Summertime is the best time…for teens to get therapy

Summer is approaching us and that means kids are out of school. It means more fun in the sun, sports, vacations, and a break from the chaos that is the school year. And, while it might not be at the top of your radar—it is the best time for your teen to get therapy. 

Many parents think of therapy as a school year thing. They see their kids struggle with stress over school work and friend drama and they think about getting their kids help. And, while that is great, often times schedules get in the way and it seems impossible to add another thing your child’s roster. This is just one reason why summer is a great time to begin therapy. Your child will have the time to focus on making healthy choices and gaining the skills they need to get through stressful situations. 

Children and teens can use therapy to reflect on the past school year—what worked, what didn’t, where where the problems, the successes, etc. A licensed counselor can help to teach your child healthy coping mechanisms, skills, and routines that they can use in the upcoming school year. It is almost like getting new clothes and notebooks before that first day—your child can also stock up on healthy brain tools. 

Frequently, parents see many of the problems their teen struggles with dissipating during the summer months. But, that doesn’t mean the problem has been solved. The child is momentarily separated from the situation, but those same problems will likely reemerge at the start of the school year. By getting ahead of problem situations before they arise, your child will be prepared to handle them before they become a real issue. Not to mention, you will be setting him/her/they up for a successful adulthood. 

If you have concerns or questions about getting your child started in therapy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed professional. He/she/they can answer your questions, ease your worries, and help you determine the best path for your child. 

You don’t need an apology to move on

The other day a friend of mine got into an argument with another and started dwelling on how this person had wronged her. She insisted that she needed an apology. The situation got me thinking. Frequently we hold on to the idea that we need an apology before we can move on, but what we forget is we are not in charge of that apology. 

Yes, anytime someone wrongs you, they should apologize. That is the right thing to do, but it doesn’t always happen. Many times the person that wronged you doesn’t apologize at all or doesn’t apologize in a manner that feels appropriate. Regardless, the apology is out of your hands. 

You have the power

Needing an apology to move on is giving the other person all the power over you. You are relying on them to make you happy. You are dependent on this other person, giving them even more power. This person has already wronged you, why would you want to keep them in control of your emotional state? You should—and you do—have the power to make yourself happy.

You don’t need an apology to move on. You have to make things right in your head by accepting that what happened happened and there is nothing you can do about it. Move on, let go and get back to you. You are the only one who can truly control how you feel. You are in charge of you. Stop giving others all the power. Start focusing on your inner struggle and move forward in your life on your terms. 

You are not obligated to take BS

We all cross people in our lives that put on an act, give us their bullshit and expect that we will just lay down and take it. But, we don’t have to. It doesn’t matter who this person is in your life —a boss, a coworker, a parent, a close friend, a spouse, an acquaintance, a doctor, etc. It doesn’t matter who they are, you are not obligated to take their crap. 

There is no concrete rule book in life, but one thing is for certain—you need to be your biggest advocate. You can’t rely on others. Even the closest people to you will let you down sometimes. We are all human. When someone is treating you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, you don’t need to just sit back and take it. Stand up for yourself and set boundaries. 

Those boundaries can take many different forms. It might mean ignoring calls or texts from this person. It might mean ending all interactions. It might mean being straight with them. You can tell this person that you won’t put up with whatever they are doing. Be honest with them and yourself and be your biggest advocate. No one knows you better than you. No one is inside your head feeling what you are feeling, seeing things the exact way you see them.

Even if you are someone that doesn’t like conflict, you are afraid of letting someone down, or you worry about how you are seen, what about you? The ball is in your court. You can protect yourself and separate yourself from toxic situations. You don’t have to leave all the choices up to others. You can make the best choices for yourself. Trust me, even if it is hard to make the first move you will feel better in the long run. 

How is ‘hustle’ culture impacting your mental health?

The phone is always with us. It is not uncommon for people to work into the wee hours of the night or long into the weekend. We never “turn off.” We are always on the move, always looking for the next big thing, always hustling along. It is the way many of us live. We think it is helping us to be successful, but what is it doing to our mental health?

This go, go, go mentality is leading to burnout. We are exhausted. We are overworked. We are losing sight of what really matters. Life is short and we are missing it. We are so immersed in our to-do lists that we are blind to all the beauty around us. 

It has become a social badge of honor to never stop working. It is seen as a good thing. People are proud that they haven’t gone on vacation in years and work 60-plus hours a week—way more than necessary—because it is seen as a pathway to success. But how successful can we be if we never sleep? Or reset? 

We all need a change of scenery every once in a while. We need to give our brains a mental vacation in order to function at top levels. It is ok to say “no” to the extra things on our plates and instead take a nap. It is ok to go home early and surprise your kids with an ice cream date. It is ok to turn the phone off and lock it away for a few hours. 

We need to remember that we are human beings that need self-care. The constant hustle is not sustainable. We weren’t built to never stop. 

The more overworked and exhausted we are the harder it is for us to process emotions and to think clearly, leading to increases in depression and anxiety. University of California San Francisco Clinical Professor Dr. Michael Freeman conducted a study of 242 entrepreneurs. What he found was concerning. He discovered that 72 % of those studied had mental health concerns, including depression, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, and bipolar diagnoses.

The struggle is real. Success should be part of a three-dimensional life full of rest, family, friends, and love, it shouldn’t be all about the grind all the time. 

Turn your bad day around with these tips

Life is not easy. We all have days where we feel on top of the world and we all have days where we feel the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe. It is part of being alive. But, just because a day is off to a bad start doesn’t mean it can’t end on a good note. There are ways to turn a bad day around. 

Next time you are having a rough time, consider trying some of these tips:

1.) Recognize that you are in control of your happiness: Even on the worst of days you still have the power to find the positive. Your negative energy can rub off on the people around you, contributing to your downward spiral of a day. If you switch it up, laugh it off, and embrace the positive you can change the way you feel and impact how others interact with you. 

2.) Determine the problem: What is causing your day to be bad? Is it just dumb luck? Or a bad mood that is making everything so much more difficult to get through. Identify the problem and squash it. Maybe you were late for a meeting and now your boss is angry with you. Switch up your mood and focus your energy on a project that could help you recover from this mishap. 

3.) Be grateful: Look around, think about the good in your life, find something to be grateful for. Yea so you were late to work, but you got to listen to a really good song on the way. You lost your temper on your child and you feel awful, but at least they made it to school in one piece and when they get home you can hug them and tell them you love them and recover. You are alive, you are breathing, you are well. However small or big it is, there is always something we can be thankful for. Finding something to appreciate will help to lighten your stress and maybe even bring a smile to your face. 

4.) Laugh: There is research that shows that even forcing laughter can lift our spirits. Make yourself smile, laugh, watch a funny animal video, look at a picture of a loved one, laugh at whatever is making your day unpleasant. 

5.) Be accepting: We all have bad days. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Forgive yourself. Let go of the moment. Strive to move forward. 

6.) Change it up: If you are struggling, change your routine for the day. Make things different. Maybe instead of working through lunch, ask a friend to meet up, go for a walk, or hideaway for a power nap. 

7.)Stop feeling like a victim: Maybe the cause of your bad day is something that happened to you and you feel victimized. Even if you are the victim of something, stop dwelling on it. The more we feel like a victim, the more we wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for ourselves rather than putting in the effort to appreciate the good in our lives.

No matter what your day has in store, learn to celebrate the small victories — you got out of bed this morning, your hair looks fabulous, that zit on your nose is finally gone, you crossed some things off your to-do list, your spouse loves you, your kid brushed his teeth without needing to be told, etc. You can move beyond the bad and turn a day around, you just have to want it. 

Motherhood and Alcoholism: When is it a problem?

Alcohol has widely become “part” of motherhood as odd as that may seem. Our culture is normalizing this practice and minimizing its potential impact on moms and their families. There are social media groups and websites like “mommy needs vodka,” and “moms who need wine.”

As a mom myself it has become commonplace to hear “when is it too early to start drinking?” or “wine time.” There are many moms that turn to alcohol at the end of the day, or even the middle if it’s a “special occasion” (like Tommy using the potty for the first time). We use alcohol to celebrate the small victories, to numb our stressors, and to dispel boredom. Moms feel like they deserve that glass of wine at the end of the day, they should be allowed to do something for themselves, and while all of that is true — when does the drinking become a problem? 

This past weekend was Mother’s Day and while it is a time to honor moms and all that they do, it is also a time to recognize the need to care for our moms. Moms need to be well. They need to be healthy and happy to take care of their families and themselves. 

While there are many factors that can impact whether a person is a problem drinker — everything from past traumas to genetics to things become habitual, despite their health repercussions. As a society that is putting alcohol in the face of moms everywhere, maybe we should start to reassess. Do moms really “need” alcohol? No, they don’t. Do they deserve to treat themselves? Yes, of course, they do. But, everything needs to be done in moderation. 

Drinking becomes a problem when it is a core thought. If you are constantly watching the clock waiting for that magical time when it is socially accessible to pour that first glass of wine and then next thing you know the whole bottle is gone. We tend to laugh about it. “Oops, I finished the whole bottle.. oh well.” But, we need to be careful. We need to look for other ways to care for ourselves. 

Rather than making alcohol your nightly ritual, try meditation, yoga, a special TV show, talk with your spouse, a weekly night out with friends, something other than the bottle. Drinking feels like a special dessert, a treat. It feels harmless and normal. But it can easily get out of control. That glass can turn into a bottle, which can turn into a bottle a night and next thing you know you are feeling crappy all the time, you are having trouble caring for your kids, you are overrun with guilt, you are hiding it from your spouse, it can easily escalate. 

Being a mom is hard work, don’t get me wrong, and while alcohol can make it feel a little better for a moment it can easily lead to more problems. My advice to you is to reign it in, seek help from a licensed professional, and work to develop healthier coping mechanisms. You don’t need to feel guilty, or alone, in this battle. We are here. We can go forward together for a healthier you. 

How do you cope with motherhood?

Ask Mabel: Is it possible to physically not be able to move because of stress?

Hi Mabel,

My eldest child continues to have these episodes where she falls over and physically can’t move. I have taken her to a neurologist who has several thoughts on why this might be happening, one of which is dissociation. The neurologist said it is very real physically but could be brought on by stress. Is this possible? Does anyone have post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociate by falling over and not being able to move? 

Signed, Mary from Texas

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Mabel: Hi Mary, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this with your daughter. To answer your question, yes. People can have dissociation show up in a variety of responses. Think of fight, flight, or freeze. The fighting response is to get angry and act defensively; the flight response is to black out, experience memory loss, have no recall of events; and the freeze response is when you can’t move, you are stuck quite literally both mentally and physically. 

I understand how this can be confusing but your mental state can have a huge impact on your physical well-being. If something is going on mentally that is just too big to take on your body may display a physical response as an act of protection for your brain. In the case of your daughter, she may be unable to move because it is her brain’s way of shutting down to protect her from stress. 

Consider getting her some help from a licensed mental health professional who can help figure out what some of the triggers may be and teach her healthy coping mechanisms. 

What do you do if your child walks in on you?

Yup, I am going there. I am talking about sex. If you are a parent chances are you have, at least, had some close calls when it comes to your children getting too much of a personal view. So what do you do if your child walks in on you having intercourse? 

It can be an embarrassing and terrifying experience for both involved. It is a touchy subject that can evoke a range of emotions. But, it is healthy. So before you even begin to have the conversation cut yourself some slack. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with guilt or embarrassment and instead consider buying a lock for your bedroom door, take a breath, and clear the air with your child. 

As it goes with many highly emotional situations, your first instinct might not be the best so before you address the situation make sure to take a couple of minutes to gather yourself. Don’t assume your child saw everything. In many cases, the child likely didn’t see too much but probably still has some questions. Avoid going into too many of the juicy details and talk calmly to your child. Ask he/she/they if they have any questions about what they saw? Explain that you were having special time with your spouse—something that you do when you are an adult and in love. 

Young children likely don’t know what they saw, which makes it easier on the parents. If your child is out of preschool, however, they are smarter than you might realize. In that case, don’t gloss over the details. Be honest. It is better to address the situation head-on than to beat around the bush. 

Think about your child. Put yourself in their shoes. What do you think they are feeling? Confused? Embarrassed? Scared? Nervous? Draw on what your child already knows. If you have talked about this stuff before, start the conversation with “remember when we talked about..” 

Lastly make sure that you have the conversation in private, away from anyone that might make things more uncomfortable. Reassure your child that everything is ok, these behaviors are healthy and normal when done in a responsible way with someone you care deeply about, apologize to your child so that he/she/they knows they did nothing wrong. And, don’t wait for your child to come to you. They probably feel pretty shaken about the whole thing. Go to them and be open. 

It might feel like you have permanently scared your child but I assure you that is not the case. Be open and honest with them and things will blow over with ease. You will recover. 

Ask Mabel: How do I respond to my child, regarding her attitude, when she says ‘I was born like this?’

Hi Mabel, 

My child has had a real attitude problem lately and I don’t know how to approach it. She gets sassy with me and then responds, “I was born like this.” And I just freeze. What am I supposed to say to that?

Sincerely, Jen from Minnesota

Mabel: Hi Jen, sounds like a typical tween/teen problem. She is defending herself by saying that her attitude is just part of who she is, which we all know she has more control over than she is giving herself credit for. Next time she says this tell her that no one is born knowing how to talk. Talking is something that is learned over time and she can apparently talk pretty well now. Tell her that even though she may feel like she was born with something, she can always learn something else. 

What is changeable, and what is not…

There are things we are born with, those are things we cannot change such as skin color, height, etc. Talk with your child about what is changeable and what is not. Saying she is “born like this” is a cop out. It is her not being willing to try to improve, to learn manners, etc. It is laziness. Explain to her that it is always possible to change your ways. It is a good life lesson and hopefully will help ease up the attitude overtime. 

Good luck mama, and please know that you are not alone in this struggle. Raising any tween/teen is not easy. Just keep giving it your best shot and try not to get too down on yourself. 

Does humor help communication?

There is a reason comedians are popular. It is because they keep things interesting. They make people think about life in different ways. Humor can be a powerful tool when it comes to communication. It helps people to feel comfortable and to breakdown barriers. It helps to make the uncomfortable more easily received. 

For people who suffer from social anxiety or have difficulty connecting with others, humor can be a vital tool in getting them to open up. There are plenty of situations in life that are not pleasant, everything from routine physicals at a doctors office to parenting troubles. There is also a lot about this world that is boring but that we have to accept as “facts of life”— car repairs, paying bills, work meetings, the list goes on and on. Humor helps to make all of these things a little easier to take. 

Research (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication) shows that people find it difficult to receive information from someone who has little or no sense of humor. Laughing with another makes people more receptive to new ideas. Humor allows us to approach things that might be otherwise threatening in a non-threatening way. 

Recalling a funny memory in times of distress can help provide comfort. Making light of a serious situation to bring a smile to a person’s face can help to bring them back to earth. Lighthearted humor ignites thoughts, opens us up, and grabs our attention. Not to mention, it eases our stress. You could be having the worst day but when you change your thought process to think about the humorous side, things get a little easier. 

In therapy, humor helps counselors and clients establish a rapport. It can help to put things into perspective and accept the information we are receiving. Humor encourages further communication. 

So, next time you are faced with establishing a boundary or addressing a problem with a coworker, child, spouse, etc. consider using humor to get your point across.