Categories
ADHD Interview

ADHD and its Treatment: Interview with Child Psychiatrist

In this episode, we interview Dr. Leena Khanzode, a child and adolescent psychiatrist on the Adjunct Clinical Faculty at Stanford University. She explains what ADHD is and about its treatments as well.


Taarika Foundation (TF): Hello everyone, and welcome to Mindful. Beautiful, and Thriving. Today’s podcast is about the treatment of ADHD. With us is Doctor Leena Khanzode, a child psychiatrist in private practice in the Bay Area. She is also an adjunct clinical faculty member at Stanford University. 

TF: Hi Dr. Leena! Thanks for being with us today.

What is ADHD? How common is it?

Dr. Leena Khanzode (DLK): ADHD stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” We classify it as if somebody has ADHD predominantly inattentive type, they have symptoms that are related to low attention. ADHD predominantly hyperactive type is when people are really hyper and fidgety, they have impulse control. In general, girls have the inattentive type and boys have the hyperactive type. It is extremely common, 1 in 7 kids have ADHD. It is a neuropsychiatric condition. This can run in families, this means that you can be born with a differently wired brain which can give you ADHD. Some people tend to outgrow ADHD but some people also have to stay on meds that help them with it for the rest of their life. 

Is there more than one way to treat ADHD, and if so can you tell us a few of them?

DLK: ADHD is treated in a more holistic way. There are three domains of intervention. Biological intervention is when medicine comes into play, psychological intervention when therapy comes in, and social intervention where we look at school and home. We understand that ADHD affects the child’s life everywhere, not only in school. A combination approach works best, using both medicine and working on changing habits. ADHD makes kids feel like they are the problem child. 

Does the type of treatment a person gets depend on the level of ADHD that they have? 

DLK: Yes, it does change with the level of severity. If someone has mild ADHD, then we would often avoid medication. If someone has severe ADHD, we use medication, aids at school, and tools that help the person to study and focus.

Which way of treating ADHD is the most effective?

DLK: A combination of Bio/Psycho Intervention. Having tutors to work with and aids in school work best and sometimes we can avoid medication. Sometimes a lot of classes can be hard for even a bright kid to support and in these instances is when we would use medicine to help the kid focus. Medicine used to combat ADHD is called stimulants. These stimulants release dopamine which helps our brain to be alert and to focus on one subject for longer. These stimulants can work from 8 to 10 hours. There are other types of medication called non-stimulants. These medicines take weeks to build up in your system but unlike stimulants, these medicines work 24/7 because they are working to combat your ADHD. Non-stimulants take time to build, but long-term they will work to help you focus. Both of these types of medications are very effective. 

To treat ADHD, does the person getting the treatment have to put their own effort along with the medicine?

DLK: You need to actively try to focus. Even though medicine does a lot of work, a lot of the work comes from the motivation of the person trying to focus and trying to finish all the things that they have to do. 

Can someone outgrow ADHD? How does that happen?

DLK: Yes, someone can outgrow ADHD. There was a study that was done following kids with ADHD for 10+ years and they found that ⅓ of these kids were able to outgrow ADHD.

Why is it important to treat ADHD and what would happen if someone left it untreated?

DLK: It is important to treat ADHD because kids develop anxiety as they are not doing well in school and they are constantly getting in trouble. This anxiety can lead to other mental disorders such as depression. A lot of teens are prone to abuse substances due to their lack of impulse control. Treating ADHD is important because the consequences of not treating it can be very detrimental. 

TF: Today, we interviewed Leena Khanzode, A child psychiatrist, an Adjunct Clinical Faculty at Stanford. We learned a lot about the treatment of ADHD and how the person getting the treatment has to put effort into it. Again, special thanks to Leena Khanzode for helping us with this podcast. This is the Taarika Foundation, and you are listening to Mindful, Beautiful, and Thriving. Be sure to stay safe and stay home.

Categories
Kindness and Acceptance

Mental Health Holidays (Nov. edition)

November marks the end of the fall season with orange-yellow crunchy leaves on the pavement, pumpkin spice, gray, rainy skies, colder weather, and holidays like Thanksgiving and Veterans Day. It is the precursor to winter, the end of the year, and the holiday season with key themes like gratitude and family being intertwined with the essence of the month. Similarly, mental health is also highlighted during November, with World Kindness Day, Anti-Bullying Week, and International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day being celebrated around the world. 

World Kindness Day (November 13, 2021)

Recognized as an NGO by the Swiss government in 2019, the World Kindness Movement’s efforts stretch back to the Tokyo Convention in 1997 where multiple countries pledged to encourage kindness in their society. At that time, the movement’s inception began with the declaration to “pledge to join together to build a kinder and more compassionate world” and helped start World Kindness Day. Although hoping to gain an official status from the United Nations, the day is internationally celebrated on November 13 by various countries such as the U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada, and more.

The purpose of this day is to spread kindness through small gestures and focus on the positive aspects of our community. It’s easy to see why, since kindness promotes numerous research-proven benefits such as lower blood pressure and increased feelings of unity with others. 

[Practicing k]indness promotes numerous research-proven benefits such as lower blood pressure and increased feelings of unity with others.

You can get involved with this occasion by performing at least three acts of kindness, giving hugs, taking time for self-care, volunteering at a park clean-up, helping a stranger with directions, and more!

Anti-Bullying Week (November 15 – 19, 2021)

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) has organized Anti-Bullying Week, which will be kicking off with Odd Socks Day where unique socks will be worn to celebrate our differences. This year’s theme is “One Kind Word.” Started in 2002, this annual UK event draws participation from 80% of the nation’s schools to combat bullying in classrooms. Statistics have shown that cyberbullying has affected 17% of youth and 30% have been bullied within the last year, leading children to experience serious effects such as obesity, mental health issues, unstable relationships, and more. 

ABA has drawn support from the UK’s parliament, news, and social media. New coverage about the week is estimated to have reached more than 156 million people, and social media hashtags (#AntiBullyingWeek) have been trending on Twitter during the event. Influencers like Victoria Beckham, Emma Willis, Gemma Style, and more have also promoted the cause on their platforms. 

You can participate this week by checking out ABA’s website and getting involved in their organization. You can sign their pledge, peruse through their resource guide, nominate a member of your school staff for an award, buy merchandise, get involved on their social media, and look at their previous impact. 

International Survivors of Suicide Day (November 20, 2021)

From the Greek and Roman Empires to Western society, suicide has been prevalent and often a taboo topic, with many governments condemning it through legislation in an effort to decrease the suicide rates. From 1950 to 1980, an increase in suicide rates for youth doubled and tripled in the U.S., affecting mainly young white males. Now the 10th leading cause of death, there are an estimated 1.3 million suicide attempts and 400,000+ suicide deaths annually.

Nearly 50% of the U.S. has known someone who has died by suicide, and, on average, every 11 minutes, one person dies by suicide. 

In 2019, groups mostly at risk were men (with a 3x rate compared to women), white people (15 deaths per 100,000 people), American Indians/Alaska Natives (13 deaths per 100,000 people), middle-aged adults (19 deaths per 100,000 people), and LGBT youth. Nearly 50% of the U.S. has known someone who has died by suicide, and, on average, every 11 minutes, one person dies by suicide. 

International Survivors of Suicide Day was passed as a resolution in 1999 by U.S. Senator Harry Reid who lost his father to suicide in 1972. Many people who commit suicide often have an underlying mental condition, highlighting the importance of starting taboo conversations. This day is important to remember the victims, connect the community, and pay attention to survivors/at-risk groups. 

You can observe International Survivors of Suicide Day by becoming a suicide prevention advocate, keeping a journal as a healthy coping mechanism, and attending a local grief support group. Check in with those close around you, and be mindful of your impact on people. 

Sources:

https://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/anti-bullying-week
https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/
Categories
Teen and Parent Wellbeing

Resources for COVID-19

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus
https://www.mindheart.co/descargables

Explaining the Pandemic to Kids:

https://www.aacap.org/App_Themes/AACAP/Docs/latest_news/2020/Coronavirus_COVID19__Children.pdf
https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
https://www.ymcasv.org/covid-19-resource-center/project-cornerstone-virtual-resources
https://www.ymcasv.org/covid-19-resource-center/youth-education

Therapy Resources in the USA:

Sidewalk Talk: free online listening to hold space for all people and all feelings.  No fixing, saving, or helping:

https://www.sidewalk-talk.org/onlinelistening.html

Statewide Emotional Support Hotline: a free non-judgmental, emotional, non-emergency support line that allows individuals with mental health challenges to talk to a peer who is trained to help:

https://www.mentalhealthsf.org/peer-run-warmline/

$50 online therapy sessions for frontline workers (e.g., healthcare professionals, first responders grocery store workers): 

https://www.coronavirusonlinetherapy.com

Open-Path Collective: Directory of therapists who offer $30-60 per individual session or $30-80 for couples. The client can filter their searches, such as for CBT or daytime availability. There is a one-time membership fee of $50 for the client:

https://openpathcollective.org

Feeling Good Institute in Mountain View also offers low-cost online therapy.

Find therapists online on this website:  

www.telementalhealthsupport.com

Therapy & Grief Counseling Organizations in the USA:

KARA, Kingsley Ave, Palo Alto. (650) 321-5272

Hospice of the Valley (San Jose):

https://www.hospicevalley.org/programs-and-services/programs/community-grief-and-counseling-center/

BASANT NOW:

https://www.basantnow.org/listing/page/2/

Hume Center Fremont:

https://www.humecenter.org/i-want-to-receive-services-at-the-hume-center

The Center for Living with Dying: (408) 243-0222

https://www.billwilsoncenter.org/services/all/living.html

Resources for Mindfulness & Meditation in the SFO-Bay Area 

Kaveri Patel (Meditation, Journaling & Consults):

https://www.wisdominwaves.com/

Gayathri Narayanan (Daily weekday morning meditations):

https://www.myndtree.org/

Bodhi Tree Sangha (Daily weekday evening meditations led by a group of South Asian teachers):

https://www.bodhitreesangha.com/

Counseling Resources in India

www.empowerminds.com

24/7 FREE line to speak with a mental health expert – 1800-120820050

Bombay Psychiatric Society

For healthcare/front line workers in India: +919769334996 from 9am to 9 pm

Institute of Psychological Health – IPH’s program – “Dilasa”

For frontline workersFREE counseling and psychiatric consultation – +919324753657

Organizations Supporting the COVID Crisis Efforts in India

List provided by Stanford’s Center for South Asia

https://southasia.stanford.edu/news/how-you-can-help-india-during-covid-surge

List provided by the NY Times:

https://oxygenforindia.org

NGOS you should be donating to right now:

https://www.instagram.com/sherryshroff/guide/ngos-you-should-be-donating-to-right-now/17872493183432834/?igshid=1keio3mj14sui
Categories
Stress Management

Stress Management

Description!

Categories
Body Dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphia

In this episode, Taarika’s Youth Team members break down what body dysmorphia means, marking the beginning of the body dysmorphia series.
In this episode, two of Taarika’s Youth Team members conduct the first of a two-part interview with a teen who struggled with Body Dysmorphia.
In this episode, we continue our interview with Kai to get a fuller teenage perspective on what it’s like to struggle with and overcome an eating disorder/body dysmorphia.

Today, I want to talk about a serious topic in our society: Body Dysmorphic Disorder. First, let’s start by really understanding what body dysmorphia is. It’s defined as, “a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance.”

Sometimes, the flaw can be minor, or even just imagined, but it can still cause someone to become fully obsessed with fixing it, thinking about it, and avoiding social situations and photos to hide it. I think it’s become even more of an issue in today’s society, where we see seemingly perfect people on social media, and online, and it makes us focus, and potentially obsess over, our own insecurities.

A huge symptom of BDD is repetitive compulsive behaviors. These are actions such as excessive tanning, shopping, and exercising or seeking cosmetic surgery. On their own, these behaviors may not pose a problem, but two or more together could be signs of body dysmorphia. There are many causes of BDD. Peer pressure, social media, and beauty standards are some of the biggest causes. Prevention is also very important. BDD can take over a person because they believe they are ugly and abnormal, or do not live up to societal standards of beauty.  So, gaining self confidence is the best way to prevent body dysmorphia.

​Although a large percentage of people don’t suffer from BDD, feeling body dysmorphia in general is very common in our society. Especially living in a time where social media dominates much of our daily lives, seeing beauty standards that seem impossible to achieve has the ability to make you feel really negative about yourself. It isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it is something you should definitely reach out to someone about.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

[With] social media dominat[ing] much of our daily lives, seeing beauty standards that seem impossible to achieve [can] make you feel really negative about yourself.

Taarika Youth Ambassador

BDD is incredibly hard to go through on your own. In the long term, BDD can cause co-occurring disorders such as depression and eating disorders. It can also cause negative social impacts such as poor performance in school or work and loss of relationships. If you think you have body dysmorphic disorder, here are a few steps you should take immediately. 

First, talk to a close friend or family member, and when comfortable, reach out to a mental health professional. There are treatments that can help, but you can’t do it alone. 

​You can also work on improving your body dysmorphia without seeking professional help.

Here are some ways:

  1. Practice reduction strategies: as in removing excessive mirrors from your house, limiting social media screen time                                  
  2. Practice daily routines: develop a healthy sleep schedule, and a comfortable exercise routine
  3. Take risks everyday: try to wear something in your closet that takes you out of your comfort zone, or try to show off something you normally hide. If you feel uncomfortable without makeup, maybe facetime a friend bare-faced, and see how you feel.
     

If you think that a friend or family member has BDD, this is how to help:

  1. First, be sure that they have symptoms of body dysmorphia. An easy one to spot is when hanging out with them. If they constantly talk about a certain body part they hate and it always seems to take over the conversation, they may have BDD.
  2. Work on steering conversations away from their appearance and try not to talk about your own insecurities. This can end up in a more negative conversation and won’t make the person feel like someone relates to them. 
  3. Don’t mock your friend or family member, even if you think it’s a joke. They most likely won’t feel the same way and may clam up later when you bring up the same issues.
  4. Encourage them to get help and talk to a therapist or psychotherapist.

For people struggling with BDD, a lot of the negative feelings and obsessions come from someone’s individual mindset about their flaws. As we talked about earlier, BDD deals with obsessing over a flaw, or going the extra mile to make sure that that flaw is fixed. The main goal of the treatment for BDD is to change the way a person sees themself, and put them on a journey to self-love. This is much easier said than done, though. For many people who do struggle with BDD, it often becomes the main focal point, or obsession, in their life. Some ways to not let BDD derail your life are: writing down the parts of your body you feel thankful for, coming up with a plan of action when you begin to put yourself down to distract yourself, or stop yourself, and maybe taking a break from social media – if that’s a potential cause – to stop comparing yourself to other people or unrealistic beauty standards. 

​Regaining self confidence is hard, even if you don’t have BDD. It’s important to find someone you can talk to, especially because your flaws aren’t  flaws at all. Hopefully this article gave you some insight into causes, symptoms, and treatments of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and ways to achieve self-confidence in spite of it!

Check out our episodes below to learn more about the treatment of BDD from a clinical perspective. If you or a loved one are considering seeking professional help for body dysmorphic disorder, this information might help you make an informed choice regarding what kind of care you/they are seeking.
In this episode, two of Taarika’s Youth Team members interview Dr. Leena A. Khanzode, a child psychiatrist. Dr. Khanzode discusses her role in the treatment of ED’s and how she helps kids get on the path to recovery.
In this episode, two of Taarika’s Youth Team members interview Dr. Kelly Troiano, a pediatrician. Dr. Troiano discusses her role in the treatment of ED’s and how she helps kids get on the path to recovery.
In this episode, Taarika’s Youth Team members interview Nan Shaw, a licensed clinical social worker, and FBT credentialed therapist. Nan has been treating eating disorders for over 30 years and speaks on Family-Based Therapy, a specialized treatment for eating disorders.
In this episode, we wrap up our eating disorder series with an interview with Wendy Sterling — a well-known nutritionist in the Bay Area. She discusses her role on the team to treat ED’s and how she helps the patient.
Categories
Conflict Resolution Parenting

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Parents

Description of this page!

Our first parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.
Our second parent series episode is about conflicts between parents and teens, and how to work through them constructively and with care.

Note from Taarika Board Member, Punam Nagpal, who led the Conflict Management series with Ms. Deborah La Fond LMFT.

Conflicts can occur at home, in the workplace, and in society. The main reason for most of my conflicts ends up being misunderstanding and Mr. Doubt. In my experience, 90% of conflicts can be resolved by removing the misunderstandings and doubts and if we can let go of the remaining 10%, we can have a beautiful relationship with almost everyone at home, in the workplace, and throughout our communities.

I had the pleasure to record nine podcast episodes with Ms. Deborah La Fond LMFT, who is a Psychotherapist and an expert working with kids and families for more than 22 years. In these podcasts, we discussed the sources of conflicts at home, the possible consequences of these conflicts, and of course, the strategies to handle these surprisingly-common situations.

In the final episode, I shared my own learnings of managing conflicts with my son and daughter, who are now 15 and 20 years old, respectively. During this parenting journey, I had to unlearn 4 Cs – Comparison, Criticism, Competition, and Control. At the same time, I embraced other 4 Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Connection, Compassion.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

During this parenting journey, I had to unlearn 4 Cs – Comparison, Criticism, Competition, and Control. At the same time, I embraced other 4 Cs – Communication, Collaboration, Connection, Compassion.

Punam Nagpal

I learned that I need to be a role model for my kids. Whatever I want my child to learn, first I need to exhibit that in my own behavior – “walk the talk.” Nurturing their body is important by offering nutritious food but nurturing their soul is equally important. Comparison, Criticism, Competition and Control drain their inner powers while Communication, Collaboration, Connection, Compassion will empower them to choose and walk on the right path. Powerful parents will raise powerful kids. If I create vibrations of worry, anger and conflict at home, that will make the whole family weak. It’s the parents’ responsibility to make a peaceful and harmonious environment at home.
 

For more guidance, please listen to the episodes above where I share what I had to let go of and what I did to embrace problem-solving and mutual understanding within my family.

Categories
Self-Compassion

Self Care & Compassion

In the “Self-Compassion” segment of our articles, our team expands on the subtopics of how to become our own best friends, balance self-care with an ambitious workload, develop meaningful passions, and unearth a zest for life through positive self-talk. 


Click Here to Listen

Part 1:

Today calls for a subject that’s very close to our hearts: Self-love. 

Especially in high school, we feel like we’ve kind of normalized self-deprecation and being dissatisfied with ourselves. Everyone seems to think they aren’t enough and it’s almost weird to come across someone who doesn’t feel this way. 

Even in middle school, so many students are worried about high school and college. They feel that if they mess up once they will not achieve their goals.  

It’s really worrisome to think that even in middle school, students are stopping themselves even before they’ve really started. We think self-compassion is actually something we love to talk about, and that we are so fascinated by because it’s something we’ve personally been working on. Being overly dependent on our friends or being afraid to be alone can feel really normal after a while, and we think many people don’t even realize they need to make a change in how they see themselves. 

Truth is, it’s made a big change in our lives to see ourselves as our own best friends. We read this somewhere probably a year ago: it said to give yourself advice if you faced any conflict as though you were someone else, like a close friend. What we mean is, we know a lot of times when we’re mistreated by someone, we might go to vent to a close friend. 

We probably know what she’s going to say – ohmygod, the audacity! Just ignore her, you deserve so much better! – but we’d still go to her anyway because reassurance is nice to hear. And sometimes, if we’re irrationally unhappy or upset, we might tell ourselves that it’s ok to just feel the emotions and let them pass so we can move on to better, more important things.

Included below are a few more tricks that will help you stay confident and self-loving in the face of doubt:

  1. Reassurance from friends, but also family. Friends will always be there for you, but the connection with family is stronger. Many teenagers probably think that telling your parents or siblings anything sounds childish, but the connection you have with your family shows that they will also be there for you in your bad times.
  2. We also need to have a connection with ourselves, hence self-love. Something that has really helped me is thinking of myself as another person. How and what would we do to help myself? Like how your best friend would help you, becoming your own best friend.   

We think we’ve made ourselves a bigger part of our own lives if that makes sense. We’ve been making our experiences less about other people and their effects on us, and more about myself and how we respond to changes in my life. It’s important to change the way we frame our feelings—for example, saying, “We feel upset because we feel like [blank] has broken our trust,” rather than “[blank] has broken my trust and hurt me.” 

Society is always focusing on what other people think and not on what every individual thinks about themselves and how they are feeling. People are constantly saying things to hurt others, but we can’t change someone because we want to. wet only matters how we view the situation. Do you want to be positive or negative? Self-compassion can shape us into people with a purpose. 

This might seem like a minor problem, especially since we have the freedom to think whatever we want and it’s easier to pin the blame on others, even if it feels right. But the truth is, our thoughts are translating into our words, like when we explicitly tell people that they’re to blame for the problems in our life, and in a way, we’re teaching ourselves that it’s optional to take ownership of our emotions and that it’s best to play the victim in any given situation. We feel like this is unfair to the people in our lives as well as ourselves because soon, this might just become our go-to reaction without even our knowledge. 

To unlearn this bad habit, we’ve been putting a focused effort into asking ourselves, “How can we move past this?” when something in my life changes and we feel upset. It might be true that other people’s actions are to blame for our predicament, but what can we do about them? Change is constantly happening, and a lot of it isn’t great. This is especially why we have to stay away from reacting to every single thing and focus on ourselves instead. 

According to Dr. Kristin Neff, the Co-Founder of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, “[Self-criticism] doesn’t say what to do differently or how to do it differently. Or it doesn’t see the bigger picture of all the causes and conditions that led to this outcome. Kindness, on the other hand, yields a kind of wisdom, ‘Oh I see. I did this. Maybe I can try this differently next time and that would lead to a better effect.’”

This is definitely easier said than done, but for me, it’s helped immensely to just work on the way we think. Given a couple months, the mindset and actions seem to just follow. 

Something we can do to focus on ourselves is to pinpoint our passions and develop them. We can use this to not only focus on ourselves instead of others but also to find things we love about ourselves. It feels good to take a look in the mirror to recognize your own skills in ways you might not usually do: “I love that I am good at art,” or “I like that I do my best while baking.” Finding new hobbies that make us feel good about ourselves can change how we feel about the world as well. Things like, “I never realized…” and “In the future, I hope…” can help us progress as people. 

We’ve also realized that figuring out our passions and working on them makes us spend our time in much more meaningful ways. we’ve definitely heard this line more times than we can count – “Every day, we wake up and go to school and come home and do homework and go to sleep. it’s like we’re stuck in this pattern that just repeats for weeks on end, and we’re so tired of it.” 

Sounds horribly monotonous, doesn’t it? These kinds of lives are what make us ask the question, why we even need to exist. Just to follow the preset track of life? we don’t think so. Finding something we love – whether it’s the creative arts, or science and math, or an instrument, or advocating for civil rights – is incredibly liberating and exciting. 

Many people dread being alone because when they sit alone with their thoughts, that’s when they think about all the losses and negatives of their lives. In our experiences, this is a big reason why people can’t bother to spend time to really get to know themselves and be comfortable by themselves. Sometimes we forget that the most important relationship in our lives is the one with ourselves. For that relationship to be meaningful and interesting, we need a passion that can both challenge and fulfill ourselves. 

In the end, this is all we’re trying to say: 1) Spend more time alone, and appreciate yourself. 2) Treat yourself with the same compassion you give your best friends. 3) Take ownership of your own emotions and become as emotionally independent as you can. 4) Figure out your passions, and spend more time on them. 

These are lessons that anyone could benefit from. When we acknowledge our skills and appreciate ourselves, we achieve more. And when we achieve more, it becomes easier and easier to love ourselves. This in turn feeds a cycle of self-compassion and success we doubt any of us wouldn’t want to live in. All we have to do is kickstart the process.

Part 2:

Time Alone

Hey guys! In this article, I’m going to expand on something I mentioned in our self-compassion introductory blog—spending time with ourselves and appreciating our own company. Sounds cheesy, but I think it’s a skill worth learning because we’re stuck with ourselves for life regardless of our feelings on that. 

One strategy to appreciate our own companionship is to get comfortable doing certain activities alone that you might usually do with friends. Many of us think that some activities are inherently meant to be done with other people, like having a good rant session, taking a walk or going out to eat, but sometimes it could make you just as happy to be doing these things with yourself. 

It almost sounds silly to say “with yourself” since that still means you’ll be alone but the truth is that you are a lively and interesting person to spend time with! 

Walk over to Starbucks, order your favorite drink, and stop feeling weird about going alone! Just find a seat to sip your drink and think. You must have so many things on your mind right now, from schoolwork to your wacky dream from last night to friendship hiccups to quarantine recipes to try out. This might be the perfect chance to get some calm, quiet and unbothered time you wouldn’t get if you were with your friends.

A few months ago, I (Malavika) decided to go on walks around my school campus a couple times a week during my free period. I would take my phone with me and open up the Notes app if I ever wanted to jot down some thoughts or add something to my to-do list. Everything around me was really quiet and that really gave me a great opportunity to get some time just with my thoughts. I know a lot of teenagers feel alone—whether in the context of friendships, relationships or just in general—so it was important to me to break out of that kind of feeling, which I’m now able to.

Writing in a journal or jotting down thoughts is a great open space for our thoughts and makes it easier for us to get to know ourselves and loosen up our minds, releasing stressful/anxiety-inducing thoughts. Though some of our more negative thoughts can be uncomfortable to admit even if only to ourselves, it helps me to validate both the positive and negative emotions I experience. 

Additionally, another important note is to actually schedule this free time for ourselves and make a routine out of it. If we’re anything alike, I know what you’re thinking: I’m way too busy for that. Truth is, as weird as it seems, scheduling in free time actually eased up my day-to-day routine because it erased the illusion that my schedule was rigid and that I was constantly running out of time. As it turned out, I wasn’t actually doing homework seven hours a day—a lot of it was wasted in stressing, checking my phone, and getting bored with lengthy assignments. Once I started taking more breaks and padding my schedule with time to just relax, the rest of my schedule eased up too, as though the effect was contagious. 

Lastly, something to keep in mind is that this free time isn’t something to be sacrificed or compromised, ever, whether it’s for the sake of work or friends or a relationship. We know that the biggest reason why people usually lose sight of self-care is usually distractions. But as important as our schoolwork and family responsibilities and social life are, we owe it to ourselves to keep aside at least ten minutes a day to unwind and check-in with ourselves. Don’t let your “me time” get overshadowed by other things because you are always just as important as your top priorities.

So long story short: Spend more time with yourself. Get comfortable going alone to places you might usually visit with friends, jot down your thoughts in a journal, and schedule free time for yourself to do what you love. These are all ways you can work on yourself, in terms of self-love, self-care, and overall personal growth.

Part 3:

Meaningful passions

Hey friends, in our third blog of the Self-Compassion series, let’s talk about how to find meaningful passions and make them a regular part of our lives. 

To begin, let’s do a quick recap on what passions are. They are not the things we think sound the most impressive to colleges or our relatives. They don’t even necessarily have to be what you’re planning to pursue as a career, though you always can. A passion is some sort of activity that both challenges you and makes you joyful (and it doesn’t hurt if you’re good at it too). 

If you’ve always felt a bit stuck in this sense, and you’re also someone who’s stayed with the same activities for quite a few years, those two things might be connected! It’s vital to explore new things to figure out what we love. If you’re interested in something and want to see if it excites you, first you need to create time to try it. You might even stumble across a few secret talents you never quite realized you possessed! This is a chance to get to know yourself better, more than anything else.

For me (Malavika), the process of figuring out what I love has been slow, but rewarding. I realized sometime between my sophomore and junior year of high school that there have been specific things from my middle school years till now that’ve motivated me and perked my interest much more than other activities. (Also, a true tell-tale sign of a passion is when taking part in an activity seems to energize you.) So basically, I did my own thing, tried a ton of extracurriculars, paid attention in school, did a bunch of reflection, and realized that I love studying psychology, writing, and culture, among a couple other things too. 

Also, just as a disclaimer for middle and high schoolers, don’t feel the need to lie to yourself for the sake of having the “right” ones. You can be a great CS major and future tech god and still be passionate about music or watercolor painting or Jane Austen books. If you’re aiming for a STEM career, it can be a great motivating factor to study if biology is your passion. However, if you’re passionate about writing or singing, these interests can help you approach your future career with a unique perspective, which will ultimately be an advantage when you’re older. 

An important note we want to reinforce is that a passion should be slightly challenging. If you love graphic designing, that’s a great passion to have, because imagining and crafting a work from start to finish takes a lot of mental effort. On the other hand, watching Netflix isn’t something we could consider a meaningful passion because it’s a passive activity that doesn’t require your thought. 

If you still can’t seem to figure out the hobbies that make you happy, try asking yourself these questions. 1) What makes you lose track of time? 2) What do you love talking about? 3) What makes you proud?

Our last point is about learning not to compromise our passions. You have to find time to do these things we’ve mentioned, which will seem hard because your schedule probably already feels full. This new chunk of time is to unwind, get into our zones, and block out the distractions. Just set aside 20 minutes a day to try this out and you can count this period as your “me time” for the day. Without this time, you might feel too busy to do something enjoyable just for yourself and not for the sake of any obligatory or work-related matter. 

Remember: If you feel you don’t have enough time to work on them, schedule in time! Many of us waste substantial amounts of time and still call ourselves productive at the end of the day, but writing down our to-do list and scheduling in our priorities leaves us no room to lie to ourselves. (Don’t feel guilty, we’re only human.) If we get 8 hours of sleep a night, that leaves us 16 hours to get everything done. That’s more than enough if you’re productive, no matter the low standards you might have for yourself right now. 

Some of you might scoff at the idea of exploring new interests or figuring out your passions because your parents might disapprove. Try not to stress. If you want your parents on board, then take a bit to understand their concerns. Give yourself a while to keep your frustration in check, and then put yourself in their shoes. 

Our parents say they know what’s best for us so give them the benefit of the doubt. Talk to them, ask them why they don’t support you and give them reasons they should be 100% behind you. Explain to them how you are progressing with your passion and how your interests and career goals are not mutually exclusive. (Also, a pro-tip: Talk to your parents about how diversifying your interests adds depth to your character and worldview (which employers and grad schools care about).) Hopefully, that’ll win them right over!

To wrap things up, many students we know struggle to spend their time in ways that feel meaningful to them. This is quite possibly because the process of trying out different passions is almost always overshadowed by other priorities/responsibilities, from schoolwork to other extracurriculars which we might have gotten involved in as very young children. While many people may love the extracurriculars they already take part in, many others are doing them for validation and approval, whether from their parents, teachers, or college admissions officers. 

This is what we’d like to emphasize most in this blog: No one benefits when you reject or ignore your true strengths and interests, whether or not you’ve figured out what they are yet. Colleges rarely want a facade or a one-dimensional STEM student who’s limited themselves to a single interest all their lives. To add on, very few people can thrive by living a life based on the validation of others; you need validation from yourself first. 

So to summarize: 1) Make sure you understand what passions are and why they’re significant to uncover 2) Explore your interests and find your passions, and 3) Invest time into them, and don’t compromise that time.

Part 4:

Interview with Marina Barnes

Our guest speaker today is the Wellness Educator at Saratoga High School, Marina Barnes. She teaches mindfulness and a mindful self-compassion program to teens called, “Making Friends with Yourself.” She was interviewed by one of Taarika’s youth members, Malavika Eby. 

What is Mindful Self-Compassion?

Marina: Mindful Self-Compassion consists of, as you can tell, mindfulness and self-compassion.  Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening right now.  Our minds tend to go into the past or to the future, and if we’re able to focus our attention to what is happening right now, it gives us more information about our experience.

And if our experience right now is of struggle and difficulty, mindfulness can help us see how we are dealing with the struggle.  Are we responding to it with self-doubt or harsh criticism, or are we responding to it with kindness?  If we can see that we are beating ourselves up, then in that moment of recognition, we can choose to respond to the struggle with kindness.  This can be a supportive touch such as placing your hand over the heart, or telling yourself: “This time, I’m going to be kind to myself.” 

The Application of Self-Compassion

Malavika: These past few months, I’ve reflected a lot on the way I treat myself, through my actions, but also through my thoughts. I realized that when I replaced a lot of my self-deprecating inner dialogue with support, I began to develop a much more positive relationship with myself. When I reassured myself that the bumps in the road are natural and part of being human, it gave me a chance to feel negative emotions and work through them.

It’s so interesting to me that a lot of the things I did actually have a name: mindful self-compassion! It just goes to show that this practice is nothing radical; rather, it can start to feel natural and even instinctual every time we try another self-compassionate exercise. 

Marina: Yes, definitely. With awareness and practice, you can replace the critical inner voice with a much kinder and gentler voice.  This is especially helpful in times of stress.  To understand why your peers treat themselves poorly, it might be that it is much easier for most of us to treat others with kindness than to treat ourselves with kindness.  

Research has shown that 77% of people are significantly more compassionate to others than to themselves.  16% are equally compassionate to themselves than to others.  And only 6% are more compassionate to themselves than to others.  Chris Germer, co-developer of mindful self-compassion says self-compassion is like doing a u-turn.  What would you say to a friend to try and comfort them when they are struggling with something similar to what you’re struggling with?  To me, the u-turn is, can you say the same thing to yourself?  

Malavika: I love that analogy, Marina! So to wrap things up, today, we learned what mindful self-compassion is, the research behind why we might not already treat ourselves with self-love, and a little about my own personal experiences with practicing self-compassion. 

Here, Marina and I will actually guide you through a meditation that puts these ideas into effect.