media or delete Discord from your phone. But do consider keeping a closer eye on your daily computer and smartphone usage, tracking your hours on screens, and setting realistic goals to minimize or introduce breaks for both mental and physical health.

Use those breaks to do something you enjoy – listen to music without looking at a screen, read a physical book, go on a walk, or spend some time gardening. If you have pets, take on more pet-related chores and responsibilities – these can be almost meditative and give you more time to bond with your favorite fur buddy.

2. Dedicate More Time to the Outdoors

Whether it’s something substantial like a monthly hiking trip or just a weekly drive out to the nearest national park for a quick jog or leisurely walk, being outside and in nature can do wonders for both your physical and your mental well-being. Try introducing a few extra nature trips or long walks through the woods into your life this year.

3. Place a Premium on Good Sleep

Sleep hygiene gets emphasized heavily in nearly every single one of these posts and articles, and for a good reason. Everything we do is contextualized by how well-rested we are. Cognitively, socially, and physically, our performance in nearly any aspect of life is colored at least partially by the quality of our sleep.

Making a commitment to head to bed earlier than usual is a good start, but it’s almost impossible to implement. Start with habits that will help you tire out more easily: make sure your room is usually cool and dark in the evenings, rely on warmer lights, cut out blue lights or screens before bed, quit caffeine in the afternoons, and exercise.

4. Go To Therapy (With a Friend)

Mental health treatment is not scary. Nor is it painful. But it is stigmatized, and many teens remain unconvinced that they need or should consider seeking professional help, even as their symptoms get worse.

However, reaching out for help and learning to take care of your mental health are great new years goals for teens. If you think you may be struggling with a mental health condition that is affecting your studies, your relationships, and your day-to-day life, taking the first step toward therapy will be tremendously helpful. But if you need that extra push, consider asking a friend to go with you.

5. Move A Little Bit More

There is more to exercise than running track and field, lifting weights, or going for a swim. Embrace movement in some shape or form, whatever it may be.

We’re ultimately not built to be sedentary for long periods of time, and once you find a form of movement that you enjoy, you can massively improve your general quality of life and regain control over your body.

6. Quit Deprecation

It may just be something small – like insulting yourself in the mirror, berating yourself for trying something or putting yourself down for buying something – but try to make a commitment towards stopping all forms of self-deprecation this year.

Don’t make jokes at your own expense, insult yourself when you’re alone or with others, or take your anger out on your own body. Whenever you feel the urge to say something mean, swallow it – and try to say something positive, anything positive, instead.

7. Try One New Thing

It could be crocheting, pottery, learning to bake, making bread, or even Japanese gunpla. New hobbies are not just an opportunity to expand your interests but an opportunity to meet new people, explore new ideas, find new outlets for stress, and even change your worldview.

A new years resolution can be an impetus for self-improvement and change. But it’s not enough to commit yourself to a vague goal on January 1st without more of a personal connection. It’s important to personalize your goals and pick a realistic approach.

Setting Realistic New Years Goals for Teens

Let’s say, for example, that you have always hated gym class, don’t enjoy most sports, and have spent most of high school being sedentary and enjoying non-athletic hobbies.

You have no personal interest in physical fitness and no real intrinsic motivation to go and begin your gym transformation. You have no concrete knowledge of where to begin in the gym, no foundation of strength or fitness, and no idea whether to prioritize cardio over weights or which supplements to take or ignore.

None of that changes from the night of the 31st into the morning of the 1st.

But, if you are interested in getting fit, you can take your general interest and begin adapting it to more specific, intrinsic motivation. Perhaps there’s a specific fictional character you wish to look like.

There’s probably some merchandise you can wear to help you relate your exercise regimen to that character, like a themed training shirt, hoodie, or shaker. Start your training sessions with arousing music from your favorite game or show. Begin consuming more fitness content that you relate to, or have an interest in. Find exercises that you do enjoy doing.

The Power of Goals

Goals can be powerful tools, but they can also backfire heavily. If your mental and physical well-being is important to you, then setting goals that are achievable should come before setting goals that are aspirational.

For more information about treatment for teen mental health, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Mental Health Wellness

What Triggers Mental Health Setbacks? (And How to Prevent Them)

You have been here before. You can feel it. You’ve felt the same kind of creeping feeling in the past. In some cases, people describe it as an enveloping feeling, like cold molasses turning your arms and legs to lead. What you may be experiencing is a flare-up or a series of mental health setbacks resulting from a mental health disorder.

Mental Health Setbacks Are Part of the Process

Sometimes, it’s the tightening chest or the shallow breath. And other times, it’s intrusive and unwanted thoughts and memories or the feeling of a cold sweat and a nervous reaction at the sight of something you thought you had gotten used to. Or it’s that intense, unbelievable, inescapable craving.

Mental health setbacks, or flare-ups, are an unfortunate and nearly inescapable fact of struggling with a mental health issue. Whether you struggle with psychosis, depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, or other facets of mental illness, it’s important to understand that treatment sadly isn’t as easy as a one-and-done, and in many cases, the art lies in learning to cope and lead a good life with – or despite – your diagnosis.

You’re not alone, and you’re not weak, nor are you a failure. You certainly are not getting worse, and having a mental health setback isn’t really a “setback.”

Let’s talk about it.

Life is a Rollercoaster, and Perspective Matters

Mental health is a complicated and abstract concept. It’s hard to set a baseline for human emotion, behavior, and thinking. While we constantly seek to improve the accuracy of the consensus on what should be defined as the boundary between pathological and not pathological, everyone has ups and downs.

The human condition, even while “normal,” includes a great breadth of emotions that span from nonsensically and inexplicably tragic to unfathomably furious and incongruent with reality. You don’t have to be “ill” to seek help, and you don’t have to struggle with your mental health to be hurting.

But as it stands, some people suffer differently and more deeply than others. Mental health issues like depression are not like ordinary sadness or grief. Anxiety is more than a moment of irrational fear. And psychosis is more troubling than feelings of grandeur or fantasy.

For people with diagnosed mental health issues, life’s ups and downs can hit harder and be more difficult to cope with. But that does not necessarily mean that you are failing to deal with your mental health or that treating conditions like depression and anxiety is a Sisyphean task, to begin with. It’s important to remember, throughout it all, that you are always working on getting better – and when things aren’t better, it’s still all part of the process.

Why Are You Experiencing a Flare-Up?

Mental health conditions can flare up in symptoms in response to stress. The mind works a lot like the body in this regard. We know that risk factors that correlate with greater life stress also tend to correlate with higher rates of perceived mental health problems – people who lead harsher, tougher lives tend to struggle more with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma, whether it’s through poverty, war, personal anguish, natural disasters, or other factors.

In much the same way, these stressors can also cause people who are managing their mental health to experience stronger, worse symptoms. It’s normal to struggle more deeply with your symptoms of anxiety around the holidays when the financial strain of the holiday season hits. It’s normal to have a harder time coping with depression when school ramps up around the midterms.

Sometimes There Are No Reasons

Mental health setbacks or flare-ups can occur for any reason, but also no discernable reasons at all. This is one of the most frustrating realities of living with a mental health problem, especially in the early years. Your symptoms will often respond negatively to stress. However, they might also get worse out of the blue, or at least with no discernable stressors.

Stressors and random factors are uncontrollable and part of life. You cannot blame yourself for these “setbacks,” no matter how guilty you feel. It’s infuriating to find control after struggling for years, only to experience a slump and feel like you’ve rolled down a hill you spent months climbing.

But it’s also important to note that you haven’t rolled nearly as far as you might think you did.

If you’ve spent time in treatment, and learned more about how your symptoms affect you and how to cope, then you will have a leg up on your condition as you seek therapy again. You’ll have the experience that comes with treatment and a better understanding of your own mental health.

You will become better at reading the signs of an oncoming flare-up and recognizing your specific triggers. Over time, the factors behind your symptoms will seem less and less random as you build up your resilience against stress and learn ways that you can personally affect your mental health positively and protect it against future flare-ups.

Preventing a Mental Health Setback

Preventing mental health setbacks can be difficult, but there are things you can do to minimize your symptoms and stressors and catch the signs of an oncoming flare-up before it gets worse, such as:

Dealing With a Relapse

Relapses are a “flare-up” of addiction symptoms. But in the same way, it’s important to turn every relapse into an opportunity – an opportunity to identify unique triggers, understand the circumstances around your relapse, and realize what changes you need to make.

It can be excruciatingly difficult to get back on the wagon after an addiction setback. But that is where support becomes critical – whether from friends and relatives or from your sober community members and support group. No one who has been there will judge you for your misstep. For many people – most, even – it’s part of the process.

What’s important is that you keep help close at hand, always. Talk to your close friends and family members about recognizing symptoms and staging an intervention whenever necessary. Eliminate and cope with the stressors and triggers around you. Continue to go to therapy even when you feel better. And don’t ignore the signs when you don’t feel better anymore.

Get Teen Mental Health Treatment at Visions

If you or your teen is struggling with overcoming a mental health disorder, call us today at Visions Treatment Centers. We are here to help.

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Wellness

Celebrate Emotional Wellness Month

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

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

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

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

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

What Does Emotional Wellness Month Represent?

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

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

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

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

Taking Care of Your Emotional Wellness

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

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

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

Are You Eating Well?

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

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

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

Finding Better Ways to Cook and Eat

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

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

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

Sleep is Key

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

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

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

Get Your Steps In

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

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

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

Building Bridges and Mending Bonds

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Wellness

Adopting Positive Thoughts for a Healthy Mind

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

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

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

Positive and Negative Thinking

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

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

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

Some common forms of negative thinking include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Physical Benefits of Positive Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of a Support Network

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

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

Seeking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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

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

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

Improve Your Mental Health at Visions Treatment Centers

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

Categories
Sober Lifestyle Wellness

6 Summer Sobriety Goals for Teens

With summer fast approaching, everyone is yearning to finish up with the last of their projects and enjoy a long-awaited and well-deserved summer break. But for kids with a history of substance use, summer also means new opportunities for relapse, and a host of social risks. Facing these properly means being prepared, and ready for what’s to come with a set of sobriety goals.

Each Day Counts

If you’re working towards long-term sobriety as a teen, each day counts. Substance use problems at a young age are even more dangerous than they are in adulthood, and given all the other challenges and pressures facing young people nowadays, an addiction is an additional handicap no one should have to work with.

While the school months give teens some much needed daily structure, summer break means more freedom and more free time. This is great, but without a matching daily structure, that free time can lead to boredom, and worse things. For teens with a history of dual diagnosis, or addiction and a mental health problem, a lack of daily structure can feed into a destructive spiral.

6 Sobriety Goals for Teens this Summer

Personal goal setting helps teens plan ahead, creating a daily schedule to keep themselves busy with what they want to do, improving their self-sufficiency and self-esteem, while helping them become more comfortable with support structures and their newfound sober social network. Let’s go over a few goals teens can set for themselves this summer to nurture their sobriety.

1. Achieve Your Short-Term Sobriety

What is “short-term sobriety” to you? Most of us have a number in mind that might feel difficult to achieve, or scary to overcome.

Reaching that number through day-to-day incremental progress is important, because it teaches us to remember that each day is just like any other, and that it’s not about trying to “last” without drugs for a certain amount of time, but to instead live a sober life with no consideration for how long you’ve been sober, because it doesn’t matter.

Whether it’s a month, three months, or half a year, reaching your first “milestone” helps you realize the ironic importance of the journey over the goal of long-term sobriety.

2. Create A Flexible Fitness Goal

Fitness goals are a great idea for the summer because they incentivize movement, are often concrete (mastering a certain move, reaching a certain level of fitness, beating a certain time, or reaching a certain weight), and can be achieved through day-to-day and week-to-week planning. Whatever your goal may be, pick something specific to the things you enjoy, rather than an arbitrary fitness goal. If you hate running, there’s no reason to try and train for a six-minute mile. Your goals could be subjective or deeply personal, such as mastering a tough dance routine that you’ve always wanted to do or getting closer to a true split.

3. Commit to Greens

Substance use is often conflated with poor nutritional health, in part because good food and a healthy diet may be harder to maintain while addicted, and because many addictive substances either greatly increase or decrease appetite. A healthier body is not just less likely to relapse, but can help you think better, sleep better, perform better, and feel better. And the key to that is good greens.

If you aren’t big on eating vegetables, there are a few ways to incorporate more of them into your diet. Consider working frozen greens into your food plan by making breakfast smoothies with fruits of your choice and some baby spinach.

Experiment with different leafy greens to find the kind that you might like. Did you know that there are far more types of green lettuce than the typical iceberg? Give arugula a try for something spicier or try Swiss chard for a bitter leaf. Improve your salads with a combination of nutritious add-ons, like seared tuna, roasted pumpkin, fresh apple slices, different light cheeses, and interesting homemade dressings, such as orange-wasabi, honey-soy, or garlic-yogurt.

4. Nurture New Friendships

Make time for the people you’ve been meeting through sobriety, especially if you’ve been spending most of your time alone for the last few months. Social interactions are both risk factors and important protective factors for any mental health condition.

Acquaintances, friendships, and deep personal bonds help us improve our emotional health and wellbeing, train our social skills, develop stronger empathic ideas, and become better people – given we’re hanging out with the right people, as well.  

5. Keep Learning New Things

While school is all about learning, it’s an entirely different thing to go out of your way to learn a new skill on your own.

Autodidactic skills can greatly improve a person’s cognitive functioning and autonomy and help provide teens with a host of useful life skills, from fact-checking to proper sourcing, research skills, and a more creative mind–not to mention the benefits of the skill itself!

It could range from a neat party trick, such as getting good at darts, to opening new career opportunities through additional language skills or coding practice. It may also help you explore what you want to do later in life by giving you a taste of a variety of different trades and crafts.

6. A Self-Reflection Goal of Your Choice

Not everyone enjoys meditating, but there are certain benefits to taking time out of your day, each day, and dedicating to self-reflection or quiet. If you aren’t inclined towards mindfulness exercises or meditation, consider other forms of self-reflection or relaxation, including yogajournaling, nature walks, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), and sky gazing.

Setting Your Own Sobriety Goals

What about setting your own goals? If you have certain specific goals in mind, making them your priority this summer could be a good idea. But you must differentiate between an ambition and a realistic goal.

It’s one thing to aim to be accepted into your one dream college – but it’s smarter to approach this goal as “getting into college”, instead. There’s a great benefit to goal setting in that achieving our goals can help us feel accomplished and fulfilled. But missing the mark can be quite difficult.

Make it a Sober Summer with Your Best Goals

Life will be full of opportunities to go above and beyond and risk missing the mark for a potential shot at something extraordinary, but in the early stages of the recovery process, structuring your sobriety goals modestly is important.

Furthermore, a lot of teens may feel overwhelmed in the day-to-day if their goals are too far-fetched or vague to begin with. Define your end goal, but also determine progress points you might want to meet along the way, as well as a day-to-day plan to help you achieve that progress.

For example, if you have a physical goal – such as looking and feeling healthier – you might consider revisiting and redefining your goal as time goes on, and as the rate at which you are making progress becomes clearer.  

A good sobriety goal is not just a single defined endpoint, but a journey you can refer to in smaller, realistic steps to reassure yourself that you’re still on the right path, and to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.

Reach Out to Visions Treatment Centers

If at any point you are struggling with substance abuse or sobriety, speak to a professional. Many treatment options like a residential treatment center for teens exist to get you back on track.

At Visions Treatment Centers, we treat adolescents for various mental health disorders and dual diagnoses, including drinking disorders, marijuana, and more.

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Mental Health Mindfulness Wellness

Mental Health Kit for Bad and Good Days

We’ve all got good days and bad days, but for some of us, the bad days may be more frequent at times, or they feel worse than the good days feel good. Even if we get the chance to vocalize our worries and better understand what it is that makes us feel the way we do – whether it’s an anxiety disorderdepressionADHDOCD, or another kind of mental health problem – there’s more to get through a bad day than understanding why it might feel bad. However, having a mental health kit can help with bad and happy days.

Mental health problems are not so far removed from physical health problems. If you cut yourself chopping some carrots, then you can be aware of how and why you cut yourself and why you’re bleeding, but it doesn’t make the pain go away, nor does it address the risk of infection.

First aid kits are essential at home, at work, and at school to address minor injuries, apply pressure to wounds, restrict bleeding, provide little painkillers, and disinfect wounds quickly. And when things get really bad, we call in the paramedics. It’s the same way with your mental health. Some days, you need a first aid kit – and when things are terrible, you need someone to call in an emergency.

What is a Mental Health Kit?

mental health kit can be anything you want it to be, as long as it fulfills its purpose of being a go-to for emotional and mental support. The contents of any person’s mental health kit will look a little different, but a few common things to consider include:

  • Pictures or memorabilia that remind you of something happy.
  • QR codes to playlists or links of songs or videos to watch.
  • Written excerpts from books or poems that inspired you.
  • A journal and a list of writing prompt.
  • A stress ball.
  • A weighted blanket.
  • Some good herbal teas.
  • A scented candle or hand cream that soothes you.
  • A coloring book.
  • And much more!

You don’t need to cram your mental health kit with a hundred different things or resign yourself to only one or two. One of the best parts of making your mental health kit is that you’re in charge of what does and doesn’t make the cut!

Planning the Contents of a Mental Health Kit

First, you need to decide how you want to design your physical kit. A few good ideas include a chest, special drawer, or tote bag. It should be easily accessible, somewhere close to you, like under your bed or next to your desk.

Then, you’ll want to assign different items to different purposes, depending on what you feel you might need on any given bad day. A few examples of emotions you’ll want to elicit include something to:

  • Sooth you.
  • Inspire you.
  • Ground you.
  • Be in the moment. 
  • Something you cherish deeply
  • Last but not least, essential resources for bad days include your therapist’s number, your parent’s phone numbers, the number of your best friend, a group therapy address, and mental health resources or hotlines. These serve as reminders to let you know that there’s always someone to call for help.

Journaling Tools and Writing Prompts

A little notebook or journal, your favorite pen, and a small card with simple writing prompts – one-liner questions that give you a starting point for a journal entry – are good ways to get started with your mental health kit. Journaling is an excellent way to refocus and apply lessons of mindfulness in practice through writing. You can also slow your thoughts down by putting them on paper rather than typing them out or thinking too fast.

Journaling can be a way to sort through your thoughts on bad days, but it can also be a way to cherish and be grateful for how you feel on your good days. You don’t have to grab your kit only when you’re feeling anxious or sad. 

Positive Affirmations

These don’t always work for everyone, but sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right affirmations. Pick a sturdy material you can pick up and repeatedly read, like a card or a plastic coin, and print some of your favorite personalized affirmations on them. 

They could be cute movie lines you remember and like, short aspirational quotes, or affirmations on your strengths as a person, whether you can nurture, your resilience, or your ability to get back up. 

Motivational Music Playlists

Music can be a powerful tool, both on good and bad days. If there are certain songs you like best for any given emotional state, consider making some different music playlists and including them in your kit in the form of handy little QR or NFC chips. 

These are easy to print out or program with your phone. You can refer to them to quickly pop in your favorite songs and sit back, whether you’re in the mood for something upbeat, cheery, positive, and inspirational, or themes to mellow you out, bring you back down to earth, and help you counter negative thoughts. 

Happy Video Playlist

Aside from music, another good idea is a QR code for a playlist of YouTube videos to cheer you up, from funny or cute shorts to moments in movies that you like revisiting, memes, or your favorite moments from different content creator’s videos. You can curate and expand your list over time, letting it evolve with your tastes. 

Hotlines and Important Numbers

Like a physical first aid kit, your mental health kit should include a couple of significant numbers that you can always refer to if you’re ever in trouble emotionally. Sometimes, a soft reminder to call your parents, partner, or best friend can turn things around. Certain hotlines and your therapist’s number can also be important as emergency numbers. 

You Don’t Have to Make It Alone!

A mental health kit can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want it to be. But if you’re not up to the task initially, it’s always a good idea to ask for help. A parent or friend can help you pick out the best tools for the task – whether it’s something to help you when you’re anxious, make you feel a little better when you’re depressed, or help you cherish the moment on good days. 

 

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Wellness

4 Mental Health Activities for Teens

Adolescence is a rough time. Teenagers are faced with a myriad of physical, social, and behavioral changes while learning to survive adulthood, coping with a growing awareness of the world around them, and facing brand new responsibilities each day.

For some teens, these challenges are coupled with the onset of unexplained and unfortunate mental health symptoms, some of which can drastically alter and affect their thoughts and behaviors. These symptoms can greatly amplify the already challenging road ahead.

A lot of teens enter the last years of their childhood feeling alone, overwhelmed, and anxious about the past, present, and future. Helping them navigate their way into the world while coping with their unique issues is difficult but never impossible. Finding support is crucial, both in the community and professionally.

But beyond therapy and support, it’s the day-to-day that makes the most impact on how a teen feels. It’s essential to find mental health activities that help your teen cope with their stressors and symptoms. Remember, as a parent, your influence on your teen is paramount – and in the grand scheme of things, you will always be your teen’s most prevalent therapist. Here are a few mental health activities that can help right away.

A Day in the Woods

It’s no panacea, but it’s still surprisingly effective most of the time. Simple woodland walks have a distinct effect on human psychology. This effect has been studied and cataloged for years, particularly on feelings of depression, confusion, and anxiety.

Also known by the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, the act of taking a long stroll through a forest can immediately impact your teen’s mental wellbeing, coupling the soothing effects of being surrounded by nature with the physical benefits of natural light and fresh air, and the physiological benefits of a long, vigorous walk.

Forest bathing is more than just a therapy tool. It’s also an effective form of stress reduction and has been proven to be exceptionally useful in preventing stress-related health conditions. The stronger a person’s feeling of stress, or the heavier their overall burden of stress, the more effective the experience.

If you’re not exactly living to the closest access point to a natural forest, a walk in the park or a hike through nearby nature can still be an effective stress-reduction tool and a great bonding experience. Use the time to get to know your teen’s thoughts and interests better, and figure out how they’re feeling.

Starting a Handy Project Together

There are few things in life as satisfying as creating something with your own two hands, whether it’s in the form of tinkering with a soldering iron and a PCB or creating a birdhouse out of fresh lumber. If you’ve always been handy in one way or the other, consider inviting your teen into the garage for a two-person project.

Tune up the bike together, work on your project car or do whatever else you might enjoy. It doesn’t have to be woodworking, tinkering, welding, or mechanical work – you could work with your teen on another kind of creative endeavors, such as a joint painting exercise, a sculpture, or something completely unorthodox, like coding a game together. Think of which of your hobbies or interests your teen might have an interest in as well, as to give them a chance to experience it through their lens.

Exploring Your Teen’s Interests

Working on something together for the first time can be a great bonding experience and can help provide your teen with the satisfaction and self-esteem boost that comes from taking part in the creation of something unexpected and creative.

But that experience should go both ways. If you’ve helped your teen discover a new interest for themselves, you should give them a chance to share an experience with you as well. One of the most insidious symptoms of depression is that it saps the joy out of experiences that used to be fun.

Forcing oneself to pick up an old hobby and spend time with it can combat depressive feelings and help cheer a person up. Use this opportunity to ask your teen to share their interests with you and help them feel a bit better.

Train With Your Teen

If your teen is an athlete or enjoys sports, then another way to spend time together and simultaneously help them cope with their mental health is by getting active. Go for a jog together, hit the weight room together, practice drills, and train together.

Help your teen improve their skills on and off the field while benefiting from the mental and physiological effects of the enormous endorphin release of exercise.

If your teen isn’t very active, then this would be a great time to try and find a way for them to enjoy physical activity. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to modulate stress and reduce mental health symptoms over the long term, and it’s an incredibly potent coping mechanism for nearly any mental health diagnosis and multiple different physical chronic health conditions. And as with any other habit, it pays to get started young.

Forcing your kid to get up at sunrise and go for a jog each morning might not be the best approach, but you can consider setting an example by being more active yourself and encouraging your teen to try out different mental health activities with you. Not everyone is a fan of track-and-field, but if you can identify your teen’s unique physical talent and interest – whether it’s dancing, swimming, lifting, contact sports, ice skating, biking, hiking, climbing, or anything else – then you’re helping them discover an enormously beneficial therapeutic tool.

Letting Your Teen Spend Time Alone

Spending time together is beneficial for several reasons: it lets you keep an eye on your teen, encourages them through an activity they might not want to engage in to begin with, and help them see things through.

But teens are quickly becoming young adults and need boundaries, privacy, and a sense of self-determination. Of course, support is critical. But you can’t hover over them through every step of therapy, let alone life. Encourage your teen to make the most of these mental health activities and incorporate some of them into their daily schedules – and give them the space to choose how to spend their time and live their life.

Categories
Recovery Wellness

Teens’ Guide to Nutritional Healing in Recovery

Addiction treatment centers around the idea of recovery – both in a physical and mental sense. Patients are given the necessary resources and tools to counteract the long-term effects of substance use and are encouraged to continue using these resources and tools in the future to try and deal with cravings, cope with stressors, and avoid relapses. Nutritional healing plays an important role in this process because many teens suffering from addiction tend to neglect their physical needs while high or withdrawn. Good food also helps provide an important foundation for other treatments, alongside social support, regular exercise, and healthy coping mechanisms.

The Role of Nutritional Healing During Recovery

Addiction recovery is always about more than sitting in a circle and talking. Group therapy is one of many modalities used to prepare teens for drug-free living in the real world by helping them empathize with others, learn from their experiences, mistakes, and breakthroughs, and learn how certain lessons taught during recovery might be applied in practice throughout the recovery journey.

But drug recovery needs a strong foundation to work. Teens aren’t pulled out of their drug habit and stuck right into a seminar about avoid maladaptive coping mechanisms and recognizing the signs of a substance use disorder. Regular drug use, particularly over months and years, takes a huge toll on the body.

Its effects are especially pronounced in teens, no matter what drug is being taken. This is because teens are younger, still growing, and more susceptible to the long-term effects of continued substance abuse. Reversing that damage – and helping teens learn to deal with their cravings – requires addressing many of the fundamental ways in which drugs can change a person’s body and mind.

People consider detox to be the first step towards recovering physically from addiction. Yet, the body needs much more time to really recover. Therefore, a solid nutritional healing plan is central to helping teens reconstitute themselves over the course of their treatment and continue to bring the benefits of a balanced diet into their long-term recovery journey.

Nutritional healing plans help address deficiencies that can contribute to the physical effects and mental health consequences of substance abuse, help improve and stabilize mood in the long-term, and provide an outlet for teens to learn self-sufficiency, learn new skills, and even apply therapeutic concepts such as mindfulness through the step-by-step cooking process of a healthy meal.

How Substance Use Disorder Can Affect Eating Habits

Nutrition doesn’t just play a role in recovery – the addiction itself plays a role in developing poor eating habits. So reinforcing a better diet can be an important step towards breaking those habits and their association with drug use. Addictive drugs affect the brain by manipulating the neurotransmitters our body relies on for communication and coordination, particularly ones like dopamine, which are heavily associated with reinforced behaviors and reward-seeking.

Many addictive drugs can also affect the way the body regulates satiety and hunger, increasing or reducing appetite and negatively impacting our body’s natural mechanisms for triggering food intake. This can lead to rapid weight gain or weight loss in teens with substance use issues, particularly for drugs like Adderall or methamphetamine (which can drastically reduce appetite) and marijuana or alcohol (which increase appetite or cause weight gain through excessive calorie consumption).

It is also noted that excessive drug use correlates with poor nutrient absorption and malnutrition. However, drugs alone – or at least, how they affect our appetite – aren’t always to blame. Other factors, including mood and mental health and eating disorders that may have begun before or after drug use.

The Link Between Substance Use and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are an understudied yet perilous mental health issue, causing more deaths per case than any other set of mental health conditions. Therefore, teaching good nutritional healing habits is crucial when treating a case of substance use disorder rooted or related to the diagnosis of eating disorders, such as:

These are complex mental health conditions that require both medical and psychological attention to treat. Addiction can complicate things further, and a team of specialists is usually needed to develop a patient-specific treatment plan that helps address their patient’s physical and mental needs, help introduce healthier eating and behavioral habits, and ensure the development of a strong support network around the patient to build on their long-term health.

Even so, nutrition is often just one part of a much bigger treatment plan. In such cases, nutritional healing advice takes time to introduce and internalize. Thus, overwhelming a teen patient with food advice can be counterproductive, especially when they are mentally susceptible to taking certain guidelines too far or misinterpreting flexible dietary suggestions as hardline rules.

What Constitutes Proper Nutrition?

One of the hardest things about introducing and teaching teens good nutritional healing habits is that everybody has different needs when it comes to food. In addition, there are genetic differences in how we process and react to certain foods. So, while it is helpful to understand concepts such as calories in and calories out for healthy weight management, there is much more to having a complete understanding of good nutrition.

In general, teens will be given healthy, balanced meals to help them recover strength, both physically and mentally, throughout the treatment process. In addition, many recovery programs will also cover nutrition to help give teens an idea of the importance of food in their overall well-being. Most nutritional lessons won’t focus on the pros and cons of a vegan diet versus a paleo diet or whether you should go low-carb to lose weight.

Instead, some of the basics in helping teens achieve good nutritional healing habits throughout and after recovery include consistent mealtimes, learning to choose healthier ingredients, cooking basics, and even cooking healthy on a budget. Most teens aren’t financially independent and will likely rely on their parents or siblings to help put food on the table – so, sometimes, it’s important to involve the family in nutritional healing lessons.

This can mean prioritizing filling foods (high in protein or fiber) and nutrition-dense foods (so-called “superfoods,” which provide a variety of minerals and vitamins per portion), cutting down on snacking, substituting high-calorie snack options for cheap and healthy alternatives, learning about (and internalizing) healthy portion sizes, and more.

Teens with special nutritional healing needs might need to work with a nutritionist to figure out what foods to avoid for better overall health and incorporate nutritious alternatives that don’t break the bank. After all, we are what we eat – and good nutritional habits are a cornerstone of physical and mental health during addiction recovery.

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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
Addiction Mental Health Recovery Wellness

Finding Hope in Recovery and Beyond

Hope is fleeting or nonexistent for someone locked in the downward spiral of mental illness and substance abuse. In many ways, the transient quality of hope in the mind of the sufferer creates a sense of dissonance; it always seems to be out of reach. Recovery makes space for a more tangible kind of hope to develop and take root.  The hope we do have when we are in our diseases is hope for an escape. However, the hope we have in recovery is revised to resemble its true meaning: a desire for something good to happen and the capability to see its fruition.

 

We need to integrate hope into our lives as part of our recovery, viewing it as an action rather than as a “thing” to grasp. If we are going to recover, we have to have a life worth living, and building a foundation for hope is one of the actions needed to create such a life. This provides us with something to reach for and hope becomes something actively fostered in our lives.

 

There are some basic things one can do to work toward bringing hope into their lives:

 

Connection: Connect with others and begin to develop healthy relationships with people. The fellowship in 12-step meetings is helpful in creating connection with others. Fellowship provides opportunities to build new relationships with people who are on the same path. Within that context, one can begin to heal old relationships and build new ones.

 

Have fun: How often does someone come into recovery and assume that because they aren’t drinking and using that “fun” is off the list? Guess what—it’s not. When you realize you can laugh, and I mean, a stomach-clutching-falling-over kind of laugh all without the use of drugs or alcohol, it is liberating.

 

Get an education: This is a positive step to building hope for a fuller, better future.  Feeding your mind with knowledge and realizing your potential is a powerful thing. An education provides fertile soil for hope to take root and blossom.  It puts our foot on the path toward building a future that we want to be a part of.

 

We recognize that many of our teens and their families have lost hope. We support families in developing courage to change, and we foster the desire to heal. Every week, Visions facilitates Recovery Fun outings where we encourage teens to have fun, to laugh, and to find joy in their recovery.  We host yearly alumni and client events such as: the Big Bear ski trip, our staff vs. alumni softball game, our Catalina Adventure, and Halloween Fright Night. Fostering joy and laughter breeds healing and it leads to hope. Having fun reminds us that we are alive!  Just because we are dealing with heavy issues doesn’t mean that joy doesn’t exist.  We won’t let kids give up on themselves—we want them to start to recognize their potential. We give them skills that provide them with the knowledge that they are capable, and with that, they build an environment of hope.

 

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