Written by: Valerie Middleton, FNP
I stumbled upon a new show the other day on A&E called “Undercover High”. The premise is that they place young adults in their twenties in to a high school and record their experiences. The entire show is sort of a social experiment and in the format of a documentary with reality T.V. mixed in. They have professional psychiatrists, sociologists, psychologists and the school administration all on board at all times for the participants. The very first episode was very eye opening to me as a mother of a 15 year old. Clearly the high schools that our children are attending and or will attend are NOT the ones that we attended. Their lives are extremely different from how ours were. It is no wonder it needs to be studied! But the over arching theme taken away from that first episode was the power and influence that social media has on our youth. Often parents will ask me what to do about a teen’s phone or computer and I will advise according to the specific situation. In general I prefer to advise based both on a specific situation and the latest research available.
Just what has research shown with regards to social media and its influence on the developing brains of our teens? We understand they always want to stay connected with their friends and they often prefer to communicate through social media and texts versus speaking. Is this so different from when we always wanted to hang out with our friends at the mall or movies? Is this so different then when we passed notes back and forth because it was easier than speaking to your crush? Research would indicate that it is indeed very different.
Social media platforms follow adolescents 24 hours a day. In 2015, 92% of teens aged 13 to 17 years reported going online daily, 24% were online “almost constantly,” and 71% used more than one social networking site. Mean comments, cyberbullying, sexual advances and stalking, misinterpreted messages, and awareness of exclusion are just some of the negative social media effects that follow teens each day in multiple formats. The psychological effects are increased rates of low self esteem, disordered eating and sleeping patterns, depression and anxiety. The latter was found even while controlling for other factors such as socioeconomic status, sex, race and parental depression. With regards to Facebook specifically, a study found that people reporting mean or bullying Facebook posts were 3.5 times more likely to develop depression while people receiving unwanted contacts (such as cyberstalking) were at 2.5 percent. What seems to drive the negative effects is the social comparisons that occur with these social platforms.
Research has demonstrated that social comparing is indeed negative unless there are protective factors in place. Protective factors include being and admiring the “real self”. A “real self” is complex and learned over time. Elements would include presenting unedited appropriate photos, friending only people you actually know in person, stating only truths without exaggerations and expecting and promoting the same within one’s social group. Teens do better when they support each other in an authentic way and it is perceived by the teen as such..
So what do we do as parents to help our teens and adolescents? How do we set them up for success and independence while still being present and monitoring for major red flags that require intervention? All online users, but especially parents, adolescents and young adults, need to be aware of the emotional risks associated with social media platforms. There are no legal or privacy protections afforded to teens at the moment with regards to any online activities that they may get in to despite the fact that their brains may still be developing. Charges can be brought forth with regards to drugs, sex offenses, harassment etc.. Based on the research I have done I would advise considering some of the following guidelines. Each family is unique and clear plan is what is most important to establish.
Recommendations for Social Media
Written By: Lauren Barris, LCSW-C
I often have clients come to me expressing frustration and confusion about the ways they have been treated in their life. All too often, these are individuals who have been through horrific treatment at the hands of parents or family members whose job it was to care for and protect them. If you are reading this and you are someone who has experienced abuse, please know that this short post will not be comprehensive, and it may not speak directly to your experience. Everyone responds differently to situations of abuse. I encourage you to reach out to us if you have questions about this, or if you would like support in working through your own past trauma or abuse.
My hope is that this post can help at least a few people make some sense of their emotional response following what has in some cases been a lifetime of abuse or neglect. One of the most common themes in my sessions with survivors of abuse or trauma is their tendency to put the blame on themselves. They may believe on some level that they deserved the treatment they received due to some unknown crime. This pattern of self-blame can spill over into other areas of their lives, causing them to revert to self-blame whenever something terrible happens to them. Of course, this perception is rarely accurate, and it is almost never helpful to the person in meeting their own goals. At the same time, it is valid. It is common. It makes sense. It is understandable simply due to some of our most basic survival instincts.
When a young child, or anyone in a vulnerable position, is subjected to abuse, their first instinct is often to assume they have done something to cause their caregiver to punish them, even if the abuser has not expressed any blame toward them. We do this in an effort to try to keep ourselves safe --it all boils down to survival. In the survivor’s mind, the abuse is far less dangerous if it was brought on by something they themselves did, because if it was, that would mean it would be within their control to stop it from happening again. If this were the case, they would just need to figure out what it was they did, and then they would be able to keep themselves safe. This frantic effort to discover what they have done to bring on abuse can lead to hyper-vigilance and high anxiety, as well as, you guessed it: self-blame, for everything and anything that could have somehow caused the abuse.
The reality of course, is that abuse is never warranted. Nothing a child (or adult) could possibly do would result in them ever deserving abuse. Their effort to figure out what they did wrong will be in vain. But for someone who is in a vulnerable position, applying the blame to themselves and trying to figure out where they are going wrong is often more comforting (and sometimes safer) than believing that the person who has been entrusted to care for and protect them is cruel, unpredictable, or incompetent. We all want to believe that the people in our lives who have control or influence over us know what they are doing, and are capable of keeping us safe. Tragically, this is not always the case. Not everyone with power is able to wield it responsibly or with compassion; the reasons for abuse lie solely with the abuser, not with their target.
As adults, some come to realize that they have been misplacing the blame that belonged with their abuser by turning it toward themselves instead. Some are able to process this and transform the self-blame into other, more productive emotions. But this is an extremely difficult task to take on, especially without support.
If you or someone you know are experiencing abuse currently, there are resources available to get help. You can call the police in any emergency, reach out to your local Child Protective Services Agency, or contact a local Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/ OR http://www.ncadv.org/). If you have your own experience with this and would like support in processing and working through it, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Innovative Psychiatry.
Written by: Sonia Heidenreich, LGSW
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Yoga and movement help us to practice in our bodies whatever it is that we need to practice in our lives.
With that in mind, I’ve been talking about yoga mudras in the classes I’ve taught this week, and I decided to share it with you all here, too. Even if you’re not ready to attend a group yoga class (or maybe you are!), yoga mudras are a fun, accessible way to practice shifting your emotional energy using gesture and movement.
To keep it brief: Mudra means gesture (or ‘seal’ or ‘mark,’ depending on your translation). If you want to read up on all of them, check out this article from Yoga Journal. There are all kinds of different mudras to explore:
To feel more grounded and stable: Try Anjali mudra (prayer hands). To practice this one, bring your hands together in a prayer position near your heart. I like to focus on pressing each finger pad into its opposite to bring more awareness to how this gesture feels, but you can explore what works for you. You might notice that pressing palm on palm helps you to reconnect to yourself or bring your awareness back to the present moment. You might also notice nothing, or think this sounds crazy, which is completely okay, too.
To turn your attention inward: Try Dhyana mudra, which you can find by resting your hands, palms face up, in your lap. Then, place your dominant hand (the hand you write with) in your non-dominant hand. The first time a teacher taught this in a class I was taking, I found it surprisingly poetic: The apparently “weaker,” more vulnerable parts of ourselves have the capacity to offer support and strength to the more powerful, dominant parts of ourselves. If you try this mudra, you might notice that it means something entirely different to you.
To feel powerful and courageous: Try Kali mudra, which is made by interlacing your hands and then extending your pointer fingers straight out. This is the gesture I’ve been teaching in my classes lately.
This gesture is named for the goddess Kali, who was the goddess of destruction. That might sound like a weird idea to invoke in yoga—what does destruction have to do with quieting our minds? To read her full story, you can start here, but I like to think about her destructive power as also being the power of transformation, or the power to fearlessly approach whatever demons—internal or external—there may be, in order to clear the way for positive growth and change. If we can cultivate that fearless energy, we can move towards the things in our lives that are in our way—whether these are fears, worries, habits, or relationships—and change the way that we relate to these obstacles.
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher and author, has this to say about the importance of moving towards fear, rather than running from it:
“…Raw fear initially emerges as a dot in space, as a doorway that can go either way. If we choose to take notice of the actual experience of fear…whether that is a subtle level of discomfort or mind-numbing dramatic anxiety, we can smile at it, believe it or not. It could be a literal smile or a metaphor for coming to know fear, for turning toward fear, touching fear. In that case, rather than fear setting off a chain reaction where you’re trying to protect yourself from it, it becomes a source of tenderness. We experience our vulnerability, but we don’t have to harden ourselves in response. This makes it possible for us to help ourselves and to help others.”
The idea of approaching whatever it is we fear in our lives can feel vague, daunting, or impossible, but we can start to cultivate that fearless energy by playing with our physical gestures. So give it a try: Interlace your hands, extend your arms up overhead, and use your arms like Kali’s sword to slice through whatever it is that’s standing in your way! If you feel weird or silly, that’s okay. Maybe you’ll also feel a little bit brave for trying something new.
Written by: Valerie Middleton, FNP
As we welcome in another new year many of us like to look at ourselves and decide on new directions and new resolutions. Maybe we have tried before and lost steam. Maybe we thought about trying but just never followed through. Maybe we have been successful with some goals and less so with others. But why are we so bad at keeping our resolutions? What is the key to sticking to a goal we have set for ourselves? How can this year be different?
There are three key factors in determining goal success that seem to be reiterated over and over in the literature. Make goals attainable, keep track/be accountable and most importantly make it fun and or positive.
1. Make goals attainable
"A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true." - Greg S. Reid
Let’s take one of the most common goals, to exercise more, for example. It’s important to know why you want to reach a goal to stay motivated in the long term. You then need to break the goal down in to attainable pieces. For example I want to exercise five days a week thirty minutes a day is the recommendation of most major health advocates but starting here from nothing can be daunting and overwhelming. Breaking the goal into smaller more manageable pieces such as: I will work out three days a week this month. Next month I will increase to four days, eventually working up to the five.
2. Keep Track / Be accountable
Today’s technology lends itself well to being accountable to many of our goals. Staying engaged in the goal achieving process continually predicts positive outcomes. Creating visual calendars, chat groups with friends, fit bit apps, journaling and getting others involved and aware of your goals will increase your odds of success. At my husband’s work they put their names on a board with their workouts and times. Not only is this a way for these highly competitive folks to keep track of their progress but they keep each other accountable. For this particular population, the competition serves them well. For others the process may be more personal but the tracking is still important. As one tracks and becomes more accountable to self and or others a habit can be formed. Habits become unconscious movements we go through each day. It is the unconscious exerciser, that is one that does not think about whether to go or not go that continues to exercise day in and day out.
3. Make it Fun!!
There was a very recent study done that enjoyment predicts long term persistence of a goal. It was studied that even when a goal is seen as extremely important to us persistence to change is best predicted by immediate gratification of enjoyment. So if exercise is your goal, make it fun and you are much more likely to persist in your goal. If you only enjoy walking or biking but hate pumping iron than gear your strategies towards what you enjoy so you will persist.
"There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on." - Zayn Malik