ProTip: Spotlight from Work Muse on Job Sharing with Blake & Tracy

We are thrilled to share a collaboration with the founder of Work Muse, Melissa Nicholson, who has a series of interviews with us on our “accidental job share” of co-owning and co-directing our wonderful group practice here. Our first article highlights the ways we put our work relationship first, so that we can bring our best selves to our partnership, our team, our clients and our families. It’s not always easy, but it’s always richly rewarding. We take time to really check in with each other, we show up for each other, we talk it out, and we know how to have fun while doing hard work:

We owe this to ourselves and each other, as well as our therapists and clients. Good communication = love + directness. We don’t wait to talk until we’re burning in resentment. Little things can slide, but the stuff that gets us in our feels is a signal it’s time to talk. Conflict resolution makes your partnership stronger. -Blake & Tracy

Never heard of job sharing? Work Muse is on a mission to bring this creative approach to the work/life balance dilemma so that more men and women can build personal and professional lives that offer flexibility, support, productivity and more joy. Learn more about job sharing and Work Muse’s story here.

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LifeTip: Meet Your Procrastination with Compassion

 Photo by  Sandro Katalin a on  Unsplash

I have a confession to make: I am horrible at writing blogs.

You might be a bit confused, since you are literally reading a blog post that I have, in fact, written – believe me, the irony is not lost on me. But really and truly, I’ve found that writing a blog is one of the hardest things for me to do at the moment. I don’t understand it either, because I normally love to write, and I think I can even be good at it sometimes. However, my paper/blog writing process is faulty, and I’ve been stuck in a negative feedback loop for as long as I can remember. I procrastinate. I avoid it. I start, and then I don’t finish. I meet the idea of it with dread. Then once I’ve waited too long, my anxiety sky-rockets and nothing makes sense. I’m in a hurry, and I’m not producing something I like which leads to frustration and disappointment and wanting to just give up. Rinse. Repeat. This whole process is extremely challenging, and it just makes me feel really, really crummy.

In many of my sessions, I have asked clients to pay attention to what they’re thinking, feeling, and deciding in their own challenging moments. This is illustrated by a triangle, where each point represents Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors; all of them connecting and influencing the next.

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Whether we know it or not, we’re using this triangle all the time in nearly every decision we make. When our thoughts are generally positive, the triangle/cycle tends to be positive and run smoother. When our thoughts are negative, however, the opposite is also true and can leave many people feeling stuck. To illustrate, here is what my writing process looks like:

Event: Blogs are due next week. I think, “I should write one about that TED talk I just watched!” I open a new word document, write a few things down, and then wonder what direction I’ll take with the info.

  • Thought: “I don’t know what to do with all of this, how do I make it make sense?”

  • Feeling: Overwhelmed, anxious

  • Behavior: I start to question my abilities, become flooded by my anxiety, and eventually shut down to avoid completing the task

  • Thought: “I AM SO BAD AT THIS!”

Event: Days later I think, “I should write about something more interesting, I’m probably the only one who thinks this is cool.”

  • Thought: “I’m not interesting enough to make something good"

  • Feeling: Inadequate, frustrated, sad

  • Behavior: I don’t like feeling this way, so I’m just going to do something else instead of finishing

  • Thought: “I AM SO BAD AT THIS.”

I could go on and on with this, but hopefully you get the idea. My deadline approaches and because of all my past experiences and behavior, I start to believe that I’m really bad at writing blogs which leaves me feeling stressed and incompetent. Since I don’t want to feel that way I decide to just avoid writing all together. When I avoid it, I’ve just reinforced the idea that I can’t do it and I’m bad at writing. Then I feel bad all over again, and the cycle repeats itself.

Through this exercise I recognize that maybe I’m not actually bad at writing blogs, but that I have an unrealistic expectation that it has to be perfect, and deep down I’m really just scared of failing or embarrassing myself. It has nothing to do with my actual abilities to write a blog, but in how compassionately I talk to myself. How different would this cycle look if instead of cruelly putting myself down, I compassionately thought, “I am a good writer” or “I take my time so I can take pride in my work”? The cycle takes on a totally different tone, and I’m left feeling more competent and calm, which then allows me to actually write something I can take pride in. Instead of believing that I am horrible at writing, I’ve realized that I really just want to do my best and I deserve much, much more self-compassion.

I’d like to challenge each of you to explore what you might be thinking, feeling and deciding when you’re faced with a difficult task that you might be putting off. What might your child be thinking, feeling and deciding in their challenging moments? As you think about it, remember to be kind to yourself in those moments and give yourself the compassion that you need.




 

Parent/TeenTip: Adjusting to a New School Campus

Hooray! The start of new school year! For many kids and teens, this time of year is a chance to reconnect with friends who have been out of touch for the summer and to recap their adventures from the last 3 months. However, for those going to a new school - whether the transition is from elementary to middle school, middle to high school, or simply a new campus - it can be a time of panic and frustration, as they try to “find their place” amongst a new group of peers. As parents, it can feel like you’re helpless to sit on the sidelines, and watch your child struggle to fit in. It can also lead to wondering and worrying if you’ve made the best decision in choosing their new school. Before you start looking at other education options, consider a few tips:

Tips for Parents Supporting Their Tweens/Teens

  1. Create time after school to talk with your tween/teen. Finding a time to check in with your child regularly that is free from distractions and audiences (siblings, other family members) gives your child a consistent safe space to share their concerns and fears about their new school. If your child seems “burned out” at the end of the day, give them time to recharge before you start asking questions. For a child who is feeling isolated at school, having a space to vent and connect at home is imperative!

  2. Leave your preconceived notions at the door. What may seem like a big deal to you (i.e. sitting alone on the bus), may not be the main concern of your child. Understanding specifically why your tween/teen is happy or unhappy at their new school will give you a better understanding of how you can support them.

  3. Don’t fix, reflect first. When your teen is upset, it’s easy for parents to want to offer advice to help them fix the problem. For transition issues, there are often a lot of factors in play because all of their surroundings are totally new. I have compiled a short list of “action steps” below, that teens can take to help get more adjusted to their new school, but before you start offering advice or comparing the old and new schools with your child, be sure you truly understand why they are upset. A simple reflection of feelings can save a lot of tension between you and your teen.

    For example, if your tween/teen comes home upset about Math class. Instead of saying: “That’s terrible! I am going to fill out a class change for you. This teacher is awful for not helping you. You shouldn’t be so lost and upset in their class.”

    Instead, try: “Math class was really frustrating. It sounds like you feel that the teacher moves at a faster pace than what you’re used to or comfortable with.”

    What you may find out is that an element that you didn’t expect is to blame; perhaps a disruptive classmate is causing confusion, rather than the content or pace of the class. By reflecting, your child is given a mirror to understand the message they’re conveying. Tweens/Teens are still finding their voices, so reflecting on their feelings and checking for understanding not only helps parents address the correct issue, but it also gives your child the language they need to appropriately express their concerns!

  4. Talk with your child’s favorite teacher, or their least-hated teacher, depending on how your student is feeling about the new school year. Teachers are in a unique position to help kids meet one another. Because teachers initiate peer interaction through natural class activities and give students automatic talking points, kids are able to meet each other in ways that feel less intimidating. They also know most of the kids in their classes by the end of September, so they can steer your child towards a group who shares similar interests.

  5. Introduce your child to their school counselor. If you have a child experiencing anxiety or apprehension with school, you don’t want to wait until your child is in full “meltdown mode” to start talking with some of the support staff. Counselors often have friendship groups, mentor/mentee opportunities, and the ability to give students a safe space to vent if an interaction at school doesn’t go as planned. Proactively meeting their counselor allows your child to build a relationship with them before needing it!

  6. Get involved! Join the PTSA, a booster club, or offer to volunteer at an extracurricular event. Your child will learn a lot of their social cues from you. By modeling the act of “putting yourself out there” to meet others you are demonstrating that even in intimidating circumstances meeting new people and making new friends is rewarding and important.

  7. Reach out to a therapist or medical provider if your child is taking the transition especially hard. Sometimes having an outside adult to process the new surroundings allows your tween/teen to express their feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression, while learning how to cope with difficult situations and thrive in their new environment. Be sure to fill out a Release of Information, so that your child’s therapist can connect care and strategies with their school (you can decide what information to share between all parties on the form).

Tips for Tweens/Teens:

  1. Stick to the basics. When you start at a new school, everything can feel overwhelming. During the first few weeks, give yourself permission not to know everything. In the first month, if you’re able to get to your classes, find the bathroom and cafeteria, and know your way home, then you’re doing great! Have compassion for yourself. It likely took years to know all the ins and outs of your old campus so don’t panic! You will get the hang of your new school layout, learn teachers’ names, join groups of kids, and figure out the overall “way of life” at your school, it just takes time.

  2. Join a club. Feeling connected to your new community will help make your time at school more enjoyable! Most schools have LOTS of activities for their students to get to know one another. Gone are the days when sports and academic clubs were the only extracurricular options. Now, most campuses have robotics and technology based clubs, art, movies and creative clubs, and even some form of game clubs (Minecraft/D&D/etc) in addition to athletic options. If your campus doesn’t have a club that interests you, talk with a teacher about starting a new club. Also, try something that you maybe never thought you would like. Lots of professionals are in careers that they never expected, so this might be your start to a newfound passion or hobby! No time after school? No problem! Many schools are now offering clubs that meet in the mornings or over lunch.

  3. Put down your phone and make eye contact with others! It sounds cheesy, but humans are less likely to approach someone new if they feel like they’re interrupting or imposing on someone else’s space. If you’re staring down at your phone, it’s hard for others to determine if you’re intentionally looking for peace and quiet or if you’re just passing time while also being open to meeting new people.

  4. Talk to one new person, each day. It could be someone in your PE class that runs at the same pace as you. It could be your table-mate in Math class. Even if you don’t think you will have anything in common with the other person or the conversation only lasts 30 seconds, by simply smiling and saying hello you will be presenting yourself as someone who is friendly and approachable. By presenting yourself in this way, others will feel more comfortable and invited to talk with you.

  5. Talk with your parents! Even if they don’t completely understand what you’re going through, telling them your concerns builds a stronger connection and allows them to step in and help when you feel overwhelmed.

  6. Remember: You are not alone. Most tweens/teens report feeling uncomfortable when they switch campuses! And almost all of them are looking to make new friendships and connections, even if they don’t show it outright. Whether you’re moving to a higher grade level on a new campus or moving schools mid-year, keep in mind that friend groups are fluid and ever-changing. By being open and trying new activities, you will build a friend group that is unique and satisfying for you!


LifeTip: Today’s Story - Releasing Negative Emotions

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We’ve all had bad things happen to us. People have done hurtful things to us, and we’ve done hurtful things to other people. These feelings of yuck that linger on cling to us like barnacles on the bottom of a moored ship, making it more and more difficult to sail smoothly. In my office, I often hear, “I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over it." For some, these negative feelings have held on for decades, impeding the person from ever truly moving forward in finding authentic happiness. These barnacles don’t need to stay attached; you can release them. You just need to find your new narrative. What story are you telling yourself today?

First and foremost, forget the idea of ‘getting over it.' All of the experiences that we have in life become part of our historical fabric. Think of it as Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors,” with each swatch being a different memory. If we just ‘got over’ some of the bad memories and cut them out, our coat would be filled with holes. Instead, acknowledge your memories and experiences; both the good and the bad make up your coat. Rather than putting energy into undoing the stitching from some of the pieces, recognize and embrace the ones that elicit negative feelings for you. Reclaim your power over these feelings by releasing (not ‘getting over’) the negativity that surrounds these feelings.

Every swatch within our coat has a story attached to it. Some are amazingly wonderful stories and some are downright horror stories. Although we cannot change the historical story (the events that actually transpired during that particular memory), what we can change are the feelings that we have about that story today. Own the pain, hurt, sadness, and frustration from that experience. Embrace that emotion from your history; put a name to that feeling you experience. Then flip the script. Tell yourself that these uncomfortable feelings are ones that negatively affected the you from yesterday, but they do not have the power to drag you down today.

For those of you who have read my previous posts, you know that I speak incessantly about the concept of power. Here is another example of how we all can reclaim our power. Pain, sadness, hurt, frustration, and anger are not deserving of our power, yet we all have had experiences where we pass our power stick over to these emotions. We tell ourselves that we’re powerless because of these negative feelings, which leaves us feeling helpless to change.

If there’s one thing that I want you to take away from this writing, it is that you can begin that transformation today. Change your narrative; alter your feelings about the events from the past and reclaim that power over those negative emotions. Don’t just try to “get over it,” but rather try to embrace the yuck and then release it. You have the power to change your feelings and responses to the historical swatches in your coat. Your first step in finding that relief is in asking yourself, “what story am I telling myself today?”

Meet Katelyn!

Hello and Welcome!!

I am so excited to be a part of the GT Therapy Group! I wanted to share a little bit of who I am, where I come from, and how I can help you through your journey. My name is Katelyn Williams and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Board Certified Counselor (NCC). I usually have a little trouble explaining where I am from (mostly because my family moved several times when I was a kid), but I was born in Yakima, Washington, and I claim San Antonio as my “childhood home” for all intents and purposes😊 I have lived in Austin for over 10 years, and love getting to enjoy the live music and natural beauty this city has to offer!

As a teenager, I thought I was destined for Hollywood, but after an internship at a Modeling and Casting Agency, I realized that I had a desire to help people, that went beyond getting them a temporary job. I wanted a lasting effect that gave people the skills they needed to be successful, across their lifespan. I had spent so much time focusing on the outward display of emotion from actors, but wanted to understand the inner workings of people and their feelings.

So after turning down a full time position in the entertainment business, I attended Texas State University and majored in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. After learning about Texas State’s CACREP counseling program, I knew I wanted to stick around to complete my MA in Professional Counseling. With my Master’s Degree in hand, and with the guidance of my professors and advisors in Texas State’s Professional Counseling Program, I decided to accept a job in School Counseling, and work with some of our most vulnerable populations: kids and teens.

While working as a school counselor, I had the opportunity to interact with children and teens across all SES backgrounds, tackling problems that ranged from abuse to anxiety to social issues to academic struggles. I truly love to work with this unique population and I am excited to continue help them process their experiences and better understand who they are as individuals. I want to empower tweens and teens, with the skills to combat anxiety and fear, and to handle life transitions with grace and confidence.

Through my work in education, I realized that the mental health concerns affecting our kids and teens is impacted greatly by the family and community that surrounds them. When couples were struggling, that struggle trickled down to their children. In order to be more effective when working with couples, I decided to pursue training from the Gottman Institute, one of the forerunners in Marriage and Couples Therapy. The Gottmans use empirical data to support their system and skills, and I have personally witnessed the benefits that these skills can bring to a relationship (yes, even some of the most broken relationships)! The goal of couples therapy is to increase healthy communication, and to identify your strengths as a couple, while renewing your commitment to tackle issues in a constructive way, that allows your relationship to progress to a place that both parties feel secure and committed.

As a therapist at GT Therapy Group, I am excited to work with both couples who are wanting to strengthen their relationship, and with tweens/teens/young adults who are struggling to find their place in this world! I look forward to meeting you, and supporting you through your growth, transition, and/or transformation!

Meet Alyssa!

Hi Friends, I’m Alyssa! (and that cute lil’ pup is my baby, Benny) I am so incredibly happy you are here!

I know that the idea of beginning your journey with a new therapist and sharing your story can be exciting, intimidating, uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking and ALL of the other emotions. Let me share with you about myself, and I am hopeful that knowing a bit more about me can help ease some of your scaries.

Originally from Chicago, born and raised, I moved to Austin just over a year ago with my fiance (also a Chicago native) to embark on the adventurous journey of exploring a new city of which we knew little to nothing about. Not unlike beginning a relationship with a new therapist, I felt excited, anxious, uncertain, scared … the list goes on. Despite my many doubts including: leaving my family, friends, a job I loved, and a city I knew with my eyes closed (“what am I doing?!”), it did not take long for me to fall in love with Austin and all of the opportunity this city has to offer! Within the past year I have managed co-raise a doodle pup...well - we’re still working on that, obtain my yoga teaching certificate, complete my social work licensure, and buy a house with my now fiance (all seemingly intimidating, foreign, and impossible at the beginning have become proud challenges I have worked hard to accomplish). I share this with you as it relates to coming to therapy: what started out as a bit scary and unpredictable transformed into one of the greatest blessings I could have hoped for. I am hopeful that YOU have the opportunity to overcome and accomplish life’s many challenges and I would love to support you along the way!

My approach to therapy is warm, empathic, and understanding. You are the expert on your life and I will have the pleasure of accompanying you on your journey while offering support, validation, and guidance throughout.

My passion to work with adolescents and families started long ago in my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (GO BLUE!) as I became deeply interested in healing and psychology. I continued on to graduate school at Loyola University Chicago to pursue my Masters in Social Work with the enthusiasm to support adolescents and their families to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. I have had wonderful opportunities to work with kiddos and their families both in Chicago and Austin in several settings from inpatient treatment, outpatient programs, and within therapeutic groups. I look forward to bringing my experience to our relationship and learning even more from each unique individual - we are all unicorns with something different to offer the world!

During my free time, I am often spending my days outside enjoying the Austin sun (something I was certainly unable to do in the Midwest), kayaking on Lady Bird Lake, practicing yoga, listening to live music, and spending time with my new Austin family and friends (Benny, too!).

I so appreciate you taking the time to read my story, I look forward to hearing about yours! :)

LifeTip: Containing Your “Yuck”

 Photo by  MILKOVÍ  on  Unsplash

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

We’ve all heard the phrase, “sometimes you need to experience the bad in order to appreciate the good."  However, that doesn’t mean we need to carry around this negativity with us every day. Wouldn’t it be nice to put these bad feelings and unsettling experiences aside so that we’re not weighed down by their presence? Believe it or not, we're able to create our own containment devices to hold these feelings; a place where we can store away these negative experiences into our own container for safe keeping, until we’re ready to effectively deal with them. Let’s go on a little journey together.

Sit back and think for a moment, what would your container look like? Is it an old, antique treasure chest with strong leather straps holding down the lid? Perhaps it’s a sleek steel trunk with bright silver hinges and a state-of-the-art security system that holds in your worries and fears. Maybe it’s a simple wooden box with rusty clasps and chipped teal paint. Whatever it may look like, just picture your container and imagine how it feels, the weight of the lid, and the sound that it makes as that lid closes. Do you have that picture in your mind?

Now think about all of those troubles, fears, concerns, and worries that you carry around with you each and every day. Feel the weight that those issues place on your shoulders and the negative feelings that these memories elicit. Envision all of your problems morphing together into a ball that fits neatly into the palm of your hand. Can you see this ball? How does it feel? Is it pulsating with color and light? Does it radiate heat or is it ice-cold? Take note of how you’re feeling – your heart rate, your breathing, your sense of anxiety. I’ll assume that you’re feeling a bit amped up at this point. Let’s release those negative feelings.

Bring back that picture of your container into your mind. Grasp the lid and open it up. Visualize yourself placing that blob of negative feelings into the container and, with a hand on each side of the lid, see yourself closing it and listen for that latch to click shut. Say to yourself, “My worries, fears, concerns, and stressors are safe in this box. I’m not burying them away, I’m simply putting them away for now in a safe place. When I’m ready, I can pull one out to deal with and release. For now, though, my "yuck" is locked away and off of my shoulders.” Take notice of your feelings and your body. Has that sense of anxiety and intensity diminished? Is there a sense of relief knowing that you’re no longer obligated to lug around those negative feelings and experiences any longer? Congratulations. You’ve just freed yourself of these heavy burdens and have given yourself permission to put your “yuck” feelings up on the shelf until you’re ready to effectively process through them.

When we experience negative feelings, our mind instinctively tries to protect us. Rather than repress these feelings by attempting to bury them down deep with the hopes of never seeing them again, place those unresolved emotions into your container. Slide that container under your bed or up in your closet knowing that they’re safe and that you’re able to access them when you’re ready. Also relish in the fact that these bad feelings are no longer weighing you down. You’re no longer carrying them around with you, as they’ve now found a new home – safe and secure in your own container.

How do I decide: Time-limited or Long-term Group Therapy?

Fall 2018 Group Therapy Offerings at GT Therapy Group

 Photo by  Warren Wong  on  Unsplash

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

We have some awesome group therapy offerings this fall! We’ll have an elementary-age Friendship Circle group as well as a time-limited GirlTalk Therapy group for middle school girls. Both will start around Labor Day and will be eight weeks long. Georgia Denny will be leading these groups, so if you are interested in either group we will happily put you in touch with her in order to get the process started. 

We have open long-term groups available for middle and high school teens, including ongoing GirlTalk Therapy groups, mixed gender Identity & Relationships groups, and newly forming parent support groups and group therapy for college students & young adults. 

 

LONG-TERM OR TIME-LIMITED GROUP? HOW DO I KNOW WHICH IS THE RIGHT FIT?

Most of our groups are long-term, open enrollment, developmentally-appropriate process groups. This means that members can join and graduate from group at different times, and the group can keep going. These types of groups mirror our experiences in the world, where we are often having to navigate relationship transitions and learning how to enter into established groups as well as how to say goodbye when people leave. These groups are, at their core, about establishing healthy peer attachments. 

Our time-limited groups are more focused on practical learning and skills-acquisition and are great when your child or teen needs a primer on social-emotional development. Sometimes a child can participate in a time-limited group to build some language around the social and emotional skills we teach, and then might join an ongoing group for the long-term. 

While both groups teach skills and incorporate age-appropriate topics for discussion around emotions, sense of self and social relationships, the open groups are much more about the long-term process and experience of the group itself, and can adapt as the members grow. The needs of these groups might look different over time, and members can stay for different lengths of time depending on needs and goals, but they are based in the latest neuroscience that teaches us that interpersonal relationships are how we form our identity, how we regulate our emotions, and how we learn how to organize ourselves in the world.

In both time-limited and long-term group therapy, you will: 

  • gain tools for emotion regulation
  • develop interpersonal skills
  • learn about yourself & how to relate to others
  • use developmentally-appropriate games, exercises and activities to foster learning and connection

In short-term groups you will:

  • focus on skills using activities 
  • have a little more "teaching time" from the group therapist

In long-term groups you will:

  • focus on building healthy relationships with other group members
  • incorporate skills in a more emergent way (less formal teaching time, more about what's happening in the moment)

Short-term groups can be best when you want to get a quick primer on some social & emotional skills and have a chance to practice in a safe environment. Long-term groups can be best when you've been struggling for a while and need some ongoing support mixed in with some skill-building. 

Still not sure which group experience is right for you? Get in touch with us and we will work with you to determine the best fit. 

 

ParentTip: Division of Responsibility (Or How to Do Less So Your Kid Does More)

 Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I was having this conversation with a parent the other day about how our role changes pretty much continuously as our kids develop, and how much we have to shift the division of responsibility as they grow up. If you think about it like a big, messy pie, our share of responsibility goes from the whole dang thing as caregivers to infants to a big thick slice in the middle school years to a thin and very delicate sliver as our teens get ready to launch. The way we adapt to the shifts in the division of responsibility can influence how our kids develop the skills needed for living independently, how much we experience power struggles in our relationships with our kids, and how prepared we are for the inevitable letting go that occurs inch by inch as our kids get older.

Like development in general, changing the division of responsibility is not a linear process. It can ebb and flow along with each child's unique ability to manage increasing responsibility, and as they experience the inevitable mistakes, backslides and missteps that mark the process. How we adapt the division of responsibility is also dependent on our own willingness and ability to step back, let go, and create space for our kids to try new things that they will have to mess up a little along the way. This can be uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking, confusing and scary for parents. It also means that we're constantly having to reassess our own readiness and our kid's readiness for taking over a larger piece of the pie. 

In early childhood, we can get in a routine of "doing for" our kids in big and small ways, and it can be tough to know when the right time is to give them a little more autonomy. How much do we manage *for* our kids and how much do we manage *with* our kids? How do we get comfortable with all the discomfort this messy process uncovers? Part of what makes this so challenging is that there's no way to change up the division of responsibility without experiencing some failures and some heartaches. This is the hardest work of parenting, learning how to manage our own fears and pain as we give our kids room to skin their knees, experience loss, and get their hearts broken along the way.

Think about a time your young child made a mistake. How much did you step in to correct course for them? How much did you have to guide, manage, advise, and direct this process? Now what about with your teen? How different does it need to look in order for your teen to develop the necessary skills for living independently from you? The teen brain is wired for novelty-seeking and  risk-taking, but it's also wired for resilience and growth. The most effective way to nurture our teen's developing frontal lobe (home of all the critical thinking and executive functioning skills) is to give them plenty of room to practice, practice, practice their increasing responsibility to directly manage their own lives, and to learn how to parent from a place of collaboration & compassion as they grow. This isn't about turning our backs on them, or shutting them out, or leaving them to fend for themselves. It's about moving from the position of leading them by the hand (sometimes dragging them kicking and screaming) to walking behind them with a gentle hand raised in readiness to help steady them when they stumble. Because how will we, but more importantly they, ever know what they're really capable of until we give them room to try?

Need some guidance or support with navigating the tricky teen years? We've got you. Check out Blake & Tracy's TeenWise® Parent Coaching or our Therapy Services to find out more about how we can help. You don"t have to parent alone. 

LifeTip: Is It Time to Hit the Panic Button?

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Sometimes we feel like we’re about to burst. Between the pressures of work, home, school, friends, significant other, and bills, we can sometimes feel like we just can’t take it anymore. Then we get hit with an unexpected passing of a loved one, coming down with the flu, or finding out that our dog has chewed up our favorite pair of shoes. Soon we find ourselves reaching for that panic button, because we know the top is about to blow off this pressure cooker.

For those of you who have followed my blogs, you’re probably expecting me to say “take a minute and just breathe” right about now. Yes, breathing is of course essential, but when we find ourselves in the crosshairs of a full-blown melt down, we need a little more than some deep breathing exercises. We need to release that pressure valve and release it fast.

Let’s get a little nerdy and talk about what’s happening in the brain when we find ourselves in these panicked moments. When we’re calm, cool, and collected, we’re living in the “front room” of our brain; we’re able to think and act logically and make rational decisions. The more our anxiety and frustration increases, the further back in the house we go, until we land in the “back room” of our brain where we can only employ our fight, flight, freeze, or appease reactions. When we get locked into this back room, it’s almost impossible for us to think clearly, make rational decisions, and respond logically. I bring this up because the time to decide what to do when we’re in panic-mode is not when we’re locked in that back room. Rather, we need to develop our game plan when we’re calmly relaxing in our front room.

So what are you going to do? What's brought you back to center in the past? What’s helped you to walk away from that panic button? Now is the time to think through your plan. If you’ve gotten into a fight with your significant other or a friend, walk away. Remember, you’re amped up so you’re bound to say things that you don’t really mean. If you’re becoming overwhelmed with bills, set them down and go for a stroll around the block. You’re logical brain is not working well at this point; the last thing you want to do is make a mistake and end up sending two payments instead of one. You walk in the door after a long day at work and you find that Fido has destroyed your living room blinds. Let him outside to run and release some energy, then go shut yourself in your bathroom and get lost in YouTube-land; don’t take your frustrations out on Fido.  

While you’re doing your action planning, take the time to look up different de-stressing techniques. Deep breathing, grounding, yoga, and meditation are all activities that you can do by yourself. If those don’t resonate with you, think about who you’re going to reach out to in those times of stress. Who can you call and talk to when you’re feeling like your head is about to burst? Regardless of your identified action plan, do something that feels right and will work for you.

Stress and anxiety, as awful as they feel, don’t need to hold us captive. We are all capable of casting these feelings aside and deflating their power. Although, we must plan ahead and develop these strategies when we’re in a good head space. Ever hear the phrase, “the best defense is a strong offense”? Well, here is a good way to put that phrase into action. The more you plan, practice, and implement your de-stressing strategies, the less often you’ll find yourself looking for that panic button.