Thursday, August 27, 2015

Is Your Teen Stressed? Mindfulness Can Help!

by Katie May

Kylie and her mom got into a fight.  Kylie screamed, “I hate you!”, ran to her room and slammed the door.  She threw the folded pile of laundry from her bed and it scattered onto the floor. Then she curled up on the bed and cried. She noticed an emptiness in the pit of her stomach.  She began to recognize the thoughts going through her head like, “It’s not fair.  She never lets me do what I want!”  Kylie decided to take out her journal and free write. After a few minutes, her heaving sobs turned into calming breaths and she decided to go downstairs and talk to her mom about coming to a compromise with her curfew.

In all my years of working with teens, this situation has come up again and again in many similar ways.  Your teens are gaining independence and figuring out where they fit into the world.  Along with these developmental tasks comes the challenge of navigating intense emotions and being mindful of thoughts that result in a variety of wanted and unwanted behaviors.  

Mindfulness skills have proven very beneficial in helping teens with these challenges. When teens are mindful, they can:

·       Notice thoughts without being overwhelmed by them
·       Make planned decisions rather than acting impulsively
·       Feel more calm and in control in stressful situations

The first topic I teach teens when we work on practical mindfulness skills is to become more aware of the three states of mind.  Your state of mind is your outlook or your perspective.  These states of mind have a big impact on what emotions you experience and what decisions you make.

When you are in Emotion Mind, you are driven by your feelings and urges. You can be in Emotion Mind for both pleasant and difficult feelings. In Emotion Mind, you are not focused on facts; you are immersed in feelings.  Some situations that trigger Emotion Mind include getting into an argument, listening to music or creating art.

When you are in Reason Mind, you are focused on the facts.  That means you are thinking logically and analyzing a situation.  In Reason Mind, you are NOT focused on your feelings.  Some situations that trigger Reason Mind include doing schoolwork, writing a list or following a recipe.

Wise Mind is the balance between your emotions and reasoning.  When you are in Wise Mind, you are able to feel your emotions AND focus on the facts.  In Wise Mind you have a balance that lets you make decisions based on how you feel AND the facts in a situation.  Wise Mind helps you to make healthy choices and act effectively.  Some examples of Wise Mind include asking for help when you are frustrated or talking to someone when you feel sad.

You can help your teens at home by pointing out when you see them in each state of mind, or discussing examples of when they have been in each state of mind.  In the example above, Kylie began the argument in Emotion Mind.  She was driven by her emotions, leading her to yell at her mom, slam the door and throw her clothes.  However, she used mindfulness to become AWARE of her body sensations and her thoughts, allowing her to make the Wise Mind decision of using her journal to cope with stressful feelings, then act effectively by going back and speaking to her mom more calmly to develop a solution.

You can also be a powerful teacher for your teen by modeling your own use of the three states of mind.  When you feel frustrated and act on this by snapping at a family member, you can catch yourself by stating, “I’m sorry I snapped at you.  I let my Emotion Mind take over.’  

I have heard lots of parents say that practicing mindfulness is embarrassing, or that it doesn’t work.  This typically happens when they try something once and don’t get the desired response right away.  Mindfulness skills take LOTS of practice and do NOT come naturally at first.  I wouldn’t write an article about how to run a marathon then expect you to go out and do it after reading about it!  Mindfulness takes time and practice, so stick with it!

This article is part one of a three-part series.  In my next article, I will show you exactly how to help your teens pay attention to what is happening inside and outside of themselves and be able to put words to what they notice to help you get a REAL answer to the question “What’s wrong?” when your teen looks stressed.  You won’t want to miss it!  Click here [insert link to:] for more.

Katie K. May is a Nationally Certified, Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in working with children and teens.  She uses mindfulness-based practices, play therapy and expressive arts  to help clients communicate difficult emotions and decrease problem behaviors.

A Five-Minute Stress-Reducing and Mindfulness Technique for Parents

by Kathleen Krol, LCSW RPT-S

Do you find yourself rushing home from work to pick up your child from aftercare or your teen from after school sports practice? Are evenings or weekends spent juggling between one child being dropped off at soccer practice and the other being picked up from dance class? If not hustling to get a child somewhere, then it may be juggling two jobs or running multiple errands. We all know the feeling of being pressured and stressed.

I found a technique that helps me, as I am leaving my house, driving in the car or before opening the door to something new. It helps me by focusing my attention on what I am about to do and check with myself to see if I am carrying stress in my body or mind. I call it "Five Senses." I take 5 minutes as I am moving or driving to be aware of my environment by using my five senses. I ask myself, what do I see around me? What do I hear? What do I smell? What do I taste or feel in my mouth? And what do I feel? If I am driving, am I clenching the steering wheel and if so, can I relax my grip? If walking, I might notice that my body is moving fast and my chest is tight. I pause and take a couple deep breaths.

As I transition to another activity, I do so consciously. I tell myself to be aware, that I am here and I can relax now. This technique might not eliminate all stress, but it does remind me to bring my attention to what is currently happening. It refocuses a distracted or racing mind and reminds me that I do have the ability to slow myself down and breathe rather than remaining on automatic pilot. 

Your Health is THAT important

by Dana L. Barron, PhD

Sometimes we get so lost in the sea of obligations that we lose track of what feeds our energy and what drains it. But the body is keeping score. If the balance tips too far toward draining or depleting activities, the body will start to whisper. “I’m stressed out.” Or “I’m really tired.” Or “I need a break.” We ignore it for now, and we “power through.” So it starts speaking a little louder. “I can’t sleep.” “I have a headache, an upset stomach.” Maybe we do something to ease the discomfort – an over-the-counter remedy or an extra cup of coffee. And then we power through some more….The more we override the message to slow down, the louder the body must speak.  Eventually there are symptoms we can’t ignore, or even a diagnosed illness. We’ve been running on empty and the body is saying NO.

When the stress first registers, it can seem impossible to lighten the load. If I let anything go, I think, I will let someone down, and I can’t do that. Or worse, I will lose my job or someone will get hurt. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves are true and often they are not, but we generally cannot tell the difference. Sometimes it takes a crisis to clarify what is important and what is not, what is nourishing and what is depleting.

Here’s an exercise that might help you regain your balance, before your body starts to scream.

Make a list of your responsibilities and activities. Include everything on the calendar and the TO DO list. Now, imagine that someone you love has a crisis and needed your help. To make time, you must cross five things off the list. What would they be?

Even if it was hard and you were afraid of the consequences, you would cross things off to make time for a loved one. Why would you not do the same for yourself? For your health and well-being? Try. It truly IS that important.

Dana L. Barron, PhD is a health coach, advocate, and herbalist. She helps clients understand the functional imbalances that are causing their symptoms and design integrative solutions to regain health and vitality. She also guides clients in their relationships with health care providers to ensure they are getting their needs met. She can be reached at 215-688-5108 or

Stress, Resilience, and Your Health

by Dana L. Barron, PhD

Why Stress about Stress?
We have all heard that stress is bad for our health but it can be helpful to understand exactly why that is. The body’s acute “stress response” is not inherently harmful – in fact it is an essential mechanism of survival. The brain senses danger and the body makes changes that allow for immediate action – fight or flight. Then the danger passes and the body calms back down to its natural resting state.

But the conditions of modern life are such that many of us are living in a chronic stress response, and here is where the trouble starts. Stress hormones trigger increases in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and blood sugar. Other systems in the body, notably the digestive, reproductive, and immune systems, slow down or stop in order to focus energy where it is needed most. This great when you need to run away from a tiger, but when it goes on long term, it sows the seeds of dysfunction and disease.

The good news is, you can maintain health and vitality by identifying your stressors and learning tools for stress resilience.

Perform a Stress Audit
Performing a comprehensive stress audit with my clients includes exploring the mental and emotional stressors – thoughts and feelings, events and experiences. But we also dig deeper to factors you might not associate with stress. Pathogens and infections, problems with digestion, inadequate sleep, diet and nutrients, and exposure to toxins can all trigger a stress response. Their effects are cumulative. If the total stress load is manageable, we feel fine. But when stress overcomes the body’s capacity to adapt, systems start to malfunction and we get symptoms.

Thankfully, for each aspect of stress, there are stress reduction strategies. These strategies become a self-care plan, a powerful healing tool. The seeds of stress resilience are planted. The healing path begins.

The Healing Path is a self-care plan for life. It puts control over your health into your hands. It works from the root causes of symptoms and it encompasses the whole person, mind, body and spirit. It recognizes the integral relationship among all the systems of the body. Each person’s path is unique – strategies must be tailored to fit the reality of your life. The tools, then, are yours forever.

Dana L. Barron, PhD is a health coach, advocate, and herbalist. She helps clients understand the functional imbalances that are causing their symptoms and design integrative solutions to regain health and vitality. She also guides clients in their relationships with health care providers to ensure they are getting their needs met. She can be reached at 215-688-5108 or

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Place To Be by Dean Solon

you may be closing your eyes,
a way of turning off the lights.

now you may be seeing more clearly, more astutely.
now you may be quieter.
now you may be feeling more yourself, and may be feeling more connected.
it is lovely this may be all that is required:
a place to sit, a place to be quiet,
a place to be alive and alert and awake.

there may be many times in this life you have felt this is all you need
to be presently happy, to be happily present.

the near-silence, a gift of the gods. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

For A Moment by Dean Solon

i imagined:  one day i will be me.
today, i am me.
what i imagined is who i am, now.
a journey undertaken, under-consciously,
a journey realized
and recognized.
homeward bound, homeward found.

the ten thousand rays of the sun
shining silently bright.
the ten thousand arrows shooting skyward
falling in undiscovered lands beyond the horizon.
we live there as much as we live here.
our vision is uninhibited.
our reach is unlimited.
our home of all homes
is anywhere.

you, a castle in the sand.
i, a watcher, a witness
to your feats,
loving you,
missing you,
wishing you well on your way home.

blown open,
whereabouts known
...if only for a moment.

NYC Writings by Dean Solon

am the one who is awake, early.  am the one who begins to read Wondering Who You Are (by Sonya Lea), a book given to my friend by her son.

each of us being one who creates a myth, who lives a legend, who travels near and far to get to where he/she is.
each of us a trailblazer and a cautionary tale to others who witness and follow and keep on trucking, or not.

it is a special thing, is it not, to be a human being?
it is a strange and wondrous thing, is it not?  it can be great good fortune and/or it can be death delivered slowly.
it can be an infinite number of things.  it can be next to nothing.
it can bring you everything you needed, everything you might have wanted if you had known what you wanted.  it can bring you nothing but heartaches.

we learn so much...don't we?  we lose so much...don't we?
we are left so much by those who leave us behind, and we leave it all behind when we go, as we must.

carol tells a story.  she is 86 and i am 88 and i am rubbing her feet as she is dying.  i grieve her passing, for a time, and meet a sweet woman with whom i have a loving relationship.  then i am lying down, quietly, and am meditating, and i die.