Modern life has many amenitites that simplify and automate our lives; however, daily demands continue to grow rapidly. Technological advances streamline tasks while simultaneously keep us connected to social media, news, and email. We have at our fingertips the ability to reap the benefits of a less stressful lifestyle, but we often pursue the path of more rather than less. Besides the obvious negative impact on our own health, modeling this more and more lifestyle has consquenses for our children as well. (Don’t worry! Nonjudgment…I’ve made many of these choices too.) Recognizing stress motivates us parents to incorporate stress reduction practices into our own lives. How do we then identify and incorporate stress reduction into the lives of our children?
Some stress is part of everday living. In teenagers, many stressful life expereinces are often part of the norm. Mild stress can be helpful to motivate one to complete difficult taks and reach important goals. However, excessive and/or chronic stress in teens may result in a downward spiral of emotional and physical problems. Common signs of stress in teens include:
• Difficulty sleeping
• Changes in appetite (too much or too little)
• Excessive worry thoughts
• Avoidance of social situations and activities
• Frequent illness
• Headaches and stomachaches
• Extreme anger or sadness (reacts or overreacts)
• Substance abuse
Parents who have identified stress related symptoms, anxiety, or depression in their child or adolescent might have already sought psychotherapy treatment. In addition to therapy, research has demonstrated that mindfulness is an effective tool for reducing stress, offering teens a way out of suffering and reducing risk to complications that arise from untreated anxiety and depression (including dropping out of school, addiction, and suicide). Mindfulness can also help with the everyday challenges of being a teen, such as college testing and applications, homework, extracurricular activities and social relationships. Offering teens an alternative way of building stress resiliency before they breakdown can be an excellent preventative medicine tool. Some tips to incorporate mindfulness into your teen’s life include:
1. Disconnect! Even if it is only for 20 minutes, remind your teen that downtime is important. Turn off the technology and focus on breathing. Breathe in a full breath (fuller than usual) and very slowly exhale, feeling the sensations of letting go. With each exhale, there is a softening of the body. Repeat.
2. Naming. When you are stressed, take time to pause, identify and name your emotions and thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” Check the facts and see if there are any exaggeration of thoughts or catastrophic beliefs. What can you realistically do about it now? If nothing else, practice letting go. Reframe by thinking, “I am feeling stressed about _____ and I intend to do _______ about it, or I am going to let this go for now.
3. If your mind is racing and overwhelmed with too many thoughts, STOP. Stop everying. Take a deep breath, Observe your breath, Proceed mindfully with just one thought.
Utilizing these easy tools now will provide teens with a lifetime of healthy coping mechanisms. To advance your teen’s mindfulness knowledge even further, learn more about CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop at Sacred Treehouse. This workshop will teach teens techniques to help cultivate acceptance and live mindfully. Classes will include gentle yoga and stretching, mindful meditation, group discussion, and self-reflection activities.
Wishing you and your children health, joy, and peace.
– Dr. Patty Shutt
CALM: Teen Mindfulness Workshop will begin on Saturday, October 24th, 3:30-5:00 p.m. For more information, please call 561-278-6033.