Categories
Self-Compassion

National Suicide Prevention Week

By Meghaa Ravichandran

As fall officially begins, it rings in the new school year for many students across America as they start going back to classes and their campuses. With more schools prioritizing mental health as students handle heavy course loads and hours of homework, it is important to spread awareness about events such as National Suicide Prevention Week (NSPW) this month. Taking place between September 4, 2022 to September 10, 2022, NSPW aims to educate the people on suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide. 

Before we can begin helping others, let’s educate ourselves on why suicide prevention is so important and the details behind suicidal thoughts. For example, did you know:

  • According to 2020 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 2020)
    • Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S.
    • More than 40,000 Americans die by suicide
    • More than 1 million suicide attempts are done
    • The rate of suicide was shown to be highest in middle-aged white men
    • 54% of Americans have been affected in suicide in some way
  • Most people consider suicide 5 – 15 minutes before undertaking an attempt (CNN Health 2022)
  • The common misconception of “suicidal people are selfish and don’t consider the impact of their actions on loved ones” is extremely stigmatizing and harmful
  • There is no accurate prediction or specific risk factor for those attempting suicide
  • Many considering an attempt believe they are in a painful, irreparable life situation in which suicide is the only option
By Anthony Tran on Unsplash.com

This alarming knowledge has led to the creation of National Suicide Prevention Month and Week, both taking place in September, with the goals of providing tools and support for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. As active participants within our own communities, we can provide a shoulder to lean on or an empathetic ear for those we think are struggling with their mental health. There are many phsyiological/behavioral factors to watch for in the time leading up to a suicide attempt, but here are a few:

  • Exhibiting unusual behaviors with guns, pills, or other lethal items
  • Giving away cherished belongings
  • Concerning comments referencing death
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Hopelessness
  • Family or personal history of suicide
  • Showing rage or a desire to enact revenge

Knowing warning signs prior to an attempt is helpful, but also supporting loved ones during hard times can make a tremendous impact on their outlook of life by showing them they are not alone and have those that care about them. As an activist or just a good friend, here are some ways that you can get involved on a community level or personal level:

  • Find a community walk near you on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website.
  • Share graphics on social media to inform others about NSPW in English and Spanish
  • Tell a trusted adult if anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts
  • If needed, connect a friend with The 988 Lifeline, a 24/7 mental health crisis hotline for calling or texting
  • Learn how to properly and accurately spread information with the researched Framework for Successful Messaging

With these skills in your ever-evolving toolkit, always remember to listen and advocate with an open-mind!

Citations:

Suicide Prevention Month: Ideas for Action 

National Suicide Prevention Week 

Suicide statistics | AFSP 

National Suicide Prevention Week: How to help those at risk | CNN 

Categories
Kindness and Acceptance Self-Compassion

A Life Worth Living

By: Divya Venkataraman

August 30, 2022, is National Grief Awareness Day. Founded by Angie Cartwright in 2014, National Grief Awareness day is a day meant to adequately address grief — working towards ending the stigma and negative attitudes toward grief. 

So, what is grief? Grief is a combination of several strong, oftentimes overwhelming, emotions that are a response to a sorrowful experience — the most common being the loss of a loved one. Grief can entail feelings of shock, anger, guilt, disbelief and sadness. 

Grief is categorized into five stages, first designed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book Death and Dying:

  1. Denial and Isolation: when unpleasant news is received, our immediate response to the feeling of being overwhelmed is a denial of the truth — saving our thoughts from spiraling.
  2. Anger: following the denial, the harsh awakening of the truth hits us like full force — sparking feelings of anger and irritation amongst the pain.
  3. Bargaining: once we have been able to fully comprehend the situation at hand, our minds are wired to immediately try and figure out a way to improve and solve the problem — in order to change the situation for the better.
  4. Depression: this is the stage where we start to realize the different impacts the situation can have on us — regarding practical implications and emotional pain. Intense feelings of sorrow follow, due to the neverending pit we find ourselves falling in.
  5. Acceptance: this is the final stage, where we begin to slowly ease ourselves out of depression and into a calmer state of mind. Unfortunately, this does not always mean a period of happiness but rather a time when we can make amity with the situation.

In the spirit of National Grief Awareness Day, here are some myths about grief that will be debunked. I hope this helps in destigmatizing grief — getting rid of the negative connotations of grief that are just not true.

  1. Myth #1: After a certain amount of time has passed, you should be over your grief. This myth is FALSE; there is no timeline or calendar to your grief! Grief is a process that takes different lengths of time for different people. In fact, some might never be able to stop grieving — and might instead learn how to manage it better over time.
  2. Myth #2: If you avoid the pain, it won’t be able to hurt you. This myth is FALSE; in fact, avoiding grief and pain just makes the situation worse. Unaddressed grief can oftentimes grow bigger over time, worsening one’s mental state and subjecting them to a fate worse than if they had addressed their grief.
  3. Myth #3: Crying only makes grief worse. This myth is FALSE; tears and crying are natural responses to pain in any human being (look at babies!). Crying is a part of your body’s natural healing process for both physical and emotional pain.
  4. Myth #4: Talking about my situation will only make my grief worse. This myth is FALSE; not talking about the situation just leaves you to cultivate more and more painful emotions and memories within yourself! Talking to someone about your pain helps you gain new perspectives and help on how to better handle your grief.
  5. Myth #5: If I cannot get over this, I will never be happy again. This myth is FALSE; in fact, many find it impossible to ever “get over” the situation that has caused them pain! However, being aware of your grief and taking steps to better manage it will help you learn to live better and happier.

So how can you “celebrate” National Grief Awareness day? Well, merely offer your support to anyone who might be grieving. Your support can go a long way, helping them feel lighter during a very hard time. You can also show your support right now by visiting change.org and signing the petition to officially make National Grief Awareness day a national holiday!

I’d like to debunk one last myth — which is, unfortunately, one of the most common myths about grief — that grief is a terrible emotion. This myth is FALSE; grief is simply your body’s natural healing process. Grief allows you to experience feelings, express them and then work them out. Grief is able to help you find a way — no matter how many turns it might have — back to a life worth living.

Categories
Self-Compassion Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Minority Mental Health Month

By: Meghaa Ravichandran

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash.com

With COVID-19 forcing many into an initial quarantine, the ripple effects of our physical and social isolation can be felt across all aspects of people’s lives. Although the return of a semblance of normality has begun to surface, advocacy for mental health also remains important as we find our footing in this new normal. July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and with the continuity of the pandemic, it is crucial to address both the effects of COVID-19 along with generational trauma, racism, exclusion, and more. 

A nationally celebrated holiday, there are many resources to access regarding  uplifting minority populations and their mental health advocacy efforts. To start with the history of the month, it was formally recognized in June 2008 with the full title being Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Bebe Moore Campbell was an American “author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the black community and other underrepresented communities” (MHA). Witnessing the struggles caused by mental illness and a lack of supportive resources, she founded NAMI-Inglewood and went on to write three New York Times bestsellers. 

Photo of Bebe Moore Campbell: Source

To begin our advocacy journey this month, the most important step is to stay informed and educated regarding the populations we are uplifting. Around 42% of the U.S. population are people of color, with multiracial communities being most likely to experience alcohol/substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression according to a 2020 Mental Health America (MHA) screening. Indigenous people were most likely to screen positive for bipolar disorder and PTSD. 

In a report summarizing their screening results,  many key conclusions were drawn, factoring in events such as the COVID-19 pandemic: “Since the end of May 2020, nearly every racial/ethnic group has been experiencing consistently higher rates of suicidal ideation than the 2019 average” (MHA 2020). Additionally, healthcare disparities are a barrier to access mental health resources, so it’s important now more than ever to do our part as an upstander. 

The 2022 theme for July is “Beyond the Numbers”, aiming to highlight the importance of each individual’s story in their fight against mental illness. Rather than grouping a person’s experience into statistics, Mental Health America desires to uplift the people behind the numbers to remind us that everyone’s resilience should be celebrated and acknowledged. In the face of trauma, abuse, and oppression, minority communities continue to thrive and break apart from generational curses. 

Categories
Kindness and Acceptance Self-Compassion

International Self Care Day

By Arya Jodh

International Self Care Day, or ISD, occurs every year on July 24th to represent taking care of oneself all the time; 24 hours, 7 days a week. Created by the International Self-Care Foundation in 2011, the day serves as a message that self care should be practiced all the time, as well as an opportunity to promote self care within the media. Countries around the world have dedicated activities and celebrations promoting self care on this day. In 2019 the World Health Organization created Self-Care Month beginning on June 24 and ending on July 24 to coincide with ISD, further promoting both national and regional initiatives.

Self care itself is defined as taking an active role to maintain your well being and happiness, especially important during periods of stress. Self care can take many forms based on individual needs and wants, and it is crucial to a healthy lifestyle to include time to practice self care. There are 6 types – emotional, physical, social, practical, mental and spiritual. 

Emotional self care addresses any activity that helps you reflect and process ones’ complete range of emotions. Physical self care entails anything that improves your physical health, from taking care of an injury to sleeping longer. Social self care includes any activities that maintain and improve relationships in an individual’s life. Practical self care can take many forms, but anything that prevents future stress or pressured situations falls into this category. This can be completing assignments ahead of time, or planning a budget, even organizing a workspace. Mental self care is slightly different from emotional self care, as activities that stimulate the mind fall into this category. Finally, we have spiritual self care. Anything that makes one think beyond themselves and their lives is considered spiritual self care, whether the activity is religious or not.

In daily life it can be easy to push personal needs to the backburner, however practicing self care in daily life can improve well being and ensure a balanced lifestyle, whether it’s something small or a major change. The first step is figuring out what you can do to decrease your stress, and how you can implement it in your life.

Categories
Post-Traumatic Stress

PTSD Awareness Month

By: Sania Khanzode

June is National PTSD Awareness Month! PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is linked to trauma and stress and impacts approximately 7% of the population. In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at what PTSD really is.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Experiencing fear after a traumatic event is normal as most people will experience symptoms post-trauma. However, for most, recovery follows shortly. Those who continue to exhibit symptoms of stress are diagnosed with PTSD.

What causes PTSD? Trauma is a broad term, so let’s look into some examples that have been shown to cause PTSD.

The NHS outlines the following:

  • Serious accidents
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Abuse, including childhood or domestic abuse
  • Exposure to traumatic events at work, including remote exposure
  • Serious health problems, such as being admitted to intensive care
  • Childbirth experiences, such as losing a baby
  • The death of someone close to you
  • War and conflict
  • Torture

Though these are not the only causes, they are the most common ones. Researchers are still unclear as to why PTSD develops in some victims of trauma and not others. Research has suggested that a smaller hippocampus could, in part, create susceptibility for PTSD. 

What does PTSD look like? PTSD has many symptoms, split into four categories:

  1. Re-experiencing: Flashbacks, recurring dreams about the event, etc.
  2. Avoidance: Avoiding reminders, thoughts, and feelings of the event
  3. Arousal and Reactivity: Being “on edge”, tense, difficulty concentrating, etc.
  4. Cognition and Mood: Cognitive distortions about the event, loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed, continuous negative emotions

The NIMH tells us, “To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have… At least one re-experiencing symptom, At least one avoidance symptom, At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, [and] At least two cognition and mood symptoms.” 

Though PTSD is incredibly difficult to deal with, it can be treated! Let’s talk about some treatments for PTSD: the two main ones are psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy is done by a mental health professional and helps people with PTSD by allowing them to identify their triggers and manage their symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common type of psychotherapy used to treat PTSD.

The medications that are most commonly used to treat PTSD are known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). SSRIs aid in treating the symptoms of PTSD and are often prescribed alongside psychotherapy. 

It is important that we are educated about PTSD and how it can impact those who suffer from it. It is also important that we support those who may be suffering from PTSD. If you know someone that suffers from PSTD, you can help by supporting them, encouraging them, and just listening to them. Being aware of PTSD and what it entails is the first step. 

Sources used:

Categories
Gender Identity Sexual Identity

Be Yourself: Celebrating Pride Month

By: Divya Venkataraman

The English language is suffused with expressions classified as “cliché” and “overused” — one of these being the common phrase “be yourself”. However, regardless of the way “be yourself” is often stigmatized as a cliché saying only for t-shirts, its connotation is something much more important than what meets the eye. 

The phrase conveys a sense of support and understanding to the many people who ponder some of today’s most common questions regarding gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Discovering one’s identity can be confusing — and no one deserves to be shunned for their sense of identity; rather, we deserve to be welcomed and to “be ourselves”. 

The month of June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride Month (often dubbed as “Pride Month”) — a month where, as stated by President Joseph R. Biden Jr., “we reflect on the progress we have made as a Nation in the fight for justice, inclusion and equality while reaffirming our commitment to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights at home and abroad”. We have made much progress when it comes to LGBTQI+ rights — however, there is much more work to be done. Pride Month allows us to celebrate our past wins, but also look towards creating an even more accepting community in the future. 

The Issue

Regardless of the progress we have made since the 1900s, we as a society have a long way to go in order to offer increased support and understanding to those within the LGBTQI+ community. 

In a report examining employment discrimination and harassment against adults in the LGBTQI+ community — conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Williams Institute (School of Law) — 935 LGBT adults were surveyed. The report highlighted that 46% of LGBT workers have undergone unfair treatment at work, 38% of LGBT employees have experienced harassment at work, 50% of LGBT employees are not out to their current supervisors and 34% of LGBT employees have quit their job due to discrimination by their employer. 

Discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community in the workforce is just one of the countless examples there are — from harassment in schools to abusive treatment even in the safety of one’s own home. As such, something to forward the movement for LGBTQI+ rights must be done; Pride Month offers a venue to do so, inspiring many organizations and charities to step up and support the LGBTQI+ community.

How Pride Month Helps

States and countries across the world have been indulging in several different events in honor of Pride Month — to increase support and funds for the LGBTQI+ community. 

Los Angeles (LA) has recently launched their website — lapride.org —  in partnership with TikTok; this website has a collection of several events being held in LA for Pride Month. For example, the “LA Pride Parade” was held on June 4, 2022, and the “Pride is Universal” party and Universal Studios Hollywood will be on June 24, 2022. 

Dallas has recently launched their own website — dallaspride.org — to bring awareness to events being held in Dallas for Pride Month. For example, the “Pride Festival” was held on June 4, 2022, and the “Pride Parade” was held on June 5, 2022. 

Meanwhile, Rome in Italy has launched their pride website — romapride.it — to celebrate events in Rome in honor of Pride Month. For example, Rome had their “MALE!” event on June 5, 2022, and a “PASOLINI” concert celebrating Pride Month on June 6, 2022.

These are just a few states and cities that have celebrated Pride Month in their own way — forwarding the LGBTQI+ movement while raising millions for the community.

Another unique way Pride Month has forwarded the LGBTQI+ movement is through the world’s top #1 most played popular video game: Minecraft. According to GamerTweak, Minecraft is the most played video game in the world as of 2022 with 238 million copies sold  — beating the second-most played game by 83 million copies. The game has become so popular that Noxcrew — an official Minecraft partner and community of creators — has organized a Minecraft Championship (MCC) to be played each month; in this championship, popular Minecraft content creators team up and compete in a series of 9 Minecraft minigames. 

For the past two years, Noxcrew has held an “MCC Pride” event during Pride Month where they encourage their millions of viewers to donate to The Trevor Project  — the world’s largest crisis intervention suicide prevention organization for LGBTQI+ youth — to uncover secrets within the championship. Because of their large audience — hitting 2.25 million peak viewers according to esports charts — MCC Pride 2021 was able to donate $344,785.11 to The Trevor Project. MCC Pride 2022 took place on June 18, 2022, with viewers able to donate through Tiltify; so far, $146,780.00 has been donated! 

Ultimately, there are several ways that Pride Month has encouraged different communities throughout the world to step up and contribute to the LGBTQI+ movement. Pride Month offers such a powerful medium for awareness about the movement to be spread, for millions of dollars for the movement to be raised and for the movement to progress and work towards increasing more LGBTQI+ rights — working towards making the world a safer place for the LGBTQI+ community.

What You Can Do

If you or someone you know would like to contribute to the LGBTQI+ movement, here are some ways to do so! Feel free to start by participating in any events related to Pride Month or just the movement in general; whether that be joining the events listed above or attending pride parades, there are several ways for you to show your support — to show that everyone, regardless of differences, matter. 

Another big help for the movement would be to donate whatever you can. Although there are several organizations out there to raise money for the LGBTQI+ community, here are a few of the more popular ones for this purpose:

  • The Trevor Project: an organization that aims “to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people”
  • Akt: a UK-Based organization that aims “to support young people into safe homes and employment, education or training, in a welcoming and open environment that celebrates lgbtq+ identities”
  • Human Rights Campaign: an organization that aims “to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all”

LGBTQI+ Helplines

If you or someone you know feels as though you need help — whether you are in danger, have self-destructive thoughts or anything else — I highly encourage you to contact one of the below helplines so that you can receive the help you undoubtedly deserve. The following list of LGBTQI+ Helplines is from PFLAG’s “Be Yourself” Manual (dated 2019).

  • The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 
  • Ali Forney Day Center: (212) 206-0574 
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): (800) 342-AIDS (2437) 
    • Spanish service: (800) 344-7432 
    • TDD service for the deaf: (800) 243-7889 [10:00am till 10:00pm EST, Monday through Friday] 
  • The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564 
  • The LGBT National Youth Talkline (youth serving youth through age 25): (800) 246-7743 
  • The National Runaway Switchboard: (800) RUNAWAY (786-2929)

Looking Forward

Pride Month is a way to help members of the LGBTQI+ community feel safe and welcome — feel a sense of belonging in a world where differences should not matter. All members of the LGBTQI+ community, you will always have me — and all LGBTQI+ allies — in your corner because you are valid, understood and accepted. Regardless of who you are or whether you are out publicly, you deserve to feel safe, welcome and proud; most of all, you deserve the freedom to be yourself.

Categories
Self-Compassion

Mental Health Awareness Month

By: Meghaa

It’s that time of year again – the school year is winding down, a summer breeze is in the air, and everyone is ready for vacation! While May is appropriately popular for its blooming scenery, it also marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual event which many people can participate in through a variety of ways. So wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, here are some different methods you can practice to raise awareness for mental health!

Mental Health Awareness Month started in the U.S. in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America (MHA), right after World War II. Since then, MHA has continued the tradition of the month by providing updated online toolkits during March and selecting an annual theme. This year’s “Back to Basics” connects COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on mental health, with MHA recognizing that “stress, isolation, and uncertainty have taken a toll on [our] well-being”. 

As with the theme, let’s start by going over some foundational terms associated with mental health care and their significance. According to MHA, mental health refers to our emotional and social well-being, so it impacts our behaviors, thoughts, and relationships with others. As a result, prioritizing mental health is important to make well-informed decisions regarding daily aspects of our lives. A diagnosis is not needed for a person to be dealing with poor mental health, which can stem from a multitude of factors such as trauma, stress, or genetics. 

Since mental health is a journey, there will be many highs and lows which each bring their own set of unique circumstances. If you are in a good mental place currently, remember to practice coping mechanisms – skills that help you deal with difficult situations – such as taking up a new hobby or extracurricular interest. This way, your skills will be refined and polished to use when needed. These fluctuations in one’s health also lead to struggles such as not feeling “sick enough” to seek treatment for mild symptoms. 

By Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.com

We’ve seen the background behind mental health, so now how can we make a difference? To begin with, educating ourselves is the most important step in the process of advocacy, so we do not spread misinformation and become well acquainted with taboo topics. 

For example, did you know…

  • 50 million or 19% of U.S. adults struggle with mental illness, making it more commonplace than people expect
  • There are 3 clusters of personality disorders characterized by different symptoms
  • The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 not only contends with physical health benefits, but also expands insurance plans to cover mental health treatment

To learn more about similar topics you can do one of these four things suggested or even more!

  • Local: Talk to your school counselor for information regarding mental health basics
  • Casual: Check out MHA’s website for quick facts/statistics
  • Informative: Go to your local library and read books like “This is Depression”
  • Professional: Take an online, college accredited course such as through Stanford

Online advocacy is another good place to start, especially for those with social anxiety or social media access. Toolkits made by organizations like Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), New Directions, and more can help assist with curating infographics and videos to post on online platforms. Many are downloadable and accessible for free, providing reliable content. Bulleted below are just a few toolkits found online, but feel free to explore more!

By Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.com

Last but not least, in-person advocacy is a more direct action that would take more planning and energy to execute, but would leave a greater impact. This can be done on a variety of levels, but starting small helps when beginning your advocacy journey, and then you can build your way up to a greater platform. Through this, you will have the chance to nurture valuable leadership skills to better tackle mental health awareness in new and creative ways! For now remember to think outside the box for a more personal, unique method to communicate your message.

We hope these suggestions empower you to take action and raise awareness for mental health as we go “Back to Basics” for this month! 

By Duy Pham on Unsplash.com

Works Cited:

“Starting to Think about Mental Health.” Mental Health America, https://mhanational.org/starting-think-about-mental-health.

Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Study Skills

By Vihaan and Soven

We all know high school is really tough, and for many of us, focusing on work can be quite tough as well. There are many ways to improve your focus and study skills but the three that have been proved to be the most effective are meditating, taking breaks, and developing a plan for working that works well for you.

Meditation

Meditation can be used for a variety of things and it is most effective when used to combat overwhelming or stressing feelings. When you notice yourself panicking about anything, you should sit down and meditate for 5-10 minutes in order to obtain a calmer mind.

Meditation consists of sitting down and slowing down. You need to focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. The goal of meditation is to clear your mind. Don’t think of the test you have tomorrow or the homework you have to do. All you need to focus on while meditating is your breathing. After you sit down and meditate for 5-10 minutes you should feel very relaxed and rejuvenated. Doctors suggest that after you meditate, you should walk into whatever you are doing with a clear mind and relaxed body.

Meditation helps you focus, and focus helps you improve your study skills. One of the main causes of not being able to focus is stressing too much about things that are not worthy of stressing out over. With improved focus and study skills, you will have even less stress which will allow you to focus better, which in turn will improve your study skills. It is a cycle that, over time, brings many positive outcomes.

Taking Breaks

Another important thing you can do when studying is taking breaks. While these should not interfere with your productivity, they are important. You should take a break, even if it is 10 minutes, every couple or so hours from your work. It can prevent your brain from being fatigued. Additionally, taking breaks can help to lower your stress by giving a few minutes of relaxation, so you can calm down before you get back to work. This can, in turn, improve your creativity, productivity, mental health, and more. Also, having breaks in between your work can make you more motivated to work as you have something to look forward to. 

One very popular technique for taking breaks is called the Pomodoro Method. This is a technique in which you study for 25 minutes and take a five-minute break. This helps to keep your mind aware, awake, and active. Some excellent ways to take a break include: going on a quick walk or getting some fresh air, reading a book, talking to someone, or even taking a quick nap. A short, 10-20 minute nap can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to work again. 

Work Plan

In high school, it is expected for a student to already have a solid studying plan that works well for them. If a student does not have one of these plans, they will struggle until they find one that works for them. There are many ways to develop a good plan but one of the best ways is to let the homework you get in middle school guide you. You should use this homework to figure out what works for you, so when the homework gets harder, you already have a plan. 

I can personally attest that having a work plan increased my ability to study by a factor of 10. Before I developed a study plan that worked well for me, I was struggling. There was a lot of work to manage and I could never seem to find the time that I needed to manage it. This all changed though, when I developed my work plan. My grades improved, I had a lot more leisure time, and my stress levels decreased a lot.

Active Improving

Although the items mentioned above will help you with your passive studying skills, you have to actively improve them as well. There are many things that you can actively do to improve your study skills. These skills include paying attention in class by putting all distractions away, managing your workload by dividing things up, managing time so you don’t procrastinate, making a schedule, paying attention to your homework, and double-checking everything that you have done to make sure that you have not messed it up. Even though these are all study skills that you have to actively think about, if practiced frequently and effectively, these can become passive skills that you would no longer have to think about.

Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Parenting in the 21st Century

Raise your Words
Not your voice
It is rain that grows flowers,
Not thunder
– Rumi


Dr. Daniel Siegal (A psychiatrist and a Clinical Professor at UCLA), in his book ‘Brainstorm – The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,’ talks about the changes in the structure and functioning of the brain during adolescence. In one of his interviews for a teen magazine, Dr. Siegal talks about an architectural restructuring of the teenage brain and an emergence of the adolescent mind that is wonderfully creative,
adaptive, and vibrant.

“Adolescence is the golden age for innovation. The adolescent brain is a construction zone: creativity, innovation, the capacity for abstract thinking, and the need to experiment are traits that drive this period. Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes see the adolescent drive towards experimentation only as a negative, a sign that the teen is being “crazy” or immature.”

Raising kids is tough, and parents are not born with a manual for raising their children. Teens go through social, emotional, and psychological changes between 12 and 18. No two teens are alike, and the values, culture, beliefs, and the environment they grow up in all play a vital role in their wellness and health. The reality is a teen’s brain is in the process of remodeling.

Adolescence can be a challenging time, to say the least, while seeking a secure emotional base or a container where they feel loved and accepted as each teen is going through changes so rapidly. Family can assist in building and supporting a teen’s confidence, help build their identity and be available during their trying times. Our job as parents is to raise a college-bound, portfolio-focused teen with creativity and passion for life.


In India, summer meant playing outside for hours with occasional breaks for food or snacks. We never had many toys, including digital games or social media. Today’s generation of teens, on the other hand, don’t have any time for free play. Their days are packed with structured activities, even in summer, to build up a “portfolio” for the so-called top schools. When my daughters were in high school, they would share how their peers were planning to take many AP courses, online classes, internships over the summer, etc. schedules were packed. Many parents want their teens to go to their chosen top schools only. They have an unrelenting focus on academics at the expense of everything else, including mental health. The physical manifestation of this stress on teens is a growing epidemic – anxiety disorders, migraines, panic attacks, to name a few, and even auto-immune conditions, in some cases.

How can we, as parents, help:
Create a stress-free zone: Parents and teens can develop a “zone out” time together. It could be watching their favorite buzz feed videos/TV, cooking/baking, a time of leisure without judgment or life lessons.

Efforts vs. grades: We can counsel them without an obsessive focus on scores. It can be a life lesson that will help them focus on what they need to do and not stress about outcomes beyond their control. Constantly setting stretch expectations, leading to a relentless pressure to meet them, is toxic for your teen’s health.

Sharing your past: Share your college experiences more as an understanding and awareness for your teen, not necessarily to communicate only your (parent) generation’s methods are correct. It would make any teen feel that they never measure up and can damage the child’s long-term self-esteem.

One-on-One: Celebrating your teen’s accomplishments, sharing their disappointments, and supporting their hobbies helps your teen know you’re interested in them. You don’t have to make a big deal of this, sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up to watch your child play a sport or music, reading together, or cooking or baking, and arts and crafts activity or giving them a ride to extracurricular activities.

Treats: Treats worked in elementary school, and they still do, such as a Starbucks drink or a Jamba Juice. Some parents feel that appreciating their teen’s effort or journey would defocus them and stop putting in their efforts. However, research has shown that positive encouragement is vital for teens to succeed in any environment. It is not a bribe but an acknowledgment of their effort. In addition, an encouraging comment along with the reward will help make the message clear to your child how much you appreciated their efforts.

Be Empathetic: Active listening when you are conversing with your teen, without interrupting with our own opinions or judgments, being curious and open-minded about their point of view, and having patience as they solve their problems could be the best thing you offer your teen. You need to increase your capacity to listen actively, be open, and provide a non-judgmental stance.

For example, when a teen comes home heartbroken as they did not get their desired result in their quiz, a parent could respond, “I saw how much you worked on that; I am so sorry to hear that.” This kind of empathy is powerful to hear someone say, soothes them.

Only STEM mindset: There are some misconceptions that only a few majors guarantee a job. Other than STEM majors, there are other majors in Public Health, Global Health, Economics, Nursing, etc., leading to great jobs and careers. Parents should encourage their children to create a career path that brings them joy as well as a paycheck. Holistic outlook.

The Bureau of Labor published in their latest research that there are going to be more non-stem jobs than today over the next decade.With the present Pandemic, more fields are in the making more so in the health care, public health, construction, real estate and other fields.

Chores/Jobs: As parents, we would like to rescue and complete our kids’ activities and chores. However, it is an excellent time for teens to develop and mature and develop independent living skills. Managing simple tasks like laundry, cooking, or running errands for the house once they start driving, teaches them accountability/responsibility and time management. Holistic outlook.

Limit Setting/Boundaries: By setting up rules, boundaries, and standards of behavior, you give a teen a sense of stability and predictability. Regular family meetings and explaining the benefits and consequences of following rules/boundaries would help. It also helps them internalize the concept of delayed gratification. Of course, there will be pushbacks, yet this practice is integral in a time of chaos.

Conclusion:
Trust and respect are earned not by doing only heroic, victorious deeds, making significant changes, saving lives around you, but also by paying close attention to your teen’s emotions and feelings. Dr. Siegal reemphasizes the importance of how young adults need to be seen and soothed by their parents. Relationships with our teens provide a template for relating with people when they step outside our homes. Developmental relationships are connections that help young become their best selves.

If you are experiencing going through a difficult time, therapy can help; for more information, contact.
Geetha Narayanan – 669-500-5362 OR geethanmft@gmail.com

Links:

  1. Auto-immune condition –
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/autoimmune-disease-and-stress-is-there-a-link-2018071114230
  2. Panic/Anxiety attack – https://nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

Books and Resources:

For Teens:

  • Anxiety Sucks! – Teen survival Guide – Natasha Daniels
  • My Anxious Mind – A teen’s guide to manage anxiety and Panic Michael Tompkins
  • The Self-Esteem habit for teens – Lisa Schab – 50 simple ways to build your confidence every day
  • Reviving Ophelia
  • www.dove.com/self-esteem project

For Parents:

  • Brainstorm – Daniel Siegal
  • The whole Brain Child – Daniel Siegal
  • Emotionally Intelligence – Daniel Coleman
  • www.dove.com/self-esteem project
Categories
Stress Management

National Stress Awareness Month

By Soven Saste

April is National Stress Awareness Month, which has been observed since 1992. In today’s day and age, people are often stressed, so it is important to learn about stress and how to manage it.

What is stress? According to the American Institute of Stress, stress can be defined as a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” Stress is something we all experience at one point or another and is completely normal. Activities in daily life such as school, work, and family life can all cause some degree of stress. However, when you have too much stress, then it can start to become a problem. It can cause problems like being irritable, feeling overwhelmed, having depression, low energy, aching muscles, insomnia, nervousness, racing thoughts, changes in appetite, and much more.

 You cannot always control the things that make you stressed, but you can work on how you deal with tough situations and manage your long-term stress. When present in a difficult situation, put in a focused effort to remain calm, try and understand the situation, and take a step back from the environment if you have to. 

Managing Long-Term Stress

It is important to learn how to manage your long-term stress so that you can stay healthy and happy. Some great ways to manage stress include:

Exercising

When you exercise, you release endorphins, (or feel good hormones) in your body that can combat stress. Going for a short walk, biking, or even swimming are all ways to clear your mind and to control stress. Additionally, a balanced diet can also help to lower your stress.

Partaking in a hobby or leisure activity

Doing something fun and engaging for even 20-30 minutes a day can get your mind off of your issues. You can do things like playing an instrument, knitting, reading, or cooking, among other creative activities.

Meditation/Mindfulness

Recently, many people have started to meditate and practice mindfulness as part of their self-care routines, and for good reason. At Taarika Foundation, we emphasize the practice of meditation and mindfulness for overall health and well-being. Meditating is doing things that essentially attempt to bring you in touch with reality and the present moment. 

There are many ways to meditate, including mindfulness meditation, religious meditation, meditating through exercises such as yoga, and more. You can explore these different options and see which one works best for you. 

Mindfulness is a form of meditation. Mindfulness is often given a false meaning or misunderstood by many people. According to the Oxford dictionary, mindfulness is “ a mental state achieved by concentrating on the present moment, while calmly accepting the feelings and thoughts that come to you, used as a technique to help you relax.” Mindfulness involves being fully aware of your thoughts and feelings but rather than shutting them out, you acknowledge them and the fact that you have them. 

Mindfulness can be applied to many different things. For example, you can be mindful while eating food. That would entail focusing on the food, how it tastes, how it smells, etc. By practicing mindfulness and meditation, you can greatly curb your stress.

Sharing

Sharing your personal issues with someone trusted like a close friend or family member can be very helpful to manage stress. Oftentimes, talking to other people about your stress can help you gain clarity. If your stress load is very heavy, it would even make sense to talk to a professional like a therapist or a psychiatrist. While there is a lot of stigma that might linger around this, it is perfectly normal to talk to a therapist and in fact, getting help is a sign of great strength, courage and resilience. 

This April, put an effort towards making a habit out of self-caring activities like exercise, clean eating, and meditation to keep your stress in control. Remember that it is normal to find these practices challenging even if you might understand how beneficial they are. The important thing is to put your best foot forward and try your best. Try to make improvements that work well for your own circumstances and current habits to have a healthy and satisfying lifestyle.