Categories
ADHD Adolescence Mental Health

Does Your Child Have ADHD?

ADHD is a common disorder that mental health professionals encounter. It has become a road-to-recoverygo-to diagnosis for physicians, whose first line of treatment is typically Adderal or Ritalin. However, ADHD diagnoses are often determined using elementary questionnaires, the answers to which are relative and rely on a patient’s (i.e., parent’s) willingness to be transparent rather than psychological clarification.

 

It’s important to recognize that there are many psychological issues that have similar traits to ADHD.  Often times, someone will present with ADHD traits when their actual diagnosis is depression, anxiety, or PTSD.  Using drugs like Adderal or Ritalin isn’t always a wise course of action. These drugs are both stimulants and highly addictive. While these drugs will certainly increase focus and attention, they will also mask the relevant and underlying issues that may be present. Additionally, they have severe side effects: paranoia, irregular heartbeat, and an increase in blood pressure, tremors, restlessness, hallucinations, and muscle twitches.

 

Finding a skilled mental-health professional will shift the course of your teen’s treatment; a qualified clinician can skillfully diagnose disorders that are similar in symptoms but which may require different treatment.  Diagnosing ADHD requires investigation into several areas. Doctors look at the following to determine if there is an issue of hyperactivity and impulsivity. This is often the more obvious form of ADHD and more easily recognizable because of the negative social constructs that occur. Note, a child or teen has to experience 6 or more of these symptoms for a minimum of 6 months to qualify for this diagnosis. ADHD is diagnosed by looking at the following issues (following info via PsychCentral):

 

Inattention

  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities–even those the person performs regularly (e.g., a routine appointment)

  

Hyperactivity

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Often talks excessively

 

Impulsivity

  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

 

Note, the DSM-5 lists three subcategories for ADHD, which are:

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation — Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not symptoms of inattention have been shown for at least 6 months.
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation — Symptoms of inattention but not symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least 6 months.
  • Combined Presentation — Symptoms of both hyperactive-impulsivity and inattentiveness have been shown for at least 6 months.

 

Regardless of where your child lands in the ADHD field, it’s important to have the appropriate clinical support, the willingness to accept the diagnosis, and the courage to do the work to support and care for your child. Creating schedules that your child can adhere to, having a therapist that your child relates to, and building an infrastructure of support can make managing ADHD and other similarly related issues easier for families. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s better to know than not know. It’s better to ask for help than to watch your child needlessly suffer.

Categories
Adolescence Family Feelings Mental Health Parenting Prevention Recovery

Why Listening to Your Adolescent is Invaluable

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Prevention

The Dangers of DMT and Psychedelic Experimentation

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the tryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT.  This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain.  Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.

 

Adolescents are naturally curious creatures. They want to know about the world that they live in and they want to understand why it is the way it is. Developmentally this leads to a natural curiosity about the nature of the world and spiritual matters. During the 1960s, well-respected researchers looked into the potential of psychedelic drugs to treat mental illness, including depression. The ’60s generation took this as a cue to experiment with their minds. What we have learned since then is such experimentation is potentially dangerous and harmful, especially for those with a latent tendency toward depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness.

 

Psychedelic drugs have a distinct effect on brain chemistry. Some of them have chemical structures similar to natural neurotransmitters and almost all of them are classified as alkaloid. Historically, psychedelic drugs have been used by ancient cultures for spiritual practice and ceremony. And science has used psychedelic drugs for research.

 

However, psychedelics are significantly abused.

 

One of the most dangerous components of psychedelic drugs is the potential negative effect on people already vulnerable to mental illness. The user is, in effect, playing with his or her brain chemistry without direct knowledge of any short- or long-term effects these drugs may have. And someone who has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness can adversely affect his or her mental health with the use of psychedelic drugs, or any drugs for that matter. Drugs like DMT, though old, are no different. DMT works fast, it has an intense effect that lasts for 15 minutes but purportedly feels like several hours. This can be an overwhelming experience, especially in cases of untreated or undiagnosed mental illness.

 

The bottom like is this: Experimenting with your mind is dangerous. Curious or not, this type of psychological misadventure is not worth the risk and the potential fallout.

 

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health Recovery

Does Your Teen Suffer From Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal function of stress. It is the nervous system’s way of telling you it’s on overload and needs a break.  Scientists have discovered that the amygdala and hippocampus play a significant part in most anxiety disorders. The amydgala is the part of the brain that alerts the rest of the brain and lets it know a threat is present; this will trigger a fear or anxiety response. The job of the hippocampus is to convert threatening events into memories. Interestingly, research is showing that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in people who have suffered from child abuse or served in the military.

 

Further research will begin to provide clarifying information regarding not only the size of the hippocampus in PTSD sufferers, but also the cause of fragmented memories, deficits in explicit memories, and flashbacks.  Understanding the functionality of the brain will help scientists form more salient ways in which to provide medical relief for anxiety sufferers.

 

Fact: 8 percent of teens ages 13–18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6. However, of these teens, only 18 percent received mental health care.

 

How is anxiety usually treated?

Medication is one option typically given to anxiety sufferers. It is a cure, but rather a means of managing the symptoms.  Often patients are given:

  • >Antidepressants
    • SSRIs, Tricyclics, MAOIs, anti-anxiety medications
  • Anti-anxiety drugs:
    • Benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers – which treat the physical symptoms of anxiety

In addition to medication or sometimes in lieu of, therapists may use modalities like:

You can also try one or all of these 8 tools for managing anxiety:

1. Deep breathing exercises: Deep diaphragmic breath helps activate the body’s relaxation response.  Practice exhaling on a longer count than your inhale. This is a wonderful tool to use to bring the heart rate down, provide oxygen to the blood and to the lungs.

 

2. Use calming visualization: Close your eyes and visualize a place that elicits a state of calm. It could be the beach, the mountains, a forest, being in the ocean, or doing something else that you love. This is a way of accessing one of your resources—something that calms you and engages your body’s nervous system.

3. Do something physical: go to the gym, go for a run, do a strong yoga class, do some jumping jacks, skateboard, or roller skate. In other words, get your endorphins going.

4. Play a musical instrument. For example, one of our teens plays the bass when he’s anxious.  Perhaps you play the guitar, or the accordion. Get down and make some music!

5. Connect with a friend so you are not alone. Maybe watch a funny movie together or blast some music and have a silly dance party.

6. Create a gratitude journal.  Write down 5 things you are grateful for and challenge yourself to write this list every day .

7. Focus on a meaningful, goal orienting activity: playing a game with a friend, building something, creating art, or singing.

8. Accept that you are anxious – it is a feeling. It doesn’t mean you like it or want it to be there, it means you are accepting where you are in that moment. The more you talk about how anxious you are, the more anxious you will feel. Accepting where you are allows you to stay in the present–when we are anxious, we are stuck in the future.

 

Anxiety can be accepted and worked with or it can be ignored. Ignoring it leaves you vulnerable to persistent dysregulation and misery. Addressing anxiety and facing it head on allows you to develop self-regulatory techniques. The latter will facilitate emotional regulation and the ability to approach triggers and difficulties more skillfully.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alumni Guest Posts Bipolar Disorder Mental Health Recovery

Alumni Voices: “I’m 17, Bipolar and In Recovery”

I’m pleased to share a guest post from one of our Alumni, bravely sharing about her experience as a bipolar teen in recovery. She is not only inspiring and courageous, her post is a testament to the clarity and hope willingness and recovery brings.

 

“I’m 17, Bipolar and in Recovery”

How old are you when you are in the 5th grade? Ten, maybe 11 years old? I was probably closer to 11 given that I was held back in preschool. Now, who exactly gets held back in preschool? I didn’t really pay it any mind when I was in preschool, yet I still struggle with the shame of having repeated a grade so early on in my education. I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable in the 3rd grade for having to be pulled out of class to learn to read in a private room with Mrs. A, the learning specialist teacher. Learning to read had come so easily to my older sister, C; it was not the same case for me.

So back to my original question: I was 11, and I had already been diagnosed with ADHD. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was prescribed 100 mg of Adderall per day. Well, it turns out that I did have a mild case of ADHD, yet it also turns out that ADHD is commonly misdiagnosed and mistaken for bipolar Disorder. No one found out that I had a mood disorder until I came to Visions.

 

It is not uncommon for a person who is bipolar to not want to take their medication. The first time I went through Visions treatment I was diagnosed as having mood instability and not full-blown bipolar Disorder. This mood disorder accounts for a lot of the feelings I was having before and even after I came through Visions. Before I reached the point of needing inpatient care for the first time, which far preceded the time in which it took for me to ask for it, I had experienced quite a bit of depression. I have also dealt with my fair share of manic episodes.

 

For someone with a mood instability disorder, drugs of any kind will make for a much more painful and deep depression, a much more insane manic high, and will far from help the situation. This is not to say that abusing any kind of drugs or medication, illicit or otherwise, will help anyone. Yet, when your brain chemistry is already messed up and you continue to pile any kind of chemically enhanced drugs on top of that, it makes for a manic-depressive individual.

 

It is not uncommon for a person who is bipolar to not want to take their medication. The first time I left treatment, I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed. I missed many days in a row, I took it at different times throughout the day, and I even flushed a whole handful of my pills down the toilet. This definitely didn’t help my condition. The combination of illicit drug use, consistently missing my meds, and a variety of other unpleasant behaviors can only lead to a few options. Those of us in recovery know what those options are.

 

Given that I had already been locked up in a psych ward at the age of 14, had not yet been to Juvi, and was still breathing, the last option would be recovery.

 

I haven’t discussed my recovery much because it is not only something I deal with on a daily basis, but it is also something that I am quite insecure about. As I have already shared, I have been through Visions Adolescent Treatment twice. I once had almost a year and a half of sobriety. I had gotten sober at 15, yet I prided myself on the time I had sober, and not the work I was doing. How could I? I wasn’t actually working a program.

 

I had struggled with the idea of sobriety the moment I found out what the other residents were using in my inpatient program. I had only been smoking weed, while the other residents were in treatment for much harder drugs. I knew that I deserved to be there; my story was pretty intense, yet I still felt insecure about my drug use.

 

That statement alone is what reminds me on a daily basis that I need to be sober. Only an addict-alcoholic would feel the need to go further and to use harder. I guess that wasn’t enough for me, because after about a year and four months of sobriety, I relapsed. This time, it did not take long for me to realize how utterly unmanageable my life was.

 

I did not need to prove to anyone else that it was a good idea for me to be sober, especially not my mother. That’s another good point: Only someone who is extremely sick and in their illness would put someone they love in that much pain. I guess I still had to prove it to myself.

 

Today, when I have a moment where I think of using, I think of my family. I say to myself, “Even if I’m not an addict, I couldn’t put them through what I used to.” I believe that the “issues” I deal with are not only related to one another, but they are also a gift: Not only is my recovery a gift, but I see my bipolar disorder as a gift as well. I feel lucky to have the ability to feel things as intensely as I do. I hope that this will be that last time I am getting sober. I will take one day at a time in keeping it that way.

 

Categories
Adolescence Recovery Self-Care Wellness

3 Things in the Way of Asking for Help

Help! (Photo credit: Rainier N.)

Is asking for help a challenge for you or someone you love?

 

We often create more suffering as a result of our desire to control the outcome of a situation versus lessoning our suffering by asking for help. Frequently for those in recovery, whether from substance abuse, mental illness, or a combination thereof, asking for help is a learned skill. It’s something that is derived from doing step work, working with a therapist, and going to process groups. Sometimes asking for help requires that we confront the very thing we are struggling with: ego.

 

What does not asking for help look like?

 

1. Loss of Control. Assuming that one will lose control of a situation if they ask for help will inevitably create higher levels of stress. The fact is, we cannot do everything ourselves, at least not efficiently or without risk to our mental health. In our efforts to be in control, we end up feeling out of control and overwhelmed.

Ask yourself: “Would I rather do several things that are mediocre or one or two that are phenomenal?”  Or “Would it be better for me to do a little bit less but with more awareness and less stress and more effectively?”  I have honestly found that slowing down and asking for help increases one’s efficiency and lowers stress.

 

2. Fear.  Fear is another component in one’s unwillingness to ask for help. It could be a fear of not being good enough, a fear of being viewed as less than, or a fear of failure. We can turn our backs on fear or we can face it. In order to healing and evolve in our recovery, the only way out of this mess is through it. Think of it this way, the shadow on a wall is far larger than the person or thing making the shadow. That shadow tantamount to your fear: far larger than what is creating it. Asking for help is liberating. You are good enough; you are not a failure.

 

3. Perfectionism. “It has to be perfect!” “If I don’t do it, then it won’t be done ‘right.'” Does this sound familiar? You know how to do what needs to be done, and you can do it “right,” or faster than anyone else, right? Wrong. This sense that something won’t be done correctly unless we do it ourselves is a lie we tell ourselves to justify our inability or fear of asking for help. I am a perfectionist, and I can tell you, this character defect gets in my way more often than not. It is the “shadow” I work with when I struggle with asking for help. What I have started to learn is that perfection is in everything: it is in the flaws, the nicks, and the wrinkles. Embracing that has enabled me to ask for help.

Whether you are the control freak, in fear, or a perfectionist or a combination of all three, take this opportunity to pause and take some steps toward change. There is no reason you should have to do everything on your own, or from fear of judgment. With each new venture is an opportunity to do it with less suffering, and less drama.

Remember:

1: It’s ok to “not know.”

2: Perfection is a perspective.

3. Letting go is liberating.

4. Asking for help leads to self-care.

5. You cannot do this alone.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Wellness

Emotional Sobriety: 5 Tools For Self-Regulation

Angry Kid (Photo credits: Giphy)

What is Emotional sobriety?

Is it perfection? Is it always feeling good or being happy, or optimistic? And what happens if you don’t meet perfection, or you have a bad day, feel anxious, angry, sad, or gasp, pessimistic?

 

Emotional sobriety is the ability to self-regulate– to self-soothe in times of duress. It is not a call to perfection. For an alcoholic, addict, or one with fragile mental health, learning to self-regulate is a foundational tool for their recovery and something they begin to learn in treatment. Therapists and counselors work tirelessly to encourage clients to begin the process of looking inward, learning to nurture themselves and hold space for the difficulties human beings often face.  Emotional sobriety is something that forms after the first stage of sobriety is attained. With it comes the ability to be present for your emotions and the ultimate goal is to become nonreactive. Sometimes, that may mean sitting with the discomfort of your emotions until they pass, and that isn’t easy.

 

Ingrid Mathieu, Ph.D, author of Recovering Spirituality talks about Emotional Sobriety with uncomplicated clarity. In her Psychology Today blog “Stop the Self-Diagnosis,” she says, “Emotional sobriety is less about the quality of the feeling (“good” or “bad”) and more about the general ability to feel one’s feelings. Being restored to sanity isn’t about getting the brass ring—or cash and prizes—or being ‘happy, joyous, and free’ all the time, but it is about being in the present moment, whatever it happens to look like.” You can enjoy the rest of her article here.

 

Here are 5 tools for self-regulation that can help you with attaining Emotional Sobriety:

 

1. Take a time out: Walk away, take 10 breaths or 20 if you’re still heated. Do some work to ground yourself and come back to your body. When we are not regulated, we tend to be outside of our bodies, placing our hands to our bellies, or on the ground or on something solid can help remind us to be present.

 

2. Meditation: I often suggest that one practices what are called the brahma viharas (a Pali word–the language of the Buddha–which means “heavenly abode”): they are often referred to as the heart practices in Buddhist meditation. They include: Metta (lovingkindess), Compassion, Forgiveness, and Sympathetic joy  and Equanimity (the ability to be like a tree in the wind: fluid and non-reactive to the “weather.”).

 

3. Yoga: Yoga can be a workout or it can be what it was meant to be: a moving meditation. Trust me, if you are not breathing, and focused, you will fall over in your tree pose. Yoga will allow you to learn to recognize your reactions to discomfort and respond to them differently.

 

4. Take a walk or go on a hike: Just moving our bodies can help us calm down. A walk around the block can make sometimes get you out of your anger and despair.

 

5. Stop the negative self-talk: This one is tough. We tend to berate ourselves on a regular basis, “ugh, I’m so dumb,” “I’m fat,” “I can’t do this.” I could go on and on. Think about it this way, would you say that to someone you love? I didn’t’ think so.

6. Find and work with a therapist if you need to. A skilled clinician can facilitate a path to self-discovery, healing, and self-care. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist; if anything, it’s mental health insurance. Being human is tough work!

 

I leave you with one of my favorite stories, applicable to Emotional Sobriety and the work it requires to obtain:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

Which wolf are you feeding?

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Prevention Recovery Stress

8 Ways to Kick Stress to the Curb

Stress can be really high at this time of the year. Family reunions aren’t always easy, money can be tight, and if you are newly in recovery, the temptation to imbibe is high. The reality is, stress if everywhere no matter the time of year; it’s how we manage it that makes the most difference. Developing quality coping skills is an essential piece to managing stress. Here are 8 tools to help you manage your stress and have fun while doing it!

 

1: Create some healthy rituals: take a bath before bed, do yoga or meditation in the morning before you start your day or before you retire at night.

 

2: Get outside: take walks, go on hikes, do whatever you need to do to get some sunshine (even in December) and absorb some of that healthy Vitamin D. If going outside isn’t an option (say, you are in Maine and there’s an ice storm!), adding plants to your home or workspace can elicit a similar sense of calm and reduce stress.

 

3: Do something that is relaxing and which allows to turn off your head: do a puzzle, knit or crochet, read a book, draw, go surfing or skiing. Essentially, do something that focuses doing something with your hands or body.

 

4: Use positive imagery or meditation to ground (stay connected):

 

A: Check in with your mind and body and visualize a safe space where you are rooted to the earth, and connected to your breath and body. Find an image that is soothing for you and breathe into that heart space.

 

B: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart: breathe into your hands for a minimum of 3 cycles of 10 breaths.

 

5: Exercise: go for a run, walk, or hike. Take a spin class, or go to yoga. Get your endorphins going. You’ll be amazing at the stress relief you find!

 

6: Breathe. Take long, deep breaths. The longer your exhale, the more efficient you are at activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Try this: breathe in for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 5.

Do this several times. In layman’s terms, the parasympathetic nervious system is what calms you down. It is essentially the emergency medical technician of your nervous system. The best thing about the breath: It’s portable, you do it all the time, and it’s easy to use.

 

7: Have a dance party.  Put on some silly tunes and rock out in your kitchen, or living room, or wherever the mood strikes you. The goofier, the better.

 

8: Say “No.” You don’t have to always say “Yes” to someone’s request. If your plate is too full, say “No”! Creating those boundaries will lesson your stress. You can only do so much.

 

Be kind to yourself this holiday season and beyond and Kick Stress to the Curb. As the Buddha said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”

 

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Recovery Teen Activism Wellness

Practicing Kindness, Compassion, and Generosity Every Day

Kindness (Photo credit: -Reji)

Every day is a day for practicing kindness, compassion, and generosity. In fact, these qualities and practices shouldn’t be relegated to once a year around the holidays. However, that’s often the time when we hear about it the most.  Around Thanksgiving, there’s a flood of people who commit to feeding the homeless. Ironically, that’s the one time of year that the homeless aren’t actually seeking food. The shelters, the food banks, the plethora of good Samaritans are all providing that one hot, nourishing meal. The day after Thanksgiving, however, many of us move on with our lives…until next year, when we commit to feeding the homeless of helping the helpless.

 

What happens if we consciously choose to practice kindness and compassion in this way every day? What if we decide to be of service, and practice kindness, compassion, and generosity as a way of living our lives? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? Would our mental health improve or at least be less overwhelming? I would garner a resounding yes to these questions.

 

Consciously choose to be kind, compassionate, and generous…every day:

 

By doing so, we have the opportunity to get out of ourselves and realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. In the AA big book, alcoholics (and I am going to include addicts as well) are referred to as “selfish and self-seeking” or as the “actor, director, and producer” of their own show. By choosing to be kind, compassionate and generous in our daily lives, we have a chance to overcome this state of mind. Being of service is key.

 

Practice Joy:

 

Happiness is contagious. If you can find one joyful thing to focus on or go back to during your day, your day will be brighter. Surround yourself with joyful people, have random dance parties, revel in the little things that bring you joy. I giggle every time I hear my dog snore, or when little kids laugh, or when my son cracks a joke. Joy is everywhere, even when things feel dark.

 

Practice Gratitude:


Pay attention to the little things and find gratitude in that: the way the light hits a flower, the fact that you got a parking spot…right in front, waking up at home with family, seeing your kids, a shared smile with a stranger, or a shared joke with a coworker.  The list can go on. Essentially, begin looking at the seemingly banal and find some gratitude there.

 

Things that have gone wrong or which present difficulty for us is also something to be grateful for: These are often our greatest teaching moments.

 

Thanksgiving may have passed, but your ability to engage in compassionate acts, kindness, and gratitude are alive and well.  These practices contribute to better mental health, a fuller life, and a higher level of optimism. Being present and honoring what’s happening right now is a gift and an opportunity to open your heart.  When you show someone kindness, they are more apt to show someone else kindness. It’s a wonderfully positive domino effect!

__________________________________________________________

Great read and inspiration:

4 Happy Feelings That Are Contagious

Emotions Are Contagious–Choose Your Company Wisely

Categories
Adolescence Anniversary Blogs Recovery

Angela Carrillo, Los Angeles Outreach Coordinator

We’d like to welcome Angela Carrillo to the Visions Family as our Los Angeles Outreach Coordinator. Angela brings over five years of clinical outreach experience with her, having successfully extended her reach to the fields of substance abuse, eating disorders and mental health within the treatment industry.  She is an active member of the Women’s Association for Addiction Treatment (WAAT) and the Los Angeles International Association of Eating Disorders (IAEDP LA). We feel fortunate to have someone so passionate and dedicated to recovery as part of our treatment family. She wears her passion for recovery on her sleeve, peppered in joy and enthusiasm for life.

 

Angela was in the US Army for four years, stationed in West Germany. She joined with the desire to change her life, which ended up being part of her path to recovery. She went on to win an award for soldier of the year in her division and was awarded an army commendation medal. Angela eventually came back to the States where she worked as a paralegal for several years. We are grateful she evolved into the recovery maven she is!

 

As Visions’ Los Angeles Outreach Coordinator, you will see her at local industry events; she will represent Visions’ continuum of care in Brentwood and Santa Monica. Please contact her to tour our Adolescent Extended Care—NeXT, Outpatient Counseling Center, Day School, or Young Adult—LAUNCH programs.

 

When asked why she chose to work for Visions, Angela said,

 

“The work that Visions does and the way they do it supports everything I believe about recovery. Everybody gets to be exactly who they are, from the clients to the staff.  Structure without conformity enhances an individual’s path in recovery.  When authenticity in an individual is supported, creativity and individuation occurs which is empowering for clients and staff.”

 

She’s definitely our kind of lady. Welcome to the VTeam, Angela! We are thrilled to have you here.

 

Angela Carrillo: acarrillo@visionsteen.com, cell phone TBD.