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How Mindfulness Can Help Anxiety

Being mindful mean enjoying the present moment fully. Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being mindful mean enjoying the present moment fully.
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mindfulness is choosing to exist differently.  It means you are very intentional about experiencing the present moment.  You also have to experience it without self-judgement.  It often looks like savoring your present moment and finding things to be grateful for.  When you do these things, anxiety becomes secondary.

If I am being mindful right now, I will notice things around me that I was not thinking about even 30 seconds ago.  I notice the air is a very comfortable temperature.  I notice the leaves on the tree outside are gently shimmering in a slight breeze.  I realize I feel comfortable sitting on this couch.  I see the reflection of the window behind me on the computer screen.  I accept that the reflection on the screen is an annoyance to me, but I am not upset with myself for feeling annoyed (experiencing without self-judgement).  In this moment I am fully immersed in my surroundings and in writing this blog-post; I am being mindful.

Let me show you the difference in how this goes for me when I’m not choosing to be mindful.  I am sitting at the computer annoyed that I am writing a blog-post on such a beautiful day.  I just heard my phone alert me that I received a text message and now I am wrestling with the urge to go check the message.  However, I want to hurry up and finish writing this before my daughter wakes up from her nap, so I don’t think I should get up and check the text-message.  I feel my anxiety building up.  I feel my stomach knotting slightly, and I just realized I’ve forgotten to breathe for the last few seconds because of the anxiety.  I am simultaneously wondering what I should make for dinner and what time everyone will be hungry.  My to-do list is running through my mind.  Ultimately, I am not enjoying my moment.

What’s so sad about this is that I only get to live through this moment once in my entire life.  I spend many moments full of anxiety because I am just not present, and I am moving too fast.  Over time though, I’ve been working hard at being mindful and I have noticed my overall anxiety level diminishing.  I am intentional about finding something to be grateful for, and something beautiful in every situation.  It really works to reduce anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where anxious thoughts run amok and are extremely difficult to control.  The wonderful thing about mindfulness though is that when that happens, mindfulness teaches us not to judge it.  So I’m anxious, so what?  I just sit in it and try not to worry about the fact that I’m worrying.  You know we’ve all done that before!  We admonish ourselves for worrying about something that is out of our control.  We try desperately to talk ourselves out of how we feel, and then we end up more frustrated, and still full of anxiety.  I’ve pretty much given up on this tactic and prefer to mindfully acknowledge that I’m anxious, and just let myself feel it.

I hope this helps you and/or your teenager next time anxiety overwhelms you.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Help for Chronic Worry

The Bible has a lot to say about worry…namely that you shouldn’t. Here I share some words from Jesus that are truly wise when it comes to letting go of what you can’t control, and what you don’t need to try to control.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Feeding the Teenage Mind

Adolescents spend a lot of time filling their mind with things that don't necessarily edify them as a person. Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Adolescents spend a lot of time filling their mind with things that don’t necessarily edify them as a person.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Without meaning to, we’ve let our kids fill their minds with intellectual junk food.  We are taught to be very careful about what we eat so that we can keep our physical bodies healthy.  In our culture though, we don’t pay a lot of attention to feeding our minds with things that keep the mind healthy.  Other than schoolwork, and maybe the occasional church service or bible study, our teenagers fill their minds with social media, TV and whatever they happen to search on the internet.

 

Adolescents are at a stage where they are heavily influenced by what they read, hear and see.  As parents, it’s our responsibility to strongly encourage our teens in learning things that will truly help them in life.  This ranges from what they watch on TV to what they read online.  I realize that you can’t control everything entering your teenager’s mind.  However, you can prohibit them from watching TV shows with nudity, sexual content, cursing, drugs, etc.- whatever goes against how you’d like them to act.  Because these things are so incredibly commonplace, even on “family friendly” shows, we have become numb to them.  I was watching sports last night and a Victoria’s Secret commercial came on.  At some point in our culture’s not too distant past that would have been seen as pornography (a bunch of girls in bras and panties making seductive faces and poses); it would never have been allowed during a sports game that kids are probably watching with their parents.  Now though, that’s commonplace.  You have to think really carefully about whether you’re okay with your teenage son or daughter seeing this kind of thing.

 

Okay, so the logical question that follows my soapbox rant is, ‘What should I have my teen viewing/hearing?’  The answer to that question lies within the bounds of your values.  In our house we follow the Christian faith, so our kids spend at least some of their internet time using apps that help them understand their faith better.  In my cousin’s house, music, education and culture were highly valued so my aunt had my cousin watching movies that broadened his horizons on different cultures.  These weren’t boring documentaries, just movies made in other countries that showed another view of life in the storytelling.  This was intentional on the part of my aunt, and it paid off as my cousin became an adult.

 

There also needs to be a limit to social media.  It’s up to you how you handle this.  Maybe you limit the amount of time your son or daughter spends on it.  Maybe you strongly encourage your son or daughter to follow their role models and interact with those people as often as their friends.  That is one of the great things about social media- it’s actually possible to interact with people you could never otherwise reach.

 

The last thing that’s really important is for you to assess how you spend your spare time.  Are you watching trashy TV?  Are you always posting pictures for your friends on Facebook at the expense of reading a good book?  If you look at yourself and realize you are not feeding your mind healthy intellectual food, make a few changes.  This is actually really hard at first, but the example you set pays huge dividends with your kids.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Becoming Self-Confident

If you want to be more self-assured, self-confident, have a higher self-esteem, and a better sense of self, then you need to stop focusing on yourself.

What? You must be joking, right?

No, I’m serious. When you want to work on yourself all the time, it is harder to focus on others. Compassion, empathy, and action are all things that occur in relationship to others. To improve yourself, you must stop thinking about THE self.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Have an anxiety-free day

A relaxing morning reduces anxiety all day. Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A relaxing morning reduces anxiety all day.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Living anxiety-free means actively making choices to have less stress.  Everything about our lives is fast, and intense.  We’re always trying to get ahead.  We want the best grades for our teenagers so they can get into the best schools.  We push them into a lot of extracurricular activities because we feel we have to.  We work long hours and take short vacations.  We start our mornings off all wrong.

 

How we start our day is one of the key factors to reducing anxiety.  However, it is one that doesn’t get much attention.  We don’t realize a slower start to the morning is key.  We tend to fill our minds with a bunch of useless, negative junk while reciting our to-do list, and then hope to have a good day.

 

One thing a lot of people do is watch the news in the morning.  It is rare to find a news program that discusses progress and positive events in tandem with the negative.  Sometimes even the good things that happen are still spun in a negative way.  It’s all meant to to increase the viewer’s anxiety so they’ll keep watching.

 

It is really important to realize that most of what is reported on is out of your control.  Try and focus on what you can do something about, and leave the rest alone.  Replace some of the news with looking outside at the beauty God has created, and take a minute to say thank you.  Then you might remember that you live in an amazing place and are generally blessed.

 

Start your day with something positive and encouraging.  Take time to read your bible, pray, call a friend, slowly enjoy your cup of coffee, or anything else that gives you a sense of calm.  It has been said that your first ten minutes are a huge predictor of what kind of day you will have.  If you begin your day with anxiety, then you are much more likely to feel anxious the whole day.  Be very intentional about starting your day with something that leaves you feeling positive and energized.  Help your teenagers do this as well.  Make your teenager a good breakfast, have them sit down to eat, and be very pleasant if you sit with them.  Do not talk to them about classes, a test they need to take, or anything else on their to-do list.  Keep it light and positive.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Why Your Teen Daughter Should Play Sports

According to research, girls who play sports make better life-choices.  Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to research, girls who play sports make better life-choices.
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teen girls who play organized sports get into a lot less trouble.  According to a large body of research (http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Not_Just_Another/) conducted in the last ten years, girls who play sports have substantially lower rates of risky behavior.  Girls involved in athletics are less likely to try drugs or alcohol, have fewer sexual partners, and become sexually active later.  There are increases in positive behaviors as well.  Girls who play sports have higher GPAs, and higher rates of graduation.  They have a more positive body image and higher self-esteem.

 

Athletics provide a sense of structure, accountability, and a group of friends.  Exercise is very good for the mind and body, and it decreases rates of depression.  Girls who play on their high school sports teams have a sense of belonging to the school.  They tend to have more school pride, which leads to an increase in caring about their community.

 

Playing sports also reduces overall anxiety.  There are instances where anxiety arises because of the pressure in sports, but for the most part it is helpful for the anxious teenager.  Getting exercise, going outside, being with friends, and focusing on something intensely all helps lower anxiety.  Besides that, sports are fun!

 

If your daughter has been struggling with self-esteem or is tempted by risky behavior, consider signing her up for a sport.  It can make a huge difference.  It gives you both something to talk about too.  If you’re discussing the most recent track meet, you’re communicating.  For many parents, communicating with their teenager is difficult.  Sports provide an avenue for relationship.

 

Be careful not to put too much pressure on your child when they are playing their sport.  There are very few high school athletes good enough to compete at the collegiate level.  There are very few collegiate level athletes good enough to compete at the professional level.  It is okay if your 13 year old daughter isn’t on the top team.  It is much more important that she is having fun and making friends.  Your top priority needs to be her character development, not her athletic career. 

The bottom line is, getting her involved in a sport is good for her mental health, physical health, and social health.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT