Anxiety Logs Prepare Teens Well for Mindfulness Techniques.

images-1Like many others, I too believe that teens with anxiety benefit from mindfulness techniques;  however, I find that before a teen can practice mindfulness techniques, they first need to identify the anxiety in a tangible way. I believe the best way to do this is through what I call an anxiety log.  This is simply a journal or notebook that a teen can write in about their weekly experiences with anxiety.

  1. Step One- I encourage my clients to keep a notebook or journal and write down every time they feel anxious (date and time) for two weeks.  This way we can first determine “how frequently” their anxiety occurs.  It’s a great starting point for them to take control of the anxiety, name it and have a direct response to its occurrence.  It also serves as a good marker to understand the “typical” amount of anxiety a particular teens feels/experiences in any given week.
  2. Step Two- I have my clients tell me in detail about the anxiety they wrote down in their log. This way the anxiety is no longer some secretive scary thing, it’s something we openly talk about together in a safe space. We continue this for a few weeks.
  3. Step Three- I have my clients continue with the log, but at this point (along w date/time) they write down what is happening WHEN the anxiety occurs. (Such as: where they were, who was there, time of day, etc.) This starts to take the power away from the anxiety.  Instead of freezing in panic, heart pounding, palms sweating during the next anxiety attack, they start to direct their focus to the details around the attack for the log. I find that teens will go back after an anxiety attack and write volumes about the situation/experience. This (called journaling) in and of itself is a powerful tool for empowerment and healing.
  4. Step Four- Along with the above steps, I now have THEM rank the attacks on a scale of (1-10) so we can better understand, which were the worst and which were the easier attacks to get through.  At this point, they are painting a very full and clear picture of their anxiety.

After a few months of meetings, we now have enough data to look at patterns in the anxiety as well as their triggers. I can ask questions such as: “What do you think the attacks have in common?”  Or, “Why do you think the attacks are only at night?  This way they are an active participant in putting the puzzle together around their own anxiety.  So the next time they have an attack they will start to think…… “Why is this happening right now?  What just triggered the anxiety? Have I seen this pattern before?”

Sometimes, just bringing awareness to the anxiety can cut down the frequency of the attacks.  Once teens are comfortable thinking about their anxiety in this way, writing about it and talking about it openly, we can then approach mindfulness through coping skills and relaxation techniques.

I always tell teens that tackling anxiety takes preparation.  Would you go into a math exam without studying? OR… Would you go into a tennis match without practice? The same goes for taking on anxiety.  You have to be prepared. The log helps prepare them well before applying any mindfulness techniques.

What Childhood Bullying Does To Your Body Image Later In Life

Guest article for Mind, Body, Green.

If you ask most adults if they were bullied as a child and their answer is yes, they can usually tell you their earliest bullying memory in great detail. They can pinpoint the exact day, time, location and who was there.

Why? Because it was a traumatic experience.

For many people, these earliest experiences with bullying typically occur around the 5th grade. Socially, this is the time when boys and girl start to form cliques, become competitive and begin showing interest in the opposite sex. However, this is also the time when many physical changes occur.

Kids get braces, glasses, acne, start developing faster or slower than everyone else in class … anyone can be a prime target for bullying for any reason.

Unfortunately, the effects of bullying can carry over to adulthood. We hold on to labels, to the names we were called. We can play the bullying scenarios over and over in our heads, so much so that we may start believing them again. By adulthood, perfectly proportioned women think they’re too big, too tall, too skinny. This is where body dysmorphia can begin.

Body dysmorphia is a type of chronic mental illness where you can’t stop thinking about a flaw in your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. Your appearance seems so shameful that you don’t want to be seen by anyone.

Body dysmorphia and memories of teasing and/or bullying can go hand-in-hand. If the bullying experience was traumatic and you were never able to process it and let it go, the effects can linger for years. For example, if you were teased as a child for being “chubby,” those ugly nicknames have a tendency to stick around even though you know you’re not overweight today.

For more from this article, click here.

Understanding Teen Drug Addiction and Recovery

Guess blog by Amy Wacholz From Steps to Recovery.

dating violence among teensMany teens experiment with drugs and around half of twelfth graders have used drugs recreationally on at least one occasion. While marijuana is usually the drug of choice among adolescents, prescription medications are also popular owing to their ease of access and their perceived safety, though some teens also experiment with street drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and amphetamines. Even though for the majority of youngsters drug taking remains an occasional activity, owing to the addictive nature of illicit drugs it is easy for them to become a habit, which is not only damaging to physical and mental health, but can harm all aspects of a teen’s life. Thankfully, for young adults who find themselves in the grip of a drug addiction, specialist help is available to aid their recovery.

Predisposition to Drug Addiction

As not all teens who start taking drugs become hooked, there are certain factors that can predict whether or not addiction is more likely. For instance, young people with a history of mental health problems are more likely to turn to drugs to boost their mood, confidence or self-esteem, with repeated use for these purposes increasing the likelihood of addiction. A family history of substance abuse also makes us more vulnerable to develop similar habits. However, factors in the environment are just as important as biological traits in predicting drug dependency. Good connections with family and friends, feeling part of the local community, achieving well at school, having outside interests and appropriate parental supervision are just some of the protective environmental factors when it comes to preventing drug misuse.

Understanding Drug Addiction

Addiction is able to occur because taking drugs enhances dopamine production and a rush of this feel-good chemical messenger encourages us to repeat the same behavior. The dopamine reward system is also activated by enjoyable activities such as eating, exercise and sex, but over time with repeated exposure to drugs the brain does not respond in the same way to everyday activities. As a result we lose interest in other things and prioritize drug taking. This isn’t the only impact that drug abuse has on our brain though, as it changes brain circuits that control memory and behavior, leading to cravings and an inability to control the desire to take drugs.

Effective Treatments for Drug Addiction

Although specialist addiction programs are available to successfully help those with a dependency on drugs to free themselves from their habit, figures show that less than 10% of addicts receive the treatment they need. While a drug detox is an important first step during the recovery process, a medically supervised withdrawal followed by a structured program of counseling is essential to achieve lasting abstinence. This is because addiction is complex and multi-component treatment for drug abuse that addresses all needs is usually most effective, particularly when individually tailored to the requirements of each person. Treatment typically includes a combination of individual and group therapy, as well as medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse in opiate addiction. It is essential that during the recovery process any underlying problems that affect mental wellness are identified, as diagnosis and management of co-existing conditions improves the chance of successfully kicking a drug habit for good.

During a detox from drugs, treatments are available to make the process more comfortable. Medications also play an active part in the treatment of opiate abuse, with methadone and buprenorphine helping to relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms by binding to the same sites in the brain as heroin and prescription opiates. Following opiate withdrawal, naltrexone is also an option, as by blocking the brain sites where opiates bind, drug taking doesn’t offer the same high, helping to promote abstinence.

Whether receiving addiction treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis, a range of behavioral therapies are available. The benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy in substance misuse is well recognized and is designed to help people change their thoughts and behaviors so they can avoid or better manage situations when they may be tempted to use drugs. However, before someone begins CBT, motivational interviewing is a helpful strategy to ensure addicts entering rehab are ready to change their behaviors. Motivational incentives can meanwhile help to keep people on track during recovery, as rewards encourage continued abstinence. Finally, multi-dimensional family therapy, which was created with adolescents in mind, helps to address factors that influence drug taking and improves the way that family members connect with one another.

For more helpful information and articles about teen addiction and recovery please visit the website Steps to Recovery.