15 Self Care Ideas for Teens

As a teen, you have endless responsibilities and stressors on a daily basis.  Learning to navigate your various responsibilities such as school work, extra curricular activities and a job can be overwhelming if you don’t take care of yourself.  Remind yourself that you have 1440 minutes in a day and make self care a part of your daily routine. Try practicing 3 of the following ideas on a daily basis.

1. Set realistic goals for the day.

2. Practice deep breathing:  Inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of  6. 

3. Go for a walk with a friend.

4. Make time to decompress without your phone before you get into bed (try stretching while focusing on what you accomplished today).

5.  Express your thoughts and feelings (talk to a friend, journal, do art).

6.  Exercise (go for a run, ride your bike, or do some calisthenics in your bedroom).

7.  Read a book for pleasure.

8.  LAUGH, and learn to laugh at yourself.

9.  Think of 3 things you’re grateful for every day (ideally start a gratitude journal).

10.  Listen to music.

11.  Spend time in nature (science shows that spending time outside is good for you).

12. Spend time with friends.

13.  Play with your pet or your friend’s pet.

14.  Practice meditation. (If new to meditation, search up a how to meditate 101)

15.  Be kind and patient with yourself.  

Transform Your Stress: Try Quick Coherence Technique

Stress and Coherence

Stress impacts the body emotionally, physically and mentally.  What’s important to remember is that the situation does not create the stress, instead it is how we respond to it.  Emotions directly impact our body. Positive emotions like kindness, love and appreciation feel good and are good for us.  These positive feelings help the systems in our body work more effectively.

Research indicates that when we intentionally shift to a positive emotion, the heart rhythms also change.  This shift in heart rhythms creates a favorable impact on our entire body.

When we are feeling stressed, the body is out of sync.  Depleting feelings, like worry, anxiety and anger negatively impact our nervous system.  Renewing feelings, like kindness, care and appreciation create order. This order is termed coherence.  Coherence leads to self regulation, creativity, mental clarity and resiliency. 

How to Practice Coherence:

The Quick Coherence Technique

Step One:  Focus your attention in the area of the heart, the center of your chest.  Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual.

Suggestion:  Inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable for you)

Step Two:  Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. 

Suggestion:  Try to re-experience a regenerative feeling you have for someone you love or focus on a feeling of calm and ease.   

I recommend practicing the Quick Coherence Technique at least 3 times a day for a few minutes each time.  Ideally try practicing in the morning before you get out of bed, during lunch time and before going to sleep at night. Over time, I encourage you to practice the Quick Coherence Technique multiple times a day.  With practice, you may experience better sleep, mental clarity and more calm.

For more information, please contact Dr. Madeline Polonia at 858-243-2684.

Want Help with ADHD? Try HeartMath

How Heartmath Can Help With ADHD

HeartMath can help people with ADHD identify ways to attain coherence. Coherence is an optimal state in which the mind, heart and emotions operate in sync and are balanced. This state of coherence has been proven to have numerous emotional, mental and physical benefits.

How Does Heartmath Work?

Heartmath is a research based system of scientifically validated tools, techniques and technology to increase mental and emotional self-regulation.  HeartMath includes heart rhythm coherence monitoring and feedback technology called emWave technology. The emWave desktop technology trains kids and adults to gain greater self control, reduce stress and increase resilience.  Using either a finger sensor or an ear sensor connected to a USB module running on emWave software, it monitors and displays an individual's heart rhythm patterns and coherence levels on a computer screen.  

By practicing self regulation techniques with the emWave Pro technology, people can change their coherence levels.  Each individual session is recorded and saved automatically in the program so users can track their progress over time.  

Learning the emWave technology is not done in isolation from real life.  The goal is to transfer what is learned in each session to specific life situations in which a child or adult is required to exercise self control.  Real life applications ensure a higher quality of learning.

HeartMath and ADHD

Behavior treatment for children with ADHD involves changing some aspects of the home and school environments to promote more successful social/emotional interactions and academic growth.  These adjustments typically include creating more structure, encouraging routines and implementing specific goals and daily positive reinforcement. The emWave technology ties in well with behavior management.  HeartMath can be a great addition to teaching kids with ADHD effective coping skills like self control and impulse control. 

Source:  Using emWave Technology for Children with ADHD, Institute of HeartMath

Counseling For Anxiety: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the anticipation of a future threat and one of the most distressing emotions that people feel. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population.  Anxiety disorders affect 1 in 8 children. Anxiety disorders are treatable and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is highly effective in treating various anxiety disorders.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a theoretical orientation that focuses on how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by one another.  CBT highlights that each person has a choice as to how to think and behave which directly increases his/her coping skills in dealing with daily life challenges.

A Cognitive Behavioral Profile of Anxiety:

Common Physical Reactions:  sweaty palms, muscle tension, racing heart, flushed cheeks, light headedness.

Anxious Thoughts/Cognitions:  overestimation of danger, underestimation of your ability to cope, worries and catastrophic thoughts, underestimation of help available.

Typical Anxiety Behaviors:  avoiding situations where anxiety might occur, leaving situations when anxiety begins to occur, trying to do things perfectly or trying to control events to prevent danger, shutting down, restlessness, fidgeting.

Anxious Moods/Feelings:  anxious, panicky, nervous, , worried, overwhelmed.

Coping Strategies for Anxiety Using a Cognitive Behavioral Approach:

Coping Strategies for Emotions/Feelings:

Some helpful anxiety coping strategies include the following:  identify the feelings, rate the feelings, learn to let go, daily journaling, and talking with a friend, family member or therapist.

Physical Coping Strategies:

Some of the most helpful physical anxiety coping strategies include diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery/visualizations that focus on your senses, physical exercise, yoga and walking in nature.

Coping Strategies for Cognitions/Thoughts:

The following list includes helpful coping strategies for challenging our distorted anxious thoughts:  healthy distractions (counting, crossword puzzles), scheduled worry time, various cognitive exercises (thought records, cognitive restructuring, worst/best/realistic case scenario) and mindfulness.

Behavioral Coping Strategies:

Behavioral coping strategies to lessen anxiety include: exercise, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, making time to socialize (friends, hobbies, sports), a healthy diet and a healthy sleep hygiene routine.

If you are looking for help with your anxiety, please contact me to schedule a free initial consultation.

11 Easy Ways to Make Self-Care a Priority

The Importance of Self-Care

Given today’s busy and hectic schedules, we really need to make self care a priority.  With work, caring for kids, taking our kids to their after school activities and the endless other responsibilities, life can become overwhelming.

For us busy moms who have a tendency to put our kid’s needs first, taking time for self-care may bring up feelings of guilt.  

However, we must learn to sit with these feelings and realize that we are not at our best when we are exhausted.

Taking good care of yourself means that people in your life receive the best of you rather than what is left of you.
— Lucille Zimmerman

Here are some simple things you can do every day to make self-care a priority:

  1. Before you get out of bed, practice some deep breathing exercises while stretching.

  2. Make a little time to go outside and be in nature.

  3. Call a friend.

  4. Make time to exercise and be realistic with your time.  If you cannot go to the gym, try doing some exercise at home like doing push-ups, walking up and down the stairs, doing some yoga poses and stretches or going for a walk.

  5. Take 5 minute breaks throughout the day and practice mindful breathing.  You can repeat a word like “breath” to quiet your mind while breathing.

  6. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day and drink plenty of water.

  7. Journal for 10 minutes a day, ideally in the morning or afternoon so that you don’t avoid or repress feelings.

  8. Meditate once a day for 10 minutes.

  9. Have realistic expectations of yourself.

  10. Spend quality time with your loved ones with an emphasis of just being together, rather than an emphasis on what needs to get done.

  11. Make time to decompress at night, ideally alone, to help your mind and body prepare for sleep.

Ironically, it can initially be stressful to figure out a self-care routine but just take things one step at a time. Pick one strategy to start, whichever one sounds like the easiest for you to implement immediately.

Lastly, another great self-care technique is psychotherapy! If you need a place where someone else is in charge of providing the environment for you to decompress, please contact me today to get started.

10 Tips to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Do you struggle with insomnia? If so, you are not alone. So many people have trouble getting a good night’s rest.

Like exercise and a healthy diet, sleep is an essential component of mental and physical health. A solid night sleep is important for restoring energy, repairing injuries or illness, growth, concentration, memory and mood.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the following hours of sleep are recommended for various age groups:

School age children: 9-11 hours

Teenagers: 8-10 hours

Adults: 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

In order to get a better night’s sleep, it is important to pay attention to improving your sleep habits, known as sleep hygiene (or sleep habits).  Thankfully, there are some proven methods for sleep hygiene that will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep during the night, and wake up feeling refreshed.

Here are some helpful suggestions for improving your sleep habits:

1. Try and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends). The body tends to get used to falling asleep at a certain time, but only if this is relatively fixed.

2. Avoid napping during the day. If you do choose to nap, make sure you limit the nap to 20-30 minutes.

3. Exercise during the day, but not within two hours before going to bed.

4. At least one hour before you go to bed, turn off all electronics and practice relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, yoga stretches, meditation, prayer and deep breathing exercises.

5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol 4 to 6 hours before you go to bed.

6. Use comfortable bedding and a good, cool temperature to keep your bedroom well ventilated.

7. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible in your bedroom.

8. Reserve your bed for sleep, sex and sickness only. Habits like reading or checking your phone while in bed will create an association that keeps your mind alert.

9. Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you feel sleepy.

10. Try not to toss and turn in bed. If you think you’ve been lying in bed awake for more than 30 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity such as light reading for about 20-30 minutes. Then get back in bed and try again.

As with any habit, these things take practice and consistency so decide that you will implement one of these strategies today.

Happy Z’s!

How Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

Exercise is so important for our body, mind and spirit.  In other words, exercise has many benefits, and this includes making a positive impact on our mental health.

Research shows that the link between exercise and mood is pretty strong.  Some research even shows that you receive a mood enhancement within five minutes of moderate exercise.

Physical exercise is also shown to alleviate long-term depression.

Another study suggests that people who are highly sensitive to anxiety showed significant improvements in anxiety sensitivity after exercise.

It is definitely important to make exercise a priority in your life, but even more so if you struggle with common mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health:

  1. Exercise can help boost your self-esteem, especially the feeling of accomplishment.

  2. Taking a fitness class or going to a gym surrounds you with other people who are also trying to improve their health and an opportunity to meet like minded people.

  3. Physical exercise can help with mild to moderate anxiety and depression.

  4. Time spent exercising can help you unplug from the busyness of life and in turn, can help you feel better.

  5. Regular exercise can enhance your quality of sleep, which can help you feel more energized and focused during the day.

  6. Performing different types of physical activity can actually change how your brain is wired, which can help to improve your mental acuity and overall cognition.

  7. Physical exercise can help you feel better and have a better outlook on life.

Exercise can be done anywhere, not just in a gym. So be creative with your time at home or in your neighborhood and make it a priority.

Remember that you can start out slowly, especially if it has been a long time since you had a regular exercise routine. Evaluate your schedule and identify a time of day that you can commit to exercising, even if it is just for 10-15 minutes.

Make your exercise practice one that is enjoyable and easy to follow. You will see the improvements impacting every area of your life, including your mental health.

Being Grateful Makes You Happy: It’s Science

What is gratitude?  My favorite explanation of gratitude is “a feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation.” According to the leading expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, gratitude is “an affirmation of goodness while the sources of goodness are outside of ourselves.”  

Hundreds of studies in the past 10 years have documented the many benefits of gratitude. According to Mr. Emmons, these scientific benefits affect every area of our lives- psychological, physical and social.

The scientific benefits of gratitude include:

  1. Practicing gratitude has proven to be one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and life satisfaction.

  2. Gratitude enhances empathy.  Research indicates that grateful people are more likely to practice more appropriate social behaviors.

  3. Gratitude reduces depression, anxiety and stress.

  4. Being grateful is very good for schools.  Studies indicate that teachers feel more satisfied and less emotionally exhausted.  Also, research shows that students feel better about their schools.

  5. Grateful people sleep better.  It is recommended to write in a gratitude journal every night before you go to sleep.

  6. Gratitude makes us more resilient. Focusing on what we are grateful for in life, especially during challenging times, helps foster a sense of resiliency.

  7. Being grateful strengthens relationships since it helps us feel more committed and closer to our loved ones.

  8. Practicing gratitude is good for kids.  Studies show that kids between the ages of 10-19 who practice gratitude report a greater life satisfaction and more positive emotions.

  9. Being grateful promotes forgiveness.

  10. Gratitude improves physical health.  It strengthens the immune system, reduces symptoms of illness and lowers blood pressure.

The best part about practicing gratitude? It is 100% free!

This is a strategy you can implement hundreds of times without spending a dime, and often in less than one minute.

How to Implement a Gratitude Practice

The most simple way to practice gratitude is to write down 3 things for which you are thankful each morning or evening. This is a great exercise to add to a relaxation routine before going to bed, or to a mindfulness or meditation practice during the day.

You can also try practicing gratitude with your children.

Make it a habit to review 3 things for which you are all thankful while in the car on the way to school, on the way home in the afternoon, or while eating dinner together.

There is really no wrong way to practice gratitude so take a minute right now and identify 3 things for which you are grateful. I’ll bet you are feeling better already.

How to Help Your Child Become Self-Confident

Imagine our children being self-confident. Imagine them being children who trust their own judgment, abilities and qualities.

Dr. Albert Bandura, famous child psychologist, describes self-confidence as “self-efficacy” and he believes that it can have an impact on a person’s motivation, actions and mood.

What Does Self-Confidence Do For Children?

Using the description above you can see how self-confidence boosts school performance in children, which helps instill a ‘try again’ mentality. It fuels optimism, which helps create hopefulness. Self-confidence increases a child’s belief that they can achieve their goals.

According to Dr. Bandura, the path to self-efficacy includes social modeling, positive reinforcement, mastery experiences and positive attitude.

That means that you can play a significant role in boosting your child’s self-confidence.

How to build healthy self-confidence in your child:

1. Social modeling is acting how you want your children to act.

This is a powerful force in shaping children’s identities.  Be a good role model for your children by practicing self-confidence in your own abilities, as well as your child’s abilities.

Tell your child personal stories of how you got through difficult times. In addition, share life stories of well known people who failed many times and kept trying.

2.  Positive reinforcement are words of encouragement from people you trust or admire.

Provide your child with the right message that they can rise to the occasion, they have the skills to succeed and they can manage a tough situation. Another example is to encourage your child’s plan or dreams.

More importantly, praise your child based on effort, not outcome, when they are willing to try something new or attempt a difficult task.

3.  Mastery experience refers to performing a task successfully and attributing the success to effort.

Teach your child the value of hard work and practice. Encourage your child to become really good at something (a sport, hobby, game, or any enjoyable task) and help them find this by identifying their strengths.

Maintain high and realistic expectations for your child. Furthermore, extend trust to your children by giving them a chore or responsibility within reason, based on their age and skill level.

4.  Positive attitude is a cornerstone of confidence.

Research shows that a good mood actually builds perceptions of self-confidence. Positivity also helps your child see more options when faced with a problem.

In addition, a positive attitude gives children the belief that they will cope and triumph, even when circumstances are difficult.

One of the most important things you can do for your child at any age is to build their self-confidence.

It may take practice because through these tasks we often realize our own insecurities. However, your child will benefit from your efforts for the rest of their life.

Using Mindfulness: How to Practice Mindful Breathing

You’ve probably heard the term “mindfulness” before but may not know exactly what it means or, more importantly, how to implement mindfulness practices in your everyday life.

Mindfulness is the ability to pay careful attention to what you’re thinking, feeling, and sensing in the present moment without judging those thoughts and feelings as good or bad.  

Countless studies link mindfulness to better health, lower anxiety, and greater resilience to stress. So it is worth creating time in your schedule to take a few mindful minutes a couple of times a day to help bring you back to the here and now.

Mindful Breathing

One aspect of mindfulness that is easy to learn and practice right away is mindful breathing.

The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, then inhale and exhale.

Here are some quick tips on setting yourself up for success with your mindful breathing:

  • Ideally you want to be sitting, or even lying in a comfortable position.

  • It is best to close your eyes, since it usually helps to maintain your focus.

  • It is helpful if you can set aside certain times during the day for this exercise.

Now that you are comfortable and able to focus on the task, here are the steps for practicing mindful breathing:

  1. Start by taking some exaggerated breaths: A deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Try and focus on the rise and fall of your belly.

    Quick Tips if This Is Your First Time Practicing Mindfulness:

    It’s very common that your mind will wander as it is distracted by thoughts about the past or the future. That’s ok!

    Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath. When your mind wanders, you can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. Just gently redirect your attention right back to the breath.

    Notice and try to relax your body. Focus on your senses while you are breathing. Tune into your breath and notice where the breath is in your body. See if you can feel the sensation of breath, one breath at a time.

  2. Stay in your comfortable position, breathing for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought so return to your breath.

  3. After a your 5-7 minutes is up, once again notice your body seated here. Let yourself relax a little more deeply. Appreciate yourself for doing this practice today.

The more you practice mindful breathing, the more it helps, especially during difficult situations. Start today and try it out each day this week.

If you are still struggling to focus and relax after consistently trying a mindfulness strategy, consider setting up a free phone consultation and we can discuss whether or not counseling may be helpful.