Healthy Summer Routines and Skills

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Summer is sometimes hard

Even though summer is a much needed break, some teens report feeling more isolated and without the structure and distraction of school, some can feel overwhelmed with too much freedom.  To ward off summer time anxiety, lethargy, or loneliness, it can be helpful to develop healthy routines, especially around sleep, eating, exercise, and social activities.  

Sleep

While going to bed later and sleeping in is natural in the summer months, not setting some healthy limits around this, can actually make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.  It is important to not allow your teen to stay up until all hours of the night playing video games or watching YouTube then sleeping in until 1pm.  It's not as much about the hours of sleep someone gets as much as it is about exposure to the blue light of screens and exposure to natural light.  When we allow our children to stay up every night and miss half of the day's sunlight, we are potentially setting them up for sleep issues, especially when school starts back.  Depending on age, my suggestion is to extend bed/wake time to 1-2 hours after school schedule with some flexibility for occasional late nights for sleep overs, parties, and such.  It will be much easier to get back into an earlier bed time come fall and with far less potential for issues.

Diet

Along with sleep, we often under estimate how nutrition plays a role in creating and maintain mental health, especially mood.  Sleeping in very late can lead to skipped meals and teens may tend towards grazing on carbs all day.  Drinking high sugar drinks and caffeine can also perpetuate sleep disturbances and mood issues.  Have a conversation about summer time meal expectations and try to stock easy to make, nutritional meal items as well as favorite fruits, cheeses, healthy snacks, and ingredients for smoothies.  If you work and your teen will be spending some time alone each day, pre-make some items or if they are old enough encourage them to make the meals you've discussed.  If you allow your older teen some caffeine make sure it is within a healthy limit and not too late in the afternoon or it can interrupt sleep.  If you are unclear about specific nutritional needs or would like assistance in helping your teen get the proper nutrition needed to support optimal health, contact your doctor.  A good resource is also located HERE.  As always, if your teen has special dietary needs, follow your doctor or nutritionist's recommendations.  Don't forget water!!

Activity

Exercise is also a often misunderstood component to creating and maintaining mental health.  It is well studied and well known that physical activity can lift mood and reduce stress.  There are so many temptations for teens, especially if they do not play sport, to sit and stare at some type of screen all day especially in the summer.  It is so important to encourage your teen to find ways to exercise every day in some way.  Joining summer time rec leagues, swimming, biking, hiking, walking, running, and even really unique options exist in most cities.  Do a family challenge like Couch to 5K or the many MetroPark Programs that encourage family exercise.  Breaking up screen time with reading, music, and creativity is also important.  Get creative and use it to motivate you as well!

Social Interaction

Connecting in real life (IRL) is so important to mental health and wellness.  In fact, research is now showing that loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking and obesity!  While there are many factors that can contribute to the sense of loneliness, being home alone a lot, spending excessive amounts of time on devices, and simply not getting enough face-to-face contact with peers, can be extra challenging in the summer time.  There are wonderful summer camps and ways to be sure your teen gets IRL time with friends and family.  Be sure your teen is getting enough of this sometimes overlooked component to health and well-being.

P.S. If your teen enjoys being creative and is looking for opportunities to connect to like-minded teens this summer while also developing new artistic skills, be sure to check out my SUMMER CREATIVITY WORKSHOPS!  This is not a therapy group but time for connection and experiencing the joy of creativity!  Do individual workshops bases on time and interest or purchase the whole series!

P.P.S If your teen also would like a little more support and would like to work on a few therapeutic goals over the summer, ask about CREATE & COPE THERAPY GROUP for Middle School and High School teens!  This group goes deeper than the creativity workshops and is a perfect opportunity for teens to gain coping skills to take into the school year!   

What are Primitive Living Skills?

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As the April 30th deadline for the Spring Create & Cope Camp approaches, I thought it might be helpful to not only provide a sneak peak at the types of things your teen will be doing but share why I feel it is so important to overall health and well being.  So let's start with Primitive Living Skills and why learning them are beneficial.

WHAT ARE PRIMITIVE LIVING SKILLS?  The word primitive means different things to different people.  You may think simple, unsophisticated, basic, ancient, or out-dated.  However, primitive living skills are truly the core survival skills which have allowed the human race to survive and even thrive in very challenging situations.  The ability to make fire, create shelter, and find water and food sources is everything.  Learning these skills were not optional and still are the most important skills to have in many cultures.  Our "modern" culture has disconnected us from nature over time.  Many of us have no idea how we would survive if we were lost or tragedy struck.  

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?  I have been fortunate enough to not only participate in Coyote Trails School of Nature Fox Trails but also to teach creative arts at two of their camps.  What I experienced as a student was profound especially in terms of my connection to nature and the confidence I gained around survival skills.  I witnessed many children and adults going from nervous and afraid of bugs and being in nature, to confident and connected to themselves and the earth.  I saw my own children grow in confidence and become less scared to be alone in the woods, especially at night!  It is my sincere belief that our disconnection to nature and lack of knowledge and skills create a great deal of anxiety.  When we begin to learn how to get back to the basics, we feel comforted in our ability to survive should our cozy, modern lives ever be disrupted.  In fact, these skills led me to feel confident enough to sleep outdoors, alone with nothing but water and a mosquito net for 3 days (2 nights)!!  It was NOT easy or comfortable, and there may have been a full body rash from chigger bites, but I survived and I learned something about my resilience and courage I would never have learned otherwise.  I am a far less fearful and anxious person because of these experiences and I feel strongly that I am not alone in this transformation.

A TASTE OF CONFIDENCE:  My goal in offering a seasonal one day camp that includes exposure to primitive living skills and nature awareness is to provide teens with a way to stay connected to nature and to learn how very powerful they really are.  By teaching core survival skills, teens gain a deep sense of comfort knowing that they can provide for their basic needs if ever faced with a survival situation.  I believe this confidence not only quells anxiety but encourages a curiosity and respect for nature that we so desperately need today.   

WATCH HOW TO MAKE FIRE USING A HAND DRILL 

Join us MAY 19th in the Cuyahoga National Valley Park from 9-7pm for a day of connection and creativity!  REGISTER BEFORE APRIL 30th!!!  

Empowered Parenting: Partnering with Your Teen

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What if you could gain some super powers when it comes to parenting your teen?  What if you learn some new skills to help you feel more centered, more in control as a parent?  What if you could begin partnering with your teen instead of battling with them?

Join me LIVE Monday April 9th at 12:00pm as I kick off the first of a FREE five part series on Empowered Parenting! In this series, you will learn how to partner with your teen using:

  • the power of mindfulness
  • a new understanding of emotional intelligence
  • improved distress tolerance skills, and
  • creative organization skills to quiet the chaos.

Register for your spot today! Replay will be available if you can't make the LIVE!

Why do you get out of bed?

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You may think someone has it all together.  But what you don't see is often the very personal and invisible struggle they use to fuel their life each day. You don't see them under the covers in the morning wrestling with themselves to just sit up and put their feet on the ground.  You don't see the very personal reasons they never give up or what the Japanese call Ikigai (ee-kee-gah-ee). 

Many people in my life know my son has cystic fibrosis. It's not a secret.  Just google my name and my work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or being a mom of a child with chronic illness will surely pop up.  Some know what we went through before diagnosis and the trauma he (we) endured. But only a very few know of my personal journey with PTSD as a result and how, while so very vulnerable and wide open, I found some good help and some not so good help.

Why am I sharing this today?

I guess I’m thinking someone will read this today who, on the outside looks ok (maybe even more than ok) to everyone who knows them, but may have no way to even begin to share those thoughtsthose scary moments that send them into a sort of emotional paralysis, maybe even on a daily basis.  And I want them to know, that life is not really about being ok or getting yourself together BEFORE you let someone see you.  I want you to know, it’s about showing up when you aren’t ok and sometimes proving to yourself that you can indeed at least get out of bed today.

I want you to know if (or when) you ever project your own power or beauty or creativity or worthiness or whatever it is you think you don’t have yourself onto that person that has their stuff together just know this...everyone had to decide why they were getting out of bed today.

My Ikigai

For me, on really tough days, I get out of bed for my children and those I love. If that doesn’t work it is then to fight cystic fibrosis with and for my son. If that doesn’t work, it is to get up for and walk along side the children and families I serve who right now may be in an even harder struggle than I could even fathom. A struggle I may find myself in one day.  

Usually the first reason is all I need, but I sometimes need all three to plant my feet on the floor and rise. 

I am human.

I get so very tired. 
I get confused. 
I get sad beyond measure.
I get angry at the messiness of life.

I get sick of disease and suffering. 
At times, I am intolerant of people who make up stuff to be upset about (super judgey I know!).
And at times, I’m intolerant of myself when I make up stuff to be upset about!

Coffee Helps

But on those kind of days, I get up any way. I go through each of my 3 reasons and I put my feet on the ground and I just stand up (and I make strong coffee, good strong coffee).

I know in the deepest crevices of my being that teens need to see someone a little older than them (or a lot) surviving, dragging themselves through the muck, and making it through when it’s hard. They just need to know it’s going to be ok and that sometimes it’s going to be really awesome too; that there are and will be so many (countless really) mornings you can’t wait to wake up. They need to know the struggle is worth it...no matter what...and that staying in the tension may not be easy, or comfortable, but it’s possible, and certainly worth it.

Death sucks. Diseases sucks. Mental illness can suck. Trump definitely sucks. But these things are also part of life and have their place at the table right next to pleasure, awe, fun, peace, and laughter. 

Helping teens find their ikigai

People ask me all the time: “How can you work with suffering or dying children, that’s so sad? Oh, wow, you work with teens, god bless you, that’s a tough crowd!” Well, the answer I’ve come up with is because I have to get up today too. I have to face the very fears I struggle with as well. I have to know I’m not alone in this. And I do know. I’m not alone.  And the quiet presence of someone who simply knows and accepts this is very powerful - in fact, even if begrudgingly, it may be your very super power whether you know it or not!!

It is why I’m a therapist. I really have no choice. It is one of the reasons I get up every morning.  

Sincerely,

Jody Pittner, ATR, LPC

 

The Power of Allowing

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One of the most powerful aspects of art therapy is what it allows to emerge within a session.  At a time when many teens feel overly constrained by obligations, packed schedules, and even the well-meaning advice from adults in their lives, art therapy can provide the space and time to JUST BE.  Art expression allows teens to explore their inner world so that they can begin listening to the whispers of the soul which are so often muffled by the busyness of life.  

Freedom and Control:  Art therapy allows both the freedom and control many teens are longing for in their lives.  During an art therapy session they get to choose what is created, how it is created, the materials they use, and ultimately the narrative they share or choose not to share about their art.  This sense of autonomy can be explored in session and the art therapist can assist teens in developing new, appropriate ways of asserting oneself and the need for more independence in everyday life.

Expression and Expansion: Art therapy is also a safe space to express and expand into difficult emotions which may feel too overwhelming or even unsafe to explore in life.  Using color, texture, physical movement, mess-making, and other kinesthetic qualities of certain materials can lead to cathartic release within the body.  Getting what is stuck out in a safe way frees the body and mind to process what may be underneath intense emotions like anger, grief, jealousy, hatred, and frustration.  This powerful form of expression can allow teens to learn how to respect difficult emotions and better understand and meet their own needs.

Containment and Closure:  While art therapy can provide powerful ways to express and let go, it can be equally powerful in offering a way to contain.  At times, it is appropriate to find ways to contain difficult emotions, memories, or aspects of a traumatic experience to establish a feeling of safety and control.  When overwhelming emotion is spilling into every area of life, art expression, especially when combined with mindfulness, can honor the pain while also providing a teen with a safe way to contain it.  Creating boxes, containers, folding drawings, and safely storing representations of pain that feels “too big” can allow teens to feel they are able to approach things in their own time and when they are ready.  Containment art can also allow important endings or closures to be marked and released.  

Whether your teen needs a space to simply be, a safe place to express and explore overwhelming emotions, or a way to contain and safely unpack difficult life experiences when they are ready, art therapy offers a powerful way forward through the simple power of allowing.  

[Hear more from Jody on this topic]

Does art therapy sound like something your teen would benefit from at this time?  Schedule a free 15 minute consult with Jody to learn more and get your questions answered!


BECOME A TRULY CONNECTED PARENT

Are you are Truly Connected Parent? Do you want to get parenting tips, support, and the latest on all the program offerings for you and your teen?  Then subscribe and stay Truly Connected!

The Cost of Loneliness

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According to a 2009 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, “Health risks associated with social isolation have been compared in magnitude to the well-known dangers of smoking cigarettes and obesity."  Social isolation can also lead to depression and can magnify feelings of helplessness and unworthiness.

Being alone and being lonely are not the same.  Being alone can be rejuvenating, spiritual, and even necessary for our health.  You can be alone and feel a deep sense of connected-ness to yourself and the world.  Loneliness however, is a deep sense of something missing, a profound disconnection, or not feeling relevant. Loneliness robs a person of feeling true joy or a deep sense of belonging in the world.

+ Teens can be particularly vulnerable to loneliness +

While there are of course many contributing factors to consider, increasing use and over dependence on social media can be problematic in terms of connection and self-worth. While social media has its good qualities, for many teens, social acceptance and self-esteem can become so strongly tied to "likes" and "comments" that it replaces true social connection and support. Getting 100's of people to "like" a photo may bring initial excitement, but deep inside teens know many of the people may not really know or genuinely care about them.

+ Being alone versus being lonely +

With so many distractions and constant connection to devices and social media, many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be truly centered and connected to ourselves.  We may wander through each day, bouncing from task to task until we no longer feel satisfied or enlivened by anything.  We may even be surrounded by people constantly while still feeling disconnected.  We may avoid ourselves by numbing out with TV, eating, or even drinking or drugs. The busyness has crept in and robbed us of feeling joy when we are simply in our own presence.

+Antidotes to loneliness +

Connection to self.  Let’s start with connection to self.  To highlight the difference between the richness of being alone and being lonely, please take a moment to watch this amazing video:

 

The poet highlights the task of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-exploration as a way to combat feeling lonely when we are alone.  It is a wonderful thing to give yourself permission to be alone, to take yourself out on dates, to practice an art form, and to learn what really makes you happy.  Self-love is the foundation for any true connection with others, for we can only give from a full cup.  As parent, we must practice this ourselves while also encouraging our children to do the same.

Connection to creativity.  Making time to be creative puts us in contact with the Source.  This connection to raw, creative energy is enlivening, refreshing, and provides a feeling of connected-ness with oneself.  Through the act of creation we come closer to ourselves and can explore the inner landscape while at the same time using the art we’ve created to share our story.  This “going in” and “coming out” through creative expression further develops the the feeling of interconnected-ness we all need as humans.   

Connection to others.  While practicing self-love and enjoying our own company is critical to ward off loneliness, so is actual connection with others.  To understand the difference between connection and contact refer to my previous post here.  We all need positive social engagement.  We all need to feel seen, heard, and understood.  We all need each other.  For teens it is critical to provide opportunities for connection beyond school and social media.  Groups that provided positive social engagement and ongoing support can prove invaluable during the teen years.  Whether volunteering with an organization your teen is passionate about or getting involved in an actual support group like Truly Connected Teen Art Therapy Group, being part of a group will allow your teen to learn how to be deeply connected to themselves, their creativity, and their peers.

P.S. Want a cool tool to help your teen BUST loneliness?  Enter your information and get my favorite Love Yourself First tip sheet.

P.P.S.  Ready to help your teen feel true connection and acceptance?  Learn more about Teen Art Therapy Group here!

 


BECOME A TRULY CONNECTED PARENT

Are you are Truly Connected Parent? Do you want to get parenting tips, support, and the latest on all the program offerings for you and your teen?  Then subscribe and stay Truly Connected!

We've been featured on FreshPractice!!

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Exciting news everyone! 

Truly Connected Counseling and Art Therapy has been featured on FreshPractice, a website offering therapy office design inspiration for therapists, by therapists. Here’s an excerpt from the interview with practice owner, Jody R. Pittner:

WHAT VIBE DO YOU HOPE YOUR OFFICE GIVES YOUR THERAPY CLIENTS?

I want my clients to look forward to coming in each week. I want them to feel inspired and comfortable to open up to new perspectives.  I want the environment to allow creativity to flow and ideas to spring up during session.

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In the featured post, you’ll discover how Jody went about creating this “modern, cool” office making use of every square inch as well as advice for therapists designing their own spaces.  For the full feature article, click here!

Truly Connected Counseling and Art Therapy is a counseling and art therapy practice in Cleveland, OH that specializes in helping teens through both individual and group therapy. They also offers unique, one-day seasonal camp experiences for teens, giving each participant opportunity to connect to themselves, others, and nature.

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How nature inspires awe and gratitude

Louie Schwartzberg beautifully demonstrates how a connection and deep respect of nature inspires awe and gratitude.  His talk and life's story will remind you how important it is to keep our sense of wonder alive and give our children opportunities to do the same.  Beauty can heal us!