What’s the deal with teen anxiety & depression?

What’s going on with kids and stress?  Today, children are reporting more anxiety, depression, and worry than ever before.   If you Google “stressed out kids” you will find advice to rearrange your child’s schedule, improve diet and increase exercise.  While this is valid, it’s not enough for me.  I like to understand the big picture and have tools I can use anytime, anywhere, especially when I see my own kids showing signs of stress.

My experience coaching stressed adults, leads me to agree with Psychology Today‘s description of two “Waking states of awareness, Conceptual and Embodied.”  When our brains are in a “conceptual” state, they are busy thinking, evaluating, judging, questioning and worrying.  When we shift to a body focused awareness, our thinking takes a vacation.  Sensing movements and emotions engages the brain so fully that one cannot be aware of their five senses and worry at the same time.   Have you ever noticed that you cannot think yourself out of worry?  But when you engage in a “sense drenching” experience like rock climbing, dancing to music, or cooking, the worrying takes a break without effort?

Our brains cannot be in Conceptual and Embodied states at the same time.  This is why child development experts cringe with the “academic” focus pre-schools and Kindergartens take today.  Since I entered education 17 years ago, I rarely see puppets, felt boards, sandboxes and playdough that help children engage their senses.  Singing, music, storytelling (with props rather than pages), time in nature, art and free play have all but disappeared from primary classrooms.  During the same time, anxiety and stress in children is increasing year after year, surpassing the complaints of stressed out adults.

Our schools praise these “left brain” thinkers and work to re-focus our “right brained” spacey, doodling kids.  I was proud of my “left brain” son who was so bright, so “conceptual”, that he learned quickly, memorized facts, asked a zillion questions and was always aware of what was happening around him. My husband and I considered putting him in a Waldorf, Sufi, or Montessori School (whole brain focused) but it so went against his nature that we chose a traditional school where his natural abilities would be rewarded.  Seven years later, we question that decision, as we are now homeschooling him to due to a stress related illness called Adrenal Fatigue.

The remedy for all types of stress is to re-engage the “right brain” or “Embodied Self-Awareness”. Martha Beck has some great exercises in her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  (Join me for discussions about this book in an over-the-phone book club starting in March.) For now, just try this “sense-drenching” exercise:  Remember the last time you had a moment of bliss where you allowed yourself to be completely present.  What sights did you see?  Recreate the scene (write it down or tell your child about it).  What smells were present?  What tastes do you remember? Sounds?  Remember what textures you felt against your skin?  Immerse yourself in this sensory experience and you will shift your brain state to the part of your brain capable of joy, peace, calm, and relaxation.  Read My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor to see how blissful life can be when you lose function of the thinking portion of your brain.

We are naturally programmed to use both halves of our brains.  Providing our children opportunities to lose track of time and immerse themselves in art, music, imagination, nature and storytelling is the best way to reduce stress.  Throw out the reading log and let your child snuggle in to you while you tell them a story.  Throw out the clocks and schedules and dedicate a day to mindlessly wandering in nature.  Throw out the TV & video screens (which increase the stress response and help disassociate us from our bodies) and celebrate boredom.

Exercise reduces stress because it releases cortisol and can shift us to an embodied brain state.  If the exercise is listening to directions, running to point A, throwing to point B, and moving your body like this to point C, it can aggravate kids’ attempts to shift by continually being brought back to their thinking brain.   Keep exercise playful and unstructured when possible.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I just have to say it:  GO PLAY.  YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU. Kids learn by imitation.  So get up from your computer and do something that feels like play to you.   Put on music and dance, sign up for that creative writing class you’ve been wanting to take, take your dog to the park, or play a round of golf…….it’s for the children!  What’s your favorite way to shift into your right brain, embodied self awareness?  Share it below.

2012 is gonna be easy!

I love a New Year.  A fresh start.  A clean slate.  Everyone working to improve their bodies, their finances, their relationships, their careers.  Hope, optimism, belief, determination- a life coach’s dream time.

But where does it go come February?

Here’s my list of the biggest killers of New Years Resolutions.

1-    Perfectionism:  I don’t mean my house is immaculate kind of perfectionism.  I mean the black & white thinking.  “I’m either on my diet or off”  “I’m either saving money or spending it”  “I’m either a good parent or a bad one”.  If you give yourself a label “I’m lazy”, “I’m an idiot”, “I’m impatient”, “I’m a loser”, “I’m fat” then you are playing a game of perfectionism you will not win. A better way to stick to your resolutions is to see yourself in a constant state of flux.  “I am moving closer to my goal right now or away from it.”  “I am becoming more fit or less”  “I am learning to be kinder to myself or I am forgetting to be kinder to myself.”  The truth is, life is not static, and pretending things are set in stone, will suck the motivation right out of you.

2-    “It’s too hard”:  I catch myself saying this all the time.  “Keeping the house clean is hard”,  “Being a solo-prenuer is hard”, “Dealing with health problems is hard”. Hello, pity party!  Do you want some whine with that?  If I look back in human history, or right now in cultures all over the globe, my life is pretty damn easy!  It is a ridiculously untrue thought that my life is hard and when I believe it, it doesn’t serve me.  If you are like me and you hear yourself complaining about things being hard, try changing it to, “this is easy!”  Eating healthy is easy.  Exercising is easy.  Making money is easy.  Raising twins is easy.  Balancing work/family life…easy!  The more you think it & say it, the more you will find evidence to prove it’s true.  Isn’t it just as true that change is easy?

3-    “I deserve a reward”:  Most people use this as a way to cheat on their resolution.  (Often in combination with ‘I worked hard, therefore, I deserve it’).  We think this is self care, but really it isn’t.  It’s usually said defiantly, as though we are rebelling against our own desires to feel better.  What we are really saying is “I deserve to be overweight & unhealthy”,  “I deserve to be broke” or “I deserve to be unhappy”.  Try using the same sentence in support of your resolution “I deserve to work out & feel healthy”, “I deserve to have a tidy home”, or “I deserve to spend less & have more money in the bank”.  I believe you ARE deserving, and that you deserve to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

4-    Be open to more & better:  Take a look back at 2011 and write down what worked for you and what didn’t.  Even if you didn’t complete your resolutions, spend time thinking about how your life has changed for the better.  What improvements were planned and which weren’t?  Even if you had some real difficulties, think about positive things that came from it.  Now imagine yourself one year from now.  Even if you don’t accomplish your resolutions, what by-products might you enjoy as a result of the attempt?  Might I make a new friend, even if I quit the gym?  Might I make some new connections, even if I didn’t get that job?  Might I learn something about myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way?  There is always opportunity for growth and increased joy in our lives, and we don’t always know where it will come from.

So take some good guesses, make those resolutions, be kind to yourself whether you stick with them or not.  2012 might just have some wonderful plans in store for you.  If working with a life coach is on your list of ways to improve your life, email me today to take advantage of my special New Years offer of 5 sessions for the cost of 4.

How do you take your compliments?

I was at a networking event with some fabulous small business owners and one of them, an esthetician, said something that blew me away.  She said, “When people are quiet in my chair (during a facial), I take that as a compliment.”

Really?  Silence is a compliment?

It made me realize, how totally arbitrary compliments can be!

When my kids bicker, I can take that as a compliment that I was a wise enough to give them a sibling in which to learn conflict resolutions skills.

When my house is a mess, I can take it as a compliment that I prioritize people over property.

When I overdraw my bank account, I can take it as a compliment that it is a rare enough occasion to bug me.

How do I take my compliments?  Usually with a scoop embarrassment and a dash of denial.

Friend:  “You look cute today”

Me:  “Oh, gosh, I don’t even have makeup on”

Friend:  “You are such a good Mom”

Me:  “If you saw me yesterday you wouldn’t think that.”

How about you?  When your boss tells you, you are an asset to the team, do you believe him?  When your spouse tells you they are grateful for your hard work, do you take the compliment in or push it away?

My son thinks he is an amazing soccer player, the best on his team.  His Dad and I could debate with him on this.  Some honest self-reflection and a little modesty seem appropriate, but we decided to leave it alone.  Think about it……If you believe you are awesome, amazing, the best…..do you think you will play better or worse?  If you think you are average, aren’t your abilities going to match your beliefs?

If you believe you are an amazing parent, and your kid throws a fit, chances are you will handle it in a way you are proud of.

If you believe you are a good provider, and you lose your job, chances are you will quickly find ways to support your family.  Those who switch their thinking to “I’m a loser who can’t support his/her family” will have a harder time.

So go ahead and take your compliments.  Believe you are amazing, valuable, beautiful, talented, hard-working.  We can’t wait for you to see what the rest of us have been seeing all along.

Here’s a little exercise:

What would you most like to be complimented for?  Your intelligence?  Your looks?  Your creativity?  Try this:

It would make my day if my Mom told me this ……………………….……………..

It would make my day if my Dad told me this …………………………..…………..

It would make my day if my partner told me this ……………………………………

It would make my day if my kids told me this …………………………………………

It would make my day if my boss told me this …………………………………………

There is no point in sitting around waiting for someone else to compliment you if you aren’t going to take it in and believe it.  You have to believe it first.

So tell me, how do you take your compliments?  When people post on my blog, I take it as a compliment that they got something out of it. But perhaps, this time, I’ll take silence as a compliment as well.  🙂

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

The Blame Game

I tripped on something and banged my knee something awful.  It hurt.  My initial reaction was to yell “Ouch!!” my second was to blame my husband.  “Damn you!  If you had removed what I asked you to remove, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt!  It’s your fault!”  What I noticed, immediately, was how good it felt to blame him.  Why does it feel so good to blame others for our problems?  “My kids behavior makes me crazy” “My boss won’t let me take time off” “If I could just earn more money, I would be happy” Or in my case, “If my husband would just do what I ask him to do, my life would be peachy.” Which of course, is ridiculous.  I will still hurt myself whether my husband does what I ask or not.

I think the reason blame feels so good in the moment, is you don’t have believe that sometimes, bad things just happen.  If we can point the finger and say, it’s you, it avoids the truth that, at any time, without warning, we could get hurt.  It’s hard to admit that without the fault of any one person or group, economy’s change, kids disobey, people ignore us, money comes and goes, and no one is going to rescue us from this big bad world of reality.  Blaming allows us to revert back to childhood.

So why don’t we view blaming as a good thing?  Why not encourage our kids to do it, find a scapegoat?  “You’re right honey, all the teachers at your school are out to get you” or “I’m sure it WAS the ref’s fault your team didn’t win”.  Oh, wait, we kind of do that! We blame the budget, the mean girls, the teacher, the coach, our mothers, the curriculum, the preschool, the boss, the job market, the democrats, the media, you name it, we blame them.  Yet if I was to ask you, if blaming other people for your problems is a good idea, intuitively, you know it isn’t.  Why is that?

Blaming is a child’s way of going through the world.  To acknowledge that you could error, make mistakes, or be imperfect, requires maturity.  To admit that life can be unpredictable and our future is uncertain, requires trust and confidence that you can handle it.  When we blame, we give all our power away.  If it’s the teacher’s fault that the child isn’t learning, you are stuck!  You can’t make somebody be a better teacher.  If you accept your child’s teacher isn’t the greatest, but there is a lot you and your child can do to learn, it gives you immense power.  You take charge of learning, seek out opportunities, other teachers, other modes of instruction, work hard and do your best.  You learn to accept reality and adapt to the situation, always claiming your own power and working with what you DO have control over.

So often my clients have the belief that “If my child would just behave, I could be happy.”  This is never true.  Children will always “misbehave”.  Blaming your child’s actions for your happiness, always leads to suffering.   I decide I’m going to be happy by the thoughts I choose to believe.  “Kids misbehave.  I can figure out a good way to handle it.  I’m a good Mom.  Health problems happen.  Social Problems happen.  ‘Misbehavior’ is a message to me.  What can I learn from this? She’s looking to me to guide her.” Thinking this way helps us enjoy parenting way more than, “my child disrespects me and there is nothing I can do about it.” Accepting responsibility for your own happiness is a very grown up thing to do and gives YOU lots of power.

So for me, I am accepting that my husband will NEVER do everything I ask him to do.   In fact, I don’t want him to.  I married a man, not a robot.  If he did everything I asked him to do, I’d probably get annoyed at him for not having a mind of his own.  So instead, I change my thoughts to “injuries happen” and “people aren’t perfect.”  My power lies in my ability to decide how I want to think about it and I think seeing the world as a mature adult, feels really good.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me