At my practice, Eunoia Counseling, I see far too many adolescents and teenagers who are feeling overwhelmed with the pace of life these days. We cannot deny that teens now are facing a variety of challenges and stressors that most of us did not have to contend with. Some of these include extreme academic competition (especially in communities like Naperville) along with social media related stressors, high exposure to screens and video games, and other experiences that are unique to the current generation of adolescents and teenagers. Moreover, the teenage years are a time of hormones, mood swings and intense feelings as it is!
In counseling, I utilize a variety of DBT skills with my adolescent and teenage clients, especially mindfulness strategies. Mindfulness is the antidote to overwhelming emotions, multitasking and a frazzled pace of life. These empirically validated counseling approaches offer a true calm in the storm. The teens I work with might be skeptical at first, but before long they are true converts and enjoy incorporating many mindfulness skills into their daily life.
An additional proactive idea… is for mindfulness strategies to be incorporated at home through parental modeling. 45-minute weekly exposure to our clients in the form of therapy sessions cannot compare to the many hours they spend with their families between sessions. As a result, I have coached parents on ways to incorporate mindfulness skills into daily family routines.
For instance, parents can encourage their teens along with themselves to use “54321…” sensory skill when they are starting to feel very anxious. Additionally, paced breathing can be helpful in order to prevent a blowup and allow some calm or downtime when needed. There are also a variety of apps that can be used for short guided meditations the whole family can benefit from and listen to together. Practicing yoga and paced breathing a couple of times a week can serve as a deep relaxation technique that will allow the whole family to feel calmer.
The key is to build some of these into family routines and structures at opportune times. Once adolescents and teenagers have a few experiences with the skills, they can become second nature. And no need to take it all too seriously! Practicing skills for the first time can be a humorous affair indeed!
Teenagers who utilize mindfulness skills regularly will expand their emotional intelligence. They will be better equipped to deal with the fast pace of life today and social stressors than their counterparts who are not mindful. It is a skill that will benefit them in every endeavor for the rest of their lives. A mindful teenager can turn into a patient young adult who demonstrates leadership skills and confidence even with bigger workloads in their jobs and feels more overall life satisfaction. There are few areas of life more deserving of our time and attention than lifestyle skills that lead to a more balanced and actualized way of being. Let us know if Eunoia Counseling can help you start cultivating the seeds of mindfulness for yourself, your teenagers, and your family. It is a fruitful and rewarding garden when the skills take root!
Lauren Hanninen, LCPC
President of Eunoia Counseling