Finding Beauty in the Breakdown

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The language we use profoundly shapes how we view the world around us. Each language has it’s own unique set of words describing experiences, emotions, and objects. If something was given a word, that highlights a certain level of importance and value to a region, culture, and group of people. I am fascinated by words that exist in other languages that are not a part of the English language. There are a couple Japanese words and concepts I lean on in tough times which provide a more empowering and uplifting point of view.

wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept and worldview centered on finding beauty in the imperfect, incomplete, and impermanent. It symbolizes accepting the natural cycle of creation, growth, maintenance, loss, and decay. Where can you find beauty and acceptance in the parts of you, your life, and the world currently characterized by disorder, chaos, struggle, and loss? When we find beauty and acceptance in anything, it makes it easier to see beauty in and accept ourselves.

kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold and understanding the piece is more beautiful for having been broken and repaired. What hardships and struggles have you experienced that have made you a better person?

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The Value of Self-Awareness

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The quality of self-awareness helps us understand our default reactions, our values, what motivates us, and what guides our decision-making. When the light of self-awareness shines on doubt, judgment, fear, guilt, and shame these states begin to melt away. The quality of self-awareness allows us to take the position of an observer and notice the thoughts and feelings swirling around our minds and bodies. It grants us opportunities to connect with the stillness, patience, and curiousity of the observer, with self-awareness.

Practice consciously taking a pause for self-reflection- self-reflection characterized by non judgment, humility, and courage. Courage because it’s hard to notice and admit our flaws- the egoic mind is desperately trying to protect and preserve itself. It will persuade us to maintain the current status quo even if that status quo is preventing us from being the people we want to be. Developing and cultivating self-awareness is a slow process that requires daily, moment to moment practice- you are strengthening the role of the curious observer, tapping into the profound wisdom and stillness we all have inside us which has been clouded by the egoic mind.

Tip: practice curiously asking yourself, “What is going on right now?””Where is this reaction coming from?” “What is doubt telling me right now? What is guilt persuading me to believe about myself? What is shame whispering into my ear? What is judgment convincing me to believe about myself? What will happen if I cave to the fear of failure?”  

Let these questions loosen the power and influence of the egoic mind while you tap into the lightness and wisdom of self-awareness. Gently smile when you notice the incessant voices of negativity in your head, we all have them. Notice these voices and then shift your focus to the compassionate and wise questions self-awareness is asking.

How to Talk to Your Teen about S-E-X

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Teens want to know more about sex and want a safe place to learn more- what they learn in school is limited and what they hear from friends and internalize from the media are often inaccurate. It is very unlikely that a teen will approach their parents with any questions related to sex.

Parents, they do not know how to bring up the subject with you! Also, they are often very worried about their parents’ reaction- they are worried that you will think they have had sex or are going to have sex… when in reality, they are just curious and uninformed. Therefore, you need to let your teen know that you are always open and willing to talk about any questions or concerns they may have about sex.

Sex is more than anatomy and reproductive systems- it’s about dating, relationships, communication, consent, safety, physical and emotional health, vulnerability, intimacy, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual identity and orientation, abstinence, postponing sex, birth control, and drugs & alcohol. There is no way anyone could cover all these topics in one conversation. Therefore, multiple conversations are warranted.

Some parents believe that talking about sex will lead to teens having sex. In fact, research shows that teens who have talked with their parents about sex are more likely to postpone sex, communicate with their sexual partners, and use birth control when they do begin. Studies have found that children who are comfortable talking about sex are actually more likely to delay sexual activity and be older when they first have intercourse.

Well, how do I broach the topic of sex with my teen? First, do not conceptualize talking about sex as a formal, one-time event. The days of “the talk” are over- talking about sex with your teen is an ongoing series of conversations and dialogues. “Oh no! But, it’s going to be so awkward and uncomfortable!” Yep, it probably will be- so expect that and have a sense of humor about it.

The most natural way to bring up the topic is to integrate conversations about sex and relationships just like you would other topics. Think teachable moments- if you are watching a movie or television show together, if you are listening to music in the car and there is a scene or reference to kissing, dating, relationships, or sex, ask your teen about it. “What did you think about that scene where those two characters start kissing at the party?” “What do you think about those lyrics?” “What did you think about that scene where __________?” “What are your thoughts about __________?” When you are watching a TV show that features a young person going through puberty or going out on a date, if you run into a pregnant neighbor, if you pass by Planned Parenthood, use those moments to initiate conversations.

Teens love their phones and the internet so use that to your advantage. Use media to engage your teen- request they watch an educational video (you can watch it together or separately) and both of you come up with questions to ask the other about the video or have them write a 1 page response to the video.

Here are a couple of my favorite videos:

Sex Needs a New Metaphor by Al Vernacchio 

Why I Stopped Watching Porn by Ran Gavrieli

Be an “askable” parent: Ask your teen what they want to know about sex. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Find the answers together. To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest and genuine.

Ask open ended questions to learn more and LISTEN, do not interject or interrupt, just LISTEN and incorporate skill-building and problem-solving situations- “What can you do to avoid unwanted sexual contact when you are drunk/using drugs?” “How can you avoid becoming pregnant?” “How can you avoid contracting an STI?” Ask questions like… “I would like to hear what you think about that?” “What else do you know about the topic?” “I’m curious what your thoughts are about that?” “What questions do you have related to sex?” “What do you already know about that?” “Did that answer your question?” “What else would you like to know?” “Is there anything else you would like to know?”

Moving on… what about the topic of pornography? “Oh no way, my teen has never looked at porn, there is no way they watch porn!” WRONG- research suggests kids as young as 8 years old stumble upon hard-core pornography. Not intentionally, but on accident (e.g., they google a bad word they heard at school, on TV, in the movies or they google something like black tights but spell it black tits). Important questions to explore: “What are your thoughts about pornography?” “What is the purpose of pornography?” “What are the risks of pornography?” “How are women portrayed in pornography?” “How are men portrayed in pornography?”

I explain pornography to teens as an action movie- it’s about performance and fantasy, it’s not real. What porn actors do is scripted and it is not what that actor might like in their own personal sex life and it is definitely not what everyone likes. Each person has their own uniques desires and preferences- there is no one size fits or appeals to all when it comes to sex. The truth is that people need to talk about what they like and don’t like, ask questions about what their partner likes and doesn’t like, ask for permission and receive that permission, at the beginning, middle, and end of sex.

“When do I know I am ready to have sex?” “How old do you have to be to have sex?” These are a couple of the most common questions I get asked by teens. My response is always  “When you are able to honestly, comfortably, and respectfully have a conversation with your partner about the consequences of having sex.” These conversations should include the following: “What kind of protection will we use? What will happen if someone gets an STI? What will happen if someone gets pregnant? What happens if the condom breaks? What are your reasons for wanting to have sex? What are your thoughts about sex? What are you worried about when it comes to sex? What if we start having sex and the other person does not want to do it anymore (e.g., in that moment and in the future)?”

TIP: Leave age-appropriate articles or books about teenage sexuality around your home and send videos or articles to your teen via text or e-mail. Teens will take a look at them.

NOW GET OUT THERE AND EDUCATE YOUR TEENS! YOU WILL DO GREAT! Here are some additional resources to help you along the way…

Recommended Books

Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex by Deborah Roffman

How to Talk with Teens About Love, Relationship, and S-E-X Guide for Parents by Amy G. Miron and Charles D. Miron

Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens from Middle School to High School and Beyond by Debra Haffner

All About Sex: A Family Resource on Sex and Sexuality by Ronald Moglia and Jon Knowles

Ten Talks Parents Must Have With Their Children about Sex and Character by Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., and Dominic Cappello

Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities by Karin Melberg Schwier and Dave Hingsburger

Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies by Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman

Recommended Resources

Preventing Suicide

The most telling assessment question involves simply asking someone directly and specifically if they have ever thought about killing themselves. Obviously, this topic is difficult to talk about- it’s heavy, dark, and uncomfortable but asking these types of questions is the first step in effective suicide prevention and intervention. “Have you ever thought about killing yourself? Have you ever thought about committing suicide? Have you ever thought about hurting yourself? Do you ever wish you were dead? Do you ever have thoughts about ending your life? How do you feel about living? How do you feel about dying? If you think about suicide, do you have a particular mental picture of what suicide might look like?”

Assess suicidal ideation: frequency and content of thoughts- “When did you begin having suicidal thoughts? Did any event (stressor) precipitate the suicidal thoughts? What are those thoughts like? If someone were listening to your suicidal thoughts, what might they hear? How often do you have thoughts of suicide? How long do they last? How strong or intense are these thoughts? Did you feel suicidal this morning? Yesterday? Last week? Last month? When were these thoughts the worst? What do you do when you have suicidal thoughts? What did you do when they were the strongest ever? Have you told anyone about your thoughts of suicide? How did they respond? Have you created a suicide note or letter in writing or online? If yes, who saw it? How did they respond? What would it accomplish if you were to end your life?”

Ask about any history of previous attempts by the person, any family members, or their peers “Have you ever tried to kill yourself before? Have you rehearsed how you might do it? What happened? How did other people respond? Has anyone in your family committed suicide? Has anyone in your family attempted to commit suicide? Have any of your friends tried to kill themselves? Have any of your friends died due to suicide? How did other people respond? How did it make you feel after hearing about it? How do you feel about it now?”

Assess their intent, means, and plan- Their intent is the extent to which the person expects to carry out the plan and believes the plan or act to be lethal.“Do you have any thoughts about how you would kill yourself? What are the ways you would end your life? If you were to kill yourself, how would you do it? Where would you do it? When would you do it? Do you have a day in mind of when you would do it? Do you have a timeline in mind for ending your life? Is there something (an event) that would trigger the plan? Do you have the (gun, drugs, rope, etc.) you would you use? Where is it? What have you done to begin to carry out the plan? How likely do you think you are to carry out your plan? How close do you feel like you are to killing yourself?  What would happen that would get you closer to ending your life? How confident are you that this plan would actually end your life? Have you made any other preparations or arrangements?

Explore precipitants and triggers– “What makes you feel more suicidal? What people, experiences, or feelings make you feel suicidal? What might happen that would bring you closer to killing yourself? What makes you feel worse?”

Review the person’s mental health history– Assess for current and past history of mood disorders, psychotic disorders, alcohol/substance abuse, ADHD, TBI, PTSD (any history of trauma or abuse), personality disorders, conduct disorders (antisocial behavior, aggression, impulsivity)- co-morbidity and recent onset of illness increase risk. Explore any symptoms of anhedonia, impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety/panic, global insomnia, or command hallucinations. Ask about any changes in treatment- discharge from psychiatric hospital, provider or treatment change.

Assess for indirect words or behaviors– Ask the teen and their family members about any of the following words or behaviors. Giving away any prized possessions, withdrawing and isolating from others (e.g., desire to be left alone),  acquiring lethal instruments (e.g., razors, scissors, firearms, knives, pills, etc.), talking about “leaving” or “going away”, phrases like “I’d be better off dead” “If I see you again…” “I wish I hadn’t been born…” “Everyone would be better off without me”, writing poems, songs, or stories about death, making out a will, making arrangements for family members, exploring and talking about what death would be like, social media posts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) about the above. A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

Safety proofing– Remove any firearms, weapons, knives, blades, razors, scissors, ropes, pills, etc. from your home. Ask the person if they are willing to discard any lethal instruments or means- if not, explore their reasons for keeping the items and the advantages and disadvantages of keeping and discarding the items with the person.

Problem-solve other ways to stop pain– Often people who are thinking about suicide, just want the pain to end. They view the one option of escaping this pain as suicide. Helping someone problem solve other ways to reduce pain and strong negative emotions is an important part of the assessment and intervention process.“What makes you feel better? What might make you feel better?”

Create a safety and self-care plan– Use the MY3 app, the client will fill out their warning signs, coping strategies, distractions, support network, strategies to stay safe, and reasons to live. Have the person e-mail their MY3 safety plan to their parents, caregivers, and providers (e.g., therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, pediatricians, etc.). Also, create a client self-care plan- a list of things they can do to take care of themselves (e.g., coping strategies, religious/spiritual practices & beliefs, etc.). Include phone numbers and websites for local and national crisis lines, chat lines, hospitals, and emergency rooms in safety and self-care plans. Here are some chat lines- http://us.reachout.comhttps://www.imalive.orghttp://www.crisischat.org Here are some phone lines- Youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000, run by Boys Town National Hotline (for everyone); National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Explore their desire to live and reasons for living– “What stops you from killing yourself? What do you care about? What are your reasons for living? What or who do you care for/are responsible for? What makes you feel better? What makes you smile? What makes you laugh?”

Help the person build a life worth living– This might look like seeing a psychiatrist, joining a support group, volunteering, switching schools, changing jobs… “Imagine there was a miracle and you woke up tomorrow and your life was exactly how you wanted it. What would that look like?”  Explore small actions the person can do to make steps in that direction.

Trust your gut and intuition– If a person cannot promise they will stay safe (i.e., not hurt themselves) between a current moment time and a future moment in time (e.g., between that day and the next scheduled session), try to move the appointment date to an earlier time. If the person still cannot promise they will stay safe or if you feel any hesitation about a person’s safety, call a mobile crisis team to conduct an additional suicide assessment (there is usually one in every county), take the person to the nearest emergency room,  call 911, or move forward with a 5150. YOU ARE NOT OVER-REACTING.

Get your own supervision, consultation, and supportpractice self-care, talk to family members and friends, speak with your supervisor, check out online forums, or join a parent support group.

Check out the resources out thereTo Write Love On Her Arms, The Trevor Project, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Yellow Ribbon, The Jason Foundation, The Jed Foundation

What’s your Story?

Our lives are composed of stories, habits, and rituals from our sense of style to how we get to work, from what we choose to eat to who we choose as friends, from how we define ourselves to how we view others. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and the world around us have profound implications on our daily choices, current health, and our future well-being.

These stories shape how we go about our days- for example, if your dominant story line is one of low self-worth, it will be hard to wake up in the morning, complete your responsibilities and tasks, be around other people, and make healthy decisions. You might try to escape feelings of shame, inadequacy, depression, and anxiety. However, if your dominant story line is one of high self-worth (not arrogance or egotism)- you will wake up with vitality and purpose, surround yourself with positive influences, triumph over struggles, and choose what nurtures and nourishes your health and well-being.

How do these story lines develop? 

Past events and experiences in utero, early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood significantly influence our physical health, mental health, and well-being. Close relationships also play an influential role in shaping how we view ourselves and others. These past events, experiences, and relationships create our identity narratives- the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.

We do not always have influence or control over the events, experiences, and relationships that happen to us. For example, it is not your fault if your mother experienced trauma while pregnant, if you were bullied by your peers, or if you were sexually assaulted. You did not deserve that. Even though we do not have much choice over what happens to us, we do have the power to learn and choose how we respond to adversity. Our identity narratives play a key role in how we choose to respond in the face of hardship. Our identity narratives should work for us, not against us. Our identity narratives should foster resilience and self-efficacy to help us prepare for the inevitable so we bend, but do not break.

How do we prepare for the challenges that lie ahead?

 Daily habits are a great place to start. Our daily habits shape and are shaped by our identity narratives. For example, if you have an identity narrative characterized by low self-worth, it’s likely you will not care very much about your health, and might end up engaging in unhealthy behaviors (e.g., binge drinking, using drugs, and disordered eating). However, if you make a commitment with support from others (both personal and professional) to stop engaging in these unhealthy habits-  your daily habits around health will change. This habit change will re-author your identity narrative from “I don’t deserve to be healthy” to “I am worthy of good health.”

Another example- if you have an identity narrative characterized by low self-worth, it’s likely you will avoid any experiences that challenge you, and will isolate yourself from opportunities due to fear of failure. However, if you make a commitment to do something out of your comfort zone every week (e.g., eat lunch with a co-worker, go to the gym, strike up a conversation with a stranger, give someone my phone number, ask or answer a question during lecture, contribute during a staff meeting), you will gain mastery, confidence, and resilience as you accumulate little wins, victories, and “failures.”

An important element needed to change behavior is an identity narrative which includes the following: “I can change. I am capable of change. I believe in myself.”  Without belief in yourself, it will be impossible to create lasting change- high self-worth, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and confidence all boil down to genuinely believing in yourself.

If you ask the people around you what you are good at, what they like about you, what your strengths are, you will end up with a long list of characteristics, traits, attributes, and examples. Other people see the good in you, other people see your worth, and it’s time you do too (if there is a voice telling you, that’s not true- that is the exact identity narrative you need to reclaim and re-author). The only thing getting in your way, is the problem-saturated, self-deprecating story you continue to believe- it’s a fictional story and you have the power to re-write it.

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How is your Emotional Hygiene?

We engage in multiple daily rituals to maintain our personal hygiene. We shower, brush our teeth, and wipe our asses to keep bacteria, viruses, and illnesses at bay. Good personal hygiene is necessary for our social lives as well. If you haven’t showered, brushed your hair, or cleaned your mouth in a week, people are going to turn the other way when they see you coming. We try our best to eat right, exercise regularly, and check in with our doctors. All these habits play a key role in keeping us clean and healthy.

Psychologist, Guy Winch suggests we should treat our emotional hygiene and psychological health the same way we do our personal hygiene and physical health. Good emotional hygiene and psychological health involve taking care of our minds, the same way we take care of our bodies.

What are some examples of practicing emotional hygiene and taking care of our psychological health? Positive self-talk, self-compassion, using healthy and effective coping strategies, honest and impartial self reflection, boosting self-esteem, self-affirmations, personal empowerment, letting go, practicing gratitude, spending time with people who love and support us, effectively managing our time and energy, meeting with a psychiatrist, and talking with a therapist.

“You put a bandage on a cut or take antibiotics to treat an infection, right? No questions asked. In fact, questions would be asked if you didn’t apply first aid when necessary. So why isn’t the same true of our mental health? We are expected to just “get over” psychological wounds — when as anyone who’s ever ruminated over rejection or agonized over a failure knows only too well, emotional injuries can be just as crippling as physical ones. We need to learn how to practice emotional first aid.” -Guy Winch. 

What’s in your Emotional First Aid Box?

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Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

Struggling with Body Dissatisfaction? Tips on how to celebrate your body.

Evernote Camera Roll 20151109 113304You will never look like someone in a magazine. That person in the magazine doesn’t even look like that person in the magazine.

It’s likely that the ideal you are striving for is a fabricated image, photo-shopped and edited 100+ times, and therefore, totally unrealistic and unattainable. The expectation to look like the models in the magazines, the celebrities in movies, or that girl from high school with the most beautiful selfies is unachievable because they don’t even look that way naturally. In movies they often use body doubles for scenes and images are always retouched and filtered to make people look skinnier, stronger, bustier, etc.

So what ideal should you strive for? The answer is not the thin one, not the handsome one, not the muscular one, not the curvy one, not the beautiful one… It’s the healthy one. The healthy ideal is about striving for a healthy body and mind. It is healthy to eat all foods in moderation, it is healthy to exercise, it is healthy to have muscles, it is healthy to have fat, it is healthy to have alone time, it is healthy to spend time with your family and friends, it is healthy to feel grateful for your body, and it is healthy to compliment, accept, and celebrate yourself.

When you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? If it’s, “Oh my god, my thighs are so big. My stomach is so fat. I wish I were taller. I wish I had bigger muscles. I wish I were a lot skinner. I am so ugly.”  I challenge you to look at yourself, and comment on at least one (but I promise you there are many, many more) of your positive physical, emotional, intellectual, and social qualities. For example, “I love my freckles. I have a cute belly button. My legs are strong. I am a good friend. I can run fast. I like the sound of my laugh. I study hard.”  Seriously, do this every time you look in the mirror (this includes your phone too when you are trying to master that selfie). I also use the 5 Year Old Trick to assess whether or not I am engaging in positive or negative self-talk- “The next time you’re about to say/think something negative about yourself, ask if you would say that to a 5 year-old.”

 When you comment on your body, switch the focus from appearance to functioning. Instead of saying to yourself, “Am I pretty? How many calories did I eat? I wish I were skinnier. I can’t eat breakfast tomorrow because I had dessert tonight. I am too fat to wear that.” say to yourself, “Did I eat some protein with breakfast? Am I drinking enough water? Did I take my medication? Did I get in some movement, fitness, physical activity today? Did I get my heart rate up today? Do I have enough energy? Am I sleeping well? What am I doing to take care of myself?”  Shifting the focus from how our bodies look to how our bodies feel and are functioning helps keep us on the healthy ideal track.

Increasing awareness of our bodies is another powerful tool in learning to accept and celebrate our bodies. How to do this? Take a yoga class, learn to belly dance, practice belly breathing, go to a hip-hop dance class, give meditation a try, scan your body for areas of tension. Also, increasing awareness of our emotions is another important component of self-acceptance. Note: Fat, Ugly, and Skinny ARE NOT feelings. There are other emotions at play when you say to yourself, “I feel fat. I feel ugly, I feel skinny.” Are you feeling sad? Lonely? Anxious? Ashamed? Worthless? Afraid? Worried? Inadequate? Learn to observe, identify, and accept the emotions underlying any body dissatisfaction.

And always remember: you are more beautiful, intelligent, strong, and capable than you think.

Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

Strategies for Parenting Difficult Teens

“My teen is driving me crazy” “I feel like I have totally lost control” “My teen is very disrespectful towards me” “I miss being close with my child” “We have a strained, almost broken relationship” “They never follow any of our rules” “I’m tired of the screaming and yelling matches” 

Sound familiar? You are not alone. The transition into adolescence is a taxing time on teenagers, parents, and families as teens fight for more independence and autonomy and parents hesitate to let go out of fear and worry. All families with teens confront this struggle as they attempt to balance freedom and exploration with rules and boundaries.

Rules and boundaries are necessary- teens need predictable structure. Societies are based on structure, rules, and laws and teens need to learn there are always repercussions and consequences for their actions and behavior. Teens always need to be held responsible and accountable for their actions. However, the process of forming these rules and consequences is not the same process a parent would use with a younger child.

All children thrive with predictable structure and boundaries to help them feel safe and secure. Structure provides opportunities to practice self-discipline, internalize constructive habits, and develop a sense of mastery. Without predictable structure, children and teens will turn into adults who are unable to complete unpreferred tasks, get to work on time everyday, and in the worst case scenario, obey the law.

Parents, you create that predictable structure (e.g., school attendance, basic self-care, daily and weekly chores) and those boundaries (e.g., no name-calling, no hitting)  with little to no input from what your young child desires (and that’s a good thing). However, when your child transitions into adolescence- it’s likely that what you have done in the past, will not work anymore and that’s okay. It’s time to pivot and change how you view and approach your relationship with your teen.

If a parent continues to treat their teen as a young child, their teen will rebel, act out of control, feel anxious, and experience low self-efficacy. Here are a few strategies I recommend implementing in adolescence to increase family respect, responsibility, and accountability. Note: Each family member’s ideas and opinions should be heard, validated, and incorporated- think COLLABORATION not COMPETITION. And, HAVE FUN with this!

Create a family mission statement TOGETHER!

Collaboratively create 5-10 rules & expectations and discuss why these rules and expectations are important

Clearly define the consequences for breaking rules & expectations (i.e., discipline)

Set up an incentive and reward system for following rules & expectations

Write all of these down, create a contract, and have everyone sign the agreement

Every week have Family Time– each week a different family member decides how they would like to spend that time as a family

LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN to your teen- do not react, respond. Find truth in what your teen is saying, acknowledge what they might be feeling, paraphrase what they are saying, ask questions about what they are thinking and feeling.

Practice pausing before you respond and encourage your teen to do the same-take 3 deep breaths before you respond and ask yourself, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?”

Start your sentences with “I feel, I think, I believe” versus “You’re wrong! You’re making me mad!”

Show respect and you will receive respect- your teen will model your behavior. For example, if you yell, they will likely yell.

Find something genuinely positive to say to your teen at least once a day, even if you aren’t on good terms- adolescence is a tumultuous time and low-self esteem is a common issue for teens.

Check-In with your teen at least once a day- in person or via text. Sometimes, teens are more likely to share over text messages. Ask- “What were your highs and lows today?” “What’s one thing that made you smile or laugh today?” “What’s one thing you are looking forward to tomorrow?”

Send supportive text message reminders to your teen. For example- “I love you and am always here to listen.” “I’m really glad we talked the other day and I like how we heard each other out.” “Hang in there. I know your math class is demanding. I believe in you.”

Those are some strategies to get you started if you feel like you are at a complete loss of what to do. Best of luck- you are doing better than you think!

Evernote Camera Roll 20151105 120140Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

Re-Thinking Medicine

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Medicine prescribed for the treatment of mental health issues often comes in the form of a pill or talk therapy. I believe that medication and talk therapy have powerful benefits. However, I also acknowledge they have their limitations and negative side effects. What are alternatives and adjuncts to these typical forms of treatments?

Research suggests the following have positive benefits for relieving the symptoms associated with a variety of mental health issues:

  • Playing video games– And when we’re in game worlds, I believe that many of us become the best version of ourselves — the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long as it takes, to get up after failure and try again. And in real life, when we face failure, when we confront obstacles, we often don’t feel that way. We feel overcome, we feel overwhelmed, we feel anxious, maybe depressed, frustrated or cynical. We never have those feelings when we’re playing games, they just don’t exist in games.” –Jane McGonigal
  • Owning a Pet– “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.”  Watch this video for more evidence.
  • Listening to Music “Playing and listening to music has clear benefits for both mental and physical health. In particular, music was found both to improve the body’s immune system function and to reduce levels of stress.” –Prof. Daniel Levitin
  • Exercise– Here are some more mental health benefits of exercise. “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” -Hippocrates
  • Meditation– check out HeadSpace or Calm to get started. “I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Writing– “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” -Graham Green, Ways Of Escape
  • Spending Time in Nature “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” -John Burroughs
  • Reading Books- The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss
  • Hugs“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” ­ -Virginia Satir

Find a way to integrate one of these into your daily routine and see how you feel- my expectations and hopes are you will feel happier and healthier.

Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

Overcoming Self-Harm

Self-harm is also known as self-injury, deliberate self-harm, self-mutilation, and cutting. Self-harm can look like cutting, scratching, burning, banging, and punching oneself, without suicidal intent. Why would someone do something like that to themselves? is a common response. The whys of self-harm are also similar to the reasons people drink, use drugs, overeat, restrict food, gamble, and excessively exercise. People do all these behaviors to manage and cope with intolerable feelings, to express their feelings, to feel in control, to distract themselves, to relieve stress or pressure, to punish themselves, or to feel something. People use these behaviors to cope with overwhelming stress, anxiety, negative emotions, and emotional numbness. Self-harm is best explained as a coping mechanism- a maladaptive one, like using drugs or binge eating, that works, but only for so long.

Behavior change is tough and letting go of a behavior that is effective in achieving the response a person desires fosters discomfort and dissonance. Imagine your significant other is out with their friends and has cheated on you in the past. You try getting a hold of them- sending messages and phoning them with no response. What emotions might come to the surface? Helplessness, powerlessness, rejection, shame, and fear- sounds awful right? How might you cope with this situation and these emotions? Listen to music, go on a walk, call one of your friends, binge drink, use drugs, cut yourself. These are all examples of coping mechanisms- the first three more healthy than the last few because you aren’t doing harm to yourself.

One of the first steps in overcoming self-harm is becoming aware of what situations and emotions trigger you to self-harm. It might be talking with your mother? Seeing your ex’s Facebook profile? Being called fat, ugly, or stupid? Feeling sadness, anger, or emptiness? It can be anything. Write down what situations, experiences, or feelings trigger you to self-harm.

What coping strategies do you use to deal with these triggers? Drink booze? Smoke a cigarette? Binge eat? Go on a run? Blast some music? Meet up with friends? Meditate? Take a shower? Write down the coping strategies, both healthy and unhealthy, you use.

Now, write down why self-harming feels good to you? What does self-harm do for you? What is it’s function? What is it’s purpose?

This might seem a little wacky and out there but I invite you to try it out. Imagine self-harm is sitting in a chair next to you- What is it’s name? What does it look like? Either draw or write down your responses. How does ________ (whatever name you came up with) impact you? How does ________ impact your friendships and your relationships in your family? How does ________ impact you in school or at your job? What does ________ prevent you from doing? Write down your answers.

Okay- you might have a better picture of what is causing you to self-harm, the role self-harm plays, and both your healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. Or you might not- identifying these things can be challenging and that is okay and completely normal. 

My invitation to you is to experiment using different coping techniques- I’m not saying get rid of self-harm or ________ right now. I’m inviting you to try new and different strategies to deal with ________.

Get creative with what coping techniques you try- there is no right or wrong way as long as you aren’t harming yourself. Finger paint, write a poem, take a cold shower, cuddle with your dog, dance like Beyonce.

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Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.