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Five Ways to Help Teens Build a Sense of Self-Worth – Mindful

No one wants to hang out with me. I’m a failure at school. All my other friends seem happy. What’s wrong with me?

These kinds of negative thoughts are becoming more common in our homes and schools. Teens are experiencing increased anxiety, and studies indicate that college students in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are becoming more perfectionistic over time, measuring themselves against unrealistic standards.

Why is this happening? We can’t say for sure—but we do know there are steps teens can take to improve their mental health.

2018 study of early adolescents suggests that self-concept (your perception of self) plays a central role in emotional well-being. According to the study, a supportive classroom environment and positive social relationships also affect teen well-being—but the impact is indirect. Positive self-concept seems to be the key variable in the well-being equation. If a student feels good about herself, then she may be more likely to connect with others and benefit from the supports provided at school.

So, how can we influence how students think about themselves? This may feel like a very tall order; yet there is a lot of research out there that provides some clues for supporting the teens in your life. Here are five ways to help tweens and teens move toward a more positive self-concept.

1. Get physical

Although you may have heard this before, kids really can benefit from regular exercise (especially when their tendency is to sit in front of a screen). A recent review of 38 international studies indicates that physical activity alone can improve self-esteem and self-concept in children and adolescents.

Apparently, the exercise setting also matters. Students who participated in supervised activities in schools or gymnasiums reported more significant growth in self-esteem than those who exercised at home and in other settings.

Adolescents’ self-concept is most strongly linked to their sense of physical attractiveness and body image, an area where many people struggle. So, encourage more regular exercise programs during and after school, and support team sports, strength training, running, yoga, and swimming—not just for their effects on the body but on the mind, as well. Getting out and engaging in some form of exercise can make us feel stronger, healthier, and more empowered.

2. Focus on self-compassion (not self-esteem)

Because self-esteem is a global evaluation of your overall worth, it has its dangers. What am I achieving? Am I good enough? How do I compare with my peers?

What would happen if we could stop judging ourselves? Researcher Kristen Neff claims that self-compassion—treating yourself with kindness, openness, and acceptance—is a healthy alternative to the incessant striving and performance orientation often tied up with self-esteem.

In her study of adolescents and young adults, she found that participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend (“It’s okay; you did your best”).

Participants with higher self-compassion demonstrated greater well-being. Why? They were okay with their flaws, acknowledged that they struggled just like those around them (“Everybody makes mistakes; you are not alone”), and treated themselves with the same kindness they would extend to a friend

If you are interested in specific techniques and strategies for enhancing self-compassion in teens, take a look at the work of psychologist Karen Bluth. She recently developed a program called Making Friends with Yourself. Youth participating in this eight-week program reported greater resilience, less depression, and less stress at the end of it. However, if there isn’t a program near you, consider sharing this self-compassion workbook with the teens in your life.

3. Avoid social comparison

When we focus on self-esteem, we tend to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. Teens, in particular, often sense an “imaginary audience” (i.e., “Everyone is looking at me!”) and can become highly sensitized to who they are relative to everyone around them.

Instagram and other social media platforms don’t necessarily help. Some research suggests an association between social media and depression, anxiety, loneliness, and FoMO (fear of missing out) among teens. Their posts may not rack up the number of “likes” that their friends’ posts do, or they may feel excluded when they see pictures of classmates happily spending time together without them.

A new app for teen girls called Maverick may be a healthier option than Snapchat or Instagram. On this social media platform, teens can connect with role models (called “Catalysts”) and explore their creativity (such as designing their own superhero or choosing a personal mantra). Of course, there is always the option of taking a break from social media, as well.

Regardless of what teens choose to do online, many of our schools are also structured for social comparison. Grading, labeling, and tracking practices (grouping students based on their academic performance) don’t necessarily honor the stops, starts, and inevitable mistakes that are a natural part of the learning process.

Here are some school-based alternatives designed to reduce social comparison:

  • Don’t make grades public.
  • Provide opportunities to revise and redo assignments.
  • Avoid ability grouping as much as possible.
  • Focus on individual growth and improvement.
  • Acknowledge students’ small successes.

4. Capitalize on specific skills

If you keep your eye out for teens’ talents and interests, you can support them in cultivating their strengths. Your son may think he is a terrible athlete, but he lights up when he works on school science projects. Then there’s that quiet, disheveled ninth-grade girl who sits in the back of your class. She may feel socially awkward, but she wows you with her poetry.

Researcher Susan Harter has studied adolescent self-esteem and self-concept for years. She claims that self-concept is domain-specific. Our overall self-esteem or sense of worth tends to be rooted in eight distinct areas: athletic competence, scholastic competence, behavioral conduct, social acceptance, close friendship, romantic appeal, job satisfaction, and physical attractiveness.

Talk to the teens in your life. What are their personal values and priorities? Share surveys with them like the VIA (which identifies character strengths like bravery, honesty, and leadership) or have them take a multiple intelligences quiz. Celebrate their talents and tailor activities and instruction around their abilities as much as possible.

It may not be easy to shift teens’ global sense of self-worth, but we can certainly highlight and encourage areas of interest and particular skill sets so that they feel more confident, capable, and inspired.

5. Help others (especially strangers)

Finally, when teens reach out to others, they are more likely to feel better about themselves. A 2017 study of 681 U.S. adolescents (ages 11-14) examined their kind and helpful behavior over a four-year period. Researchers found that adolescents who were kind and helpful in general had higher self-esteem, but those who directed their generosity toward strangers (not friends and family) tended to grow in self-esteem.

Last Friday, I joined my daughter and her peers during the “action” phase of their “Change the World” project. Their social studies teacher, Tim Owens, tasked the eighth graders with choosing a sustainability issue, researching the problem and possible solutions, planning action, and implementing the action.

These middle schoolers spent a full day canvasing their neighborhoods to advocate for policies that protected people they don’t know, like local refugees and homeless youth—as well as animals used for product testing. I’ve never seen my daughter and her friends more energized, confident, and engaged with their community.

As adults, we can actively support service learning projects in our schools and our teens’ interests in advocacy and civil engagement. Adolescents around the world can also work remotely with non-profit organizations like DoSomething, “a digital platform promoting offline action” in 131 countries. On this site, young people can choose a cause, the amount of time they want to commit to it, and the type of help they would like to provide (e.g., face-to-face, improving a space, making something, sharing something, etc.)

When teens regularly contribute to a larger cause, they learn to think beyond themselves, which may ultimately help them to be more positive, empowered, and purposeful.

As many teens struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, our urge may be to jump in and fix their problems, whatever we perceive them to be. But a better approach, one that will hopefully help reverse these worrying trends, is to cheer them on as they develop the mental habits and strengths that will support them throughout their lives.

This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, one of Mindful’s partners. View the original article.

Teens Are Better Off When Parents Practice Self-Compassion (Study)

School’s Out for the Summer. Why Aren’t Teens More Chill?

Source: Five Ways to Help Teens Build a Sense of Self-Worth – Mindful

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Stress Changes The Brain, And This Could Be How It Happens

The results of a new brain imaging study may have just answered a big question about how stress changes the brain. Using a combination of genetic editing and brain scanning in mice, researchers found that stress triggers a chemical cascade that radically changes how brain networks communicate, and the results could sharpen our understanding of anxiety disorders in humans.

Breaking down the research

Stress serves an important purpose in preparing us to react to danger. Anything the brain perceives as threatening triggers multiple brain networks to synchronize and communicate, all in just a fraction of a second. With systems humming, we make immediate decisions to survive the threat.

But what facilitates all of those brain networks to connect and communicate? That’s been a difficult question to answer in the human brain, because doing so would require examining brain function during the split-second window of facing a threat.

Enter our friends the mice to help solve the problem. Researchers followed a trail of previous studies and zeroed in on the neurotransmitter noradrenaline (aka norepinephrine, a chemical that floods the brain during stress) as a likely facilitator of brain-network connectivity.

The twist was that they had genetically manipulated the rodents’ brains to allow for selectively controlling when noradrenaline was released (not possible in human brains). While controlling the chemical faucet, they also scanned the mouse brains using fMRI to see what would happen.

And what happened, it turns out, was pretty amazing. The release of noradrenaline “rewired” the mouse brains, allowing different brain networks to instantly cross-communicate. But the neurotransmitter wasn’t just facilitating communication, it was restructuring neural connections beyond anyone’s expectations.

“I couldn’t believe that we were seeing such strong effects,” said the study’s first author Valerio Zerbi, a brain imaging specialist from the University of Zurich.

The researchers found the strongest rewired effects in brain areas responsible for processing sensory stimuli (auditory and visual, for example), and in the amygdala, the epicenter of the brain’s threat response system.

What does this mean for us?

It’s the part about threat response that may hold the most promise for better understanding what stress does to our brains.

Allowing for the fact that this was research in mice, the particular dynamic studied here is probably quite similar between us and our rodent counterparts. If noradrenaline rewires the human brain as it appears to rewire the brains of mice, it’s possible the long-term effects of stress are more profound than we’ve realized.

Previous research has linked the flood of noradrenaline to changes in brain connectivity, but it seems likely we’ve underestimated the effects, especially in the small but powerful part of our brain sitting at the center of anxiety disorders: the amygdala.

At a minimum, this research opens new doors for better understanding how both acute and chronic stress effects the brain, and could enlighten new ways of deconstructing anxiety conditions, now the most prevalent mental health disorders worldwide. The study was published in the journal Neuron.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

David DiSalvo is the author of the best-selling book “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite”, which has been published in 15 languages, and the books “Brain Changer: How Harnessing Your Brain’s Power to Adapt Can Change Your Life” and “The Brain in Your Kitchen”. His work has appeared in Scientific American Mind, Forbes, Time, Psychology Today, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Esquire, Mental Floss and other publications, and he’s the writer behind the widely read science and technology blogs “Neuropsyched” at Forbes and “Neuronarrative” at Psychology Today. He can be found on Twitter @neuronarrative and at his website, daviddisalvo.org. Contact him at: disalvowrites [at] gmail.com.

Source: Stress Changes The Brain, And This Could Be How It Happens

8 Simple Steps to Relieve Stress

Stress is never good for you or your health. But with almost 54% of the Americans, stress has become part of their lives. It can be stress from work, family or could be of dealing with financial issues. Whatever the cause of stress, it isn’t good for your health.

Here are 8 simple steps to relieve stress from your everyday life.

Understand the Source of Stress

When it comes to stress, it’s surprising that most people don’t even realize they are stressed. Common indications of stress include tense muscles, clenched jaws, and hands or a feeling of cramps in your stomach. Other telling symptoms are frustrations and anger.

Whenever you feel stressed, find out the reason for your stress. One of the most common stress factors includes financial problems. Enlist help. Talk to a financial advisor. They will help you guide you out of your financial situation. For instance, they will guide you on how to deal with debt collectors effectively.

Other sources of stress could be your workplace or family issues. Find out how you can deal with them. Don’t leave everything to time. Try to find solutions for your issues. This will help you use your energy is a positive way, which can also be a great stress buster.

Practice Deep Breathing Techniques

When you are stressed, your body starts releasing stress hormones. When you feel an increase in heart beat and your breathing get quicker, sit down and practice deep breathing. Deep breathing activates your nervous system which in turn will help your body to relax.

Start by focusing on your breathing. Take a deep breath. Breathe through your nose. Fill up your lungs with air. Slowly release the breath through your mouth. Practice for 10x times. Bring down your breathing rate. Feel your body relaxing.

Exercise

One reason for the increase in stress for many people is the decrease in physical activity. Your body needs physical stress, to give the brain some rest to relieve itself of all the mental stress.

When you exercise, your body releases hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain killers and help your body in combating stress. The release of these hormones also improves your sleep quality, thus improving mood and reducing stress.

Some forms of exercise you can try out are walking, running, yoga, dancing, swimming etc.

Use Your Senses

Sensory experience can help you deal with stress is an effective manner. When you employ the use of your five senses, you become more aware of your surroundings which help you relieve stress in a calming manner. Here’s how you can employ the use each of each sense to relieve stress:

Sight: Close your eyes and imagine your happy place. It could be your childhood home or just a beautiful place you went to recently. Another way to use your sight is to go outdoors. Go to a park or a scenic place. Talk a walk around. You can also put flowers in your home to enlighten it.

Hearing: Listen to some calming, good music. You can also turn on some background classical music to help you relax.

Smell: Light candles or burn essential oils. Some good calming scents you can try are Lavender, Germanium, Neroli, Rose, and Sandalwood.

Touch: Relax your muscles and body with a good massage. Get a professional masseur to unknot the tensions in your muscles. Give your spouse or partner a good kiss. Hug your children closely. Taking a warm bath or resting under a warm blanket will also do the trick.

Taste: Mindless eating can add inches to your waistline. That can also be a source of constant stress for most people. Whenever you eat, enjoy the entire experience. Take small bites and savor the flavor with each bite. Enjoy your favorite snack or meal. Give it time. Some stress relieving foods you can try out are dark chocolate, citrus foods and foods containing omega 3 fatty acids. You can also try drinking calming, herbal teas.

Unplug from the World

When most people feel stressed, they turn to media. They watch TV or scroll through their cell phones mindlessly. The idea is to switch off the stress by focusing on something else. But research concludes that the use of media including smart phones actually increases stress levels.

Unplug from the world and media. Even if you don’t feel stressed on a particular day, don’t let media entertain you. Turn off the TV for the rest of the day. Go without using the Wi-Fi on your cell phone for a day. Turn off your cell phone when you get home. If you can’t do it daily, do it at least three or four times in a week.

Get Together with Family and Friends

The right way to forget about your stress is by spending time with family and friends. Plan an outdoor picnic together. Laugh and smile together. Discuss your problems. Be each other’s support system. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

When you spend time with your loved ones, your body releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is a natural stress reliever. This is especially true for women and children.

Source: 8 Simple Steps to Relieve Stress

The misery is real: A third of the world is stressed, worried and in pain, Gallup report finds

Image result for STRESSED PEOPLE

About a third of people worldwide were stressed, worried and in pain last year, and more than half of Americans feel pressure and strain. That’s according to the 2019 Global Emotions Report, Gallup’s annual snapshot of the world’s emotional state.

Chad, a North African country beset by violence, was the most negative country in the world last year, the report found, and Paraguay and Panama led a host of Latin American countries atop the list of most positive countries.

The USA? Well, we’re more stressed than almost anybody.

Most Americans (55%) recall feeling stressed during much of the day in 2018. That’s more than all but three other countries, including top-ranking Greece (59%), which has led the world in stress since 2012.

Nearly half of Americans felt worried (45%) and more than a fifth (22%) felt angry, they told Gallup – both up from 2017. Americans’ stress increased, too, topping the global average by 20 percentage points.

“Even as their economy roared, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade,” Julie Ray, a Gallup editor, wrote in a summary report.

A country where 66% feel pain

Americans were more stressed than residents of Chad, the world’s saddest and most pain-stricken population. Fifty-one percent of Chadians report stress last year, along with 54% reporting sadness. Two-thirds there felt worried, and 66% felt physical pain.

“The country’s overall score at least partly reflects the violence, displacement and the collapse of basic services in parts of Chad that have affected thousands of families,” Gallup says in an analysis, noting seven out of 10 residents struggled to afford food that year.

West African nations of Niger and Sierra Leone follow Chad in Gallup’s report, which ranks each nation based on resident responses to phone and face-to-face interviews with about 1,000 adults worldwide. Iraq and Iran follow, respectively, in the top five.

A vaccine drive in the village of Agang in the Ouaddai highlands region of eastern Chad, bordering west Sudan on March 25, 2019.

Latin American countries are the most positive. But why?

A train of Latin American countries leads the most-positive list. Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador follow top-ranked Paraguay and Panama in a tie. All of the top 10 most-positive nations are Latin American save one: Indonesia.

“I think it’s not a coincidence,” says Ricardo Ainslie, a Mexican-born psychologist and a director at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. “Latin Americans tend to be so family-focused that I think that provides a sense of ‘Whatever happens, I’ve always got this. (Family) is always my bedrock.’ ”

Indeed, Gallup notes its scores strongly relate, in part, the presence of social networks, and Latin American nations prevail on its positive list “year after year.”

The Gutierrez family, diplaced by floods, prepare for breakfast in a temporary shelter in Asuncion, Paraguay, Friday, April 5, 2019.

Gallup posed questions to residents of more than 140 countries for the lists, asking about the positive (“Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”) and the negative (“How about sadness?”).

A family focus in top-ranked Paraguay bleeds into day-to-day culture, says Barbara Ganson, a Florida Atlantic University professor and editor of “Contemporary Paraguay: Politics, Society, and the Environment.”

Paraguayans typically work from 7 to 11 a.m., she says, before returning home for lunch and relaxation with family. They finish work from 3 to 7 p.m.

“Family-work balance is very different from what we experience here in the United States and in many other countries,” Ganson says.

Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The misery is real: A third of the world is stressed, worried and in pain, Gallup report finds

Source: The misery is real: A third of the world is stressed, worried and in pain, Gallup report finds

Anxiety: Why It’s Different From Stress – Peg Rosen

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There’s a math test tomorrow and 14-year-old Katherine should be studying. Instead she’s in bed. “I’m not taking the test! What happens if people see I can’t do it? What if I fail again?” she cries to her mom.

Anxiety is a sense of fear and worry. And it’s easy to understand why Katherine and other children with learning and attention issues are more likely to have anxiety than other children. Many have to work harder to keep up with their classmates. Other kids may bully them. Kids with learning and attention issues may not have the coping skills or maturity to handle these difficulties.

“When anxiety stops your child from functioning or enjoying life, it’s probably time to find help.”

But anxiety can be managed. The key is noticing the signs and providing the tools your child needs to keep worry in check.

Read on to learn how anxiety is different from stress—and what might cause anxiety in kids with learning and attention issues. You’ll also learn when to get help for your child’s anxiety.

Anxiety vs. Stress

Stress and anxiety are closely related but are not the same thing.

  • Stress is a natural and normal response to a challenge. Our heart pumps faster and our palms sweat as we get ready to act.
  • Stress can make us feel nervous, angry, frustrated—even anxious.
  • Stress can have a positive effect. For example it can “pump up” a child to study for a test.
  • Stress can also be overwhelming. Feeling stress every day for a long time can take a toll on your body and mind.
  • Anxiety makes a kid feel worried and afraid. “What if?” is a common phrase for anxious kids.
  • The anxious feeling is often out of proportion to the real or imagined “threat” (for example, a child crying in terror because she’s afraid to enter a birthday party).
  • Anxious children may expect that something bad will happen and not believe they’ll be able to handle it. (That bee’s going to sting me and I’m going to die!)
  • The bad feelings associated with anxiety can come from something specific, like algebra. Or anxiety can be a more general sense of uneasiness that affects much of everyday life.

Common Causes of Anxiety

Just about everyone feels anxiety at some point. But kids with learning and attention issues may have extra reasons for feeling worried and afraid. These include:

  • Anxiety about not being able to keep up: Kindergarten is often when children with learning and attentions issues first show signs of anxiety. They may notice they can’t do what their friends can do. As they go through grade school, their anxiety may get worse if the skill gap widens between them and their classmates. Kids with anxiety issues may just generally be hard on themselves.
  • Anxiety about feeling different: Much of childhood is about fitting in. Children with learning and attention issues may worry that someone will notice if they get extra time on tests. They may fear someone will see them in the resource room. Teenagers may fear the other kids will find out they take medication or see a therapist. Children with social skills issues may want to be part of things but are afraid of being rejected.
  • Anxiety about the future: Teens with learning and attention issues may fear what’s after high school. “If I can’t pass a math test, how will I ever take an SAT?” Or they may worry they won’t be able to live away from home. They may avoid dealing with these issues by not taking tests or refusing to talk about their plans after graduation.

When Anxiety Becomes an Issue

When anxiety stops a child from enjoying life, that child may have an “anxiety disorder.” The most common forms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Your child may seem “anxious by nature.” She’s worried about anything and everything. She fears someone will see her counting on her fingers. She won’t go in the backyard because there’s a beehive next door. She may have nightmares or trouble sleeping.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD often follow unusual routines or rituals. They believe that doing this will stop bad things from happening. For example, your child might wash her hands every time she thinks about something she’s afraid of.
  • Panic disorder: Your child is often terrified when there’s no real danger. At these times, she may find her heart beats fast; she has chest pain and difficulty breathing and may feel nausea or even a fear that she’s dying. Your child worries about having another episode and may even change her behavior because she’s so fearful of having another panic attack.
  • Separation anxiety disorder: Fear of separating from a parent is a natural part of childhood. It is considered a disorder if your child can’t get past this stage, continues to cling, and can’t separate easily from you at school or elsewhere.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Your child may be fearful of social situations. If you force her to go on a playdate or to a party, she may cry or throw a tantrum. She may be very shy around strangers and avoid playing with classmates.
  • Phobias: Your child may be extremely afraid of a particular thing, such as bees, the dark, or doctors. Her phobia may prevent her from getting involved in activities and cause her to scream or act out in other ways.

When to Seek Help

When anxiety stops your child from functioning or enjoying life, it’s probably time to find help. Your school psychologist might suggest someone who specializes in helping children with learning and attention issues. The therapist can work with you and your child to manage the anxiety. He may also refer you to a physician if he thinks medication will help.

Children with learning and attention issues have reasons to feel anxious. That doesn’t mean their anxiety can’t be managed. Learn about signs of anxiety and stress so you can identify these feelings in your child. From there you can work with your child and possibly a therapist to keep her worries in check.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear.
  • Children with learning and attention issues often have anxiety about keeping up and fitting in with their peers.
  • When anxiety stops your child from enjoying life, it may be time to get outside help.

 

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