How Much Do You Handle?
The level of demand that can be easily tolerated varies over time, and from person to person.
The level of demand that can be easily tolerated varies over time, and from person to person.
Another way to get through crises is to self-soothe. Remember to self-soothe by thinking of soothing your five senses.
What does it mean to be Interpersonally Effective? Effectively meeting your own goals.
Effectively keeping your self respect.
Psychologists have a thing for mice. We love to test those little guys. We put them in water, in mazes, in cages, and on lush, grassy fields.
Our bodies are made up of traits that are good for our survival and the survival of our species. Every part of us has a function, a purpose. For example, the function of eyes is to see. The function of taste buds is to determine the nutritional value of food and avoid eating poisons.
Our emotions evolved right alongside our bodies. What is the function of emotions? To answer this, think about good ol’ Uncle Caveman. How did fear keep him alive? That’s easy, when he saw a Sabertooth tiger, Uncle Caveman got scared and ran away! Fear gave him the adrenaline, energy, and focus he needed to stay alive.
How did anger keep Uncle Caveman alive? It helped him bargain for his interests better. When another tribe tried to move into his cave, anger created the right motivation for Uncle Caveman to keep his cave (good thing too, what with all those Sabertooth tigers running around). Anger helped Uncle Caveman protect his interests.
What about shame? Shame is a very social emotion, more so than other feelings. When Uncle Caveman did something that disgusted, disappointed, or angered his tribe, he felt shame. Being part of a tribe was critical to Uncle Caveman’s staying alive. The formula is: Alone = Death, Part of Tribe = Survival. Shame helped Uncle Caveman act in pro-social ways so his tribe would not kick him out. (So he had to stop tagging the wooly mammoths).
Sadness for Uncle Caveman was caused by a loss of some sort. I hope one of his children wasn’t eaten by a Sabretooth tiger, but I can’t promise that. Say it happened. Well, sadness did two important things for Uncle Caveman’s survival, and the survival of his tribe. 1) He never forgot that Sabertooth tigers can kill. He told everyone he knew. And he never again asked a Sabertooth tiger to babysit his kids. 2) It made him yearn for his child, and for connection to others. Guess what, this story ends well. Uncle Caveman’s baby actually was hiding that whole time, and since sadness had motivated Uncle Caveman to search for his kid…they lived happily ever after.
Emotions helped Uncle Caveman make decisions that helped him stay alive. The function of emotions is to help us make good decisions, so we don’t get hurt, used, ignored, or run down.
Evolution is a SLOW process. In fact, our bodies are very alike to our cavemen ancestors. Sure, we know a lot more. And we use Facebook and soap. But our bodies—and our brains—are not so different from good old Uncle Caveman!
Emotions evolved in humans like everything else; what was adaptive to the species remained. Emotions are critical to our decision making! That’s why therapists tell people to “understand your emotions.” If you did that better, you’d made better decisions. I promise.
If we all had perfectly tuned emotions, life would be good. But, we are individuals within a species, and we each have different characteristics. That applies to our eye color, height, IQ, athletic ability, and—of course—emotional experiences.
Many mental disorders are characterized by too much—or not enough—of certain emotions. Depression is too much sadness. Anxiety Disorders are too much fear. Personality Disorders may be too much shame and anger. When you notice your feelings remain far beyond their function (remember, they help you make good decisions), they can seriously interfere with your life. If your emotions have outlived their usefulness, talk to a trusted adult (p.s., Sabertooth tigers are not good confidantes). It’s time you had some help.
Stress is how you respond to “stressors.” And stressors are most of the things in your life: parents, grades, personal appearance, falling in love, friends, prom, teachers, jobs, clubs, college applications, break-ups, mid-terms. It can seem like stress is just a natural part of teen life.
People have different thresholds for stress. You probably know people who are quite happily busy for 18 hours a day. You also know folks who seem overwhelmed with just the idea of a to-do list. If you’re like most teens, you’re somewhere in the middle: working to balance the parts of your life, effectively. You are probably doing the best you can. And, still, you’re feeling stressed out.
Stress is a mean relative of anxiety. Anxiety has lots of relatives, and not all of them are bad. Many people who achieve at high levels have a drive to do well that can cause anxiety. So, goal-achievement is a nicer relative of anxiety. Conscientiousness—how aware we are of ourselves and others—is also related to normal anxiety: another nice relative. But, stress…he’s a mean one.
Stress is the unwanted, vague, suffocating, terrorizing relative that tends to overstay his welcome. When stress stays too long, it is bad for you. You’ve probably heard: chronic stress is associated with poor sleep, lowered immune deficiency, inflammation that damages your body’s cells, acne, high blood pressure, aches, weight gain, and gastrointestinal problems. Stress makes you feel inept. In a world of problems, it blocks every potential solution from your view. Like I said: mean.
So how do you manage stress effectively? Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) would tell us to try reducing our emotional vulnerability. Use the P.L.E.A.S.E. skill. Stress really is in your body, not just in your mind. So, the first step in countering stress is to take care of your body. The P.L.E.A.S.E. skill is a guide for this. When your body is healthy, it’s better prepared to manage the daily stressors that are part of life. And, should a big stressor present itself (finals!), you’ll be ready to take them on, too.
P: Physical and L: HeaLth. (L fits, see?)Take care of your body. If you’re sick, treat the illness, first and foremost. Your body is telling you something: “take care of me.” So, rest. Take medications as prescribed by your doctor. These may be your vitamins, antibiotics, psychotropics, blood thinners, inhalers…whatever your doctor and parents both agree is right for you, take those medications as prescribed.
E: Eating. Balance your eating. Don’t eat too much. Don’t eat too little. Both can make you feel ridiculously tired. Over-and under-eating can cause clinically significant levels of inattention. They lead to moodiness, including especially irritability. Both over-eating and under-eating can become all-consuming, where the thing you think about most is food. That makes it hard to be effective in life.
Eat good foods. They really make a difference. Whole grains. Fruit and vegetables. Lots of water. If you love carbohydrates, try to move those into the evening hours. Your best concentration/energy foods are the proteins, and it’s a worthwhile goal to include a protein at every meal. Good protein sources are almonds, soybeans, cheese, milk, chicken, and energy bars. Sugars and fats aren’t just hanging out at the top of the food pyramid, they are wreaking havoc on your concentration and mood. So, avoid those. They taste good, but the cost on your effectiveness is just too high.
A: Altering. Avoid non-prescribed mood altering substances and behaviors. You got it—that means drugs. People who habitually and regularly use illegal substances have higher rates of depression, lower academic performance, lower relationship satisfaction, lower self-esteem, and fewer reasonable future goals. Mood-altering behaviors are usually dangerous, and unnecessarily so. Cutting yourself or otherwise harming yourself can be mood-altering. It can be mood-altering to drive 100mph down a country road. Such unsafe and impulsive behaviors do not reduce stress in the long-term. In fact, 9 times out of 10, they just end up making things worse for you.
S: Sleep. Sleep is like food for your brain. It is the time when today’s learning experiences consolidate and go into long-term storage (you may experience this as dreaming). That’s why people advise you to get a good night’s sleep before a test. Sleep is also when important neurochemicals and hormones are released to support your growth and brain functioning. Poor sleep leads to impaired concentration, zits, impulsivity, irritability, weight gain, and vulnerability to illness.
If you’re like many teens, sleep is the first thing you de-prioritize in your schedule. You may cut into sleep hours without a second thought. Like, staying up late to study, work, or (electronically) socialize. Some set early alarms to finish up a paper or get in a workout. If you take nothing else away from this article, take this: PROTECT YOUR SLEEP. Defend it. Honor it. You need it.
Teens need between 8-11 hours of sleep a night. If you can’t fit your obligations comfortably into the other 13-16 hours a day, then you’re doing too much. Barriers to sleep are more prevalent than you may know. Barrier #1 and #2: your cell phone and IPAD. Scientists have found that the LED screens in hand-held devices interfere with your brain functioning in ways that delay sleep onset. Barriers #2, #3, and #4: your TV, video games, and personal computer. While TV and video games do not have the LED component, they can be pretty tough to turn off when you’re tired at night. Take-home message is this: put your electronics to bed at least one hour before you’d like to be asleep.
E: Exercise. Just do it. Aim for a minimum of 3 workouts a week. Workouts should last at least 30 minutes, and they should get your heart really pumping. Working out with a friend is a fun way to stick to a regimen. With exercise, remember: the cart usually comes before the horse. Not many people “feel like” working out until they are well into their workout. If you wait around until you feel like exercising, it may never happen. But you’ll notice that, once you get started, the motivation to workout follows. If you’re having a lot of trouble with exercise, research shows that just taking a few minutes to visualize your workout can increase your motivation and readiness.
Stress is a normal part of life. But it can be really difficult to manage. If your struggles with stress are more intense, these are your warning signs:
• feeling sad/irritable more days than not, and for most of each day
• worrying about almost everything, like your mind can’t stop going
• needing more than one hour to fall asleep, or waking up a lot at night
• gaining/losing 10+ pounds in one month
• thoughts of death, suicide, or self-harm
• thoughts or plans to hurt others
• feeling hopeless, or like nothing matters
• changing your life goals drastically within the past month (e.g., “I don’t care if I graduate.”)
• headaches, stomachaches, or indigestion
• isolating yourself from friends
• feeling ineffective (pushed over) in relationships
• wondering, “what’s the point?” of taking care of yourself
If you have any of these signs, then the P.L.E.A.S.E . skill alone may not help much. You should talk to a mental health professional. Seek out your school support staff to see if therapy may be helpful for you.
Plum Tree Child & Adolescent Psychology and Beyond Words Speech Therapy have teamed up to offer a social language group to children ages 5-8.
This group will focus on helping children achieve the following skills: Managing peer conflict, Self-assertion, Sharing, Friendship skills, Reading social cues
Social Language Group
For More Information: 630.549.6245 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Your daughter cries, “I wish I were pretty.” Your son mutters, “I’m stupid.” Or any variation: I’m fat / a loser / the worst player.
Reflexively, you exclaim: “That’s not true! You are attractive / smart / popular / talented!” Your intentions are good. You mean it. But, instead, your compliments seem only to irritate them. Why?
It’s not that your opinion doesn’t matter (although, to your teen, it probably doesn’t). It’s that your child does not believe you. And, your nice words don’t help. They may even hurt.
Most teens I’ve worked with seriously doubt the motives behind their parents’ compliments. Some explain: “My mom says I’m pretty because she feels sorry for me,” “My dad says I’m smart because he has to. He’s my dad,” “My parents say I’m good just to make me feel better.” These teens can twist warm parental encouragement into a shaming experience.
He doesn’t accept himself. Against this intensely negative self-focus, your compliments don’t stand a chance.
Think of it this way. Imagine (or remember when) your son fell off his bike at age 5, and you announced cheerfully: “You’re fine! Just keep going!” But he actually didn’t feel fine. He was really hurt. Your encouragement may have invalidated his experience. He did not feel understood or supported.
The child who puts herself down does not accept herself. When you insist that she is thin, etc., it invalidates her. She wasn’t understood or supported.
You’ve heard of “vicious cycles…” When you respond with emotional warmth and encouragement to your child’s self-criticisms…you may actually be rewarding her non-acceptance of herself. He learns that he gets flattery and reassurance (even if it’s not totally believable and certainly not enduring) for putting himself down. In a low mood, in a time of self-doubt, she may increasingly berate herself, unconsciously expecting warmth and encouragement. As she negatively judges herself, you amp up compliments, she judges more negatively, and so on.
Self-Criticism through the Ages: How to Respond
Ages 3-4: Surprise: even youngsters this age can come down pretty hard on themselves. Many times, it takes the form of self-harm, such as banging their head on a wall or smacking their face when upset or frustrated.
Ages 5-6: Fit and active children as young as this (boys and girls) have told me they’re “fat.” Body image is no longer just a teen thing. However, self-criticism at this age is more often related to (1) negative mood, (2) frustration, and (3) fears that he/she has disappointed others. Some children may hurt themselves physically. Others use words: “I can’t do this,” “I’m stupid.”
Ages 7-9: The developmental task for these kiddos is to develop industry, to decide if they are skillful, motivated, driven, and productive individuals. This is often decided as they compare themselves to others. This age is where self-esteem starts to solidify. Your opinion as a parent is still very important to your child. Self-criticism at this age may stem from viewing peers are more successful/able/capable/attractive/popular, etc. You may expect unflattering comments related to these.
Ages 10-14: The focus turns more and more toward friends and peers. Your opinion matters less and less. Self-criticism that starts at this age can be a sign of depression and low self-esteem. Ongoing self-loathing has dire social consequences; it is hard to make friends if you don’t like yourself. Occasional self-doubt may be common. It will most often relate to how she sees herself compared to others of her age and gender. A likely source may be peer comments and bullying. Particularly girls who enter puberty early are at risk of negative attention.
Ages 15-19: Self-criticism at this age probably stems from a history of failed attempts at relationships, tasks, or improvements. With teens, there can be a range of triggers for self-criticism. Even if your child only occasionally states self-loathing, it’s probably true that she has chronic negative self-statements in her psyche. Depression may be very likely. Children this age are capable of deeper reasoning, understanding, and dialogue. The self-bullying speech will probably interest him, but not have much effect on curbing self-criticism.
Parents want their child’s IQ tested for a variety of reasons. Some are seeking admission to elite schools, where a score in the gifted range is a prerequisite. Others want to know if their child has a learning disability (fact: most people with learning disabilities have average or higher IQ). Still other parents are curious about their child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, many parents understand the value of incorporating an IQ test into a battery of psychological tests for diagnostic purposes.
Widely-used IQ tests in Illinois include the Wechsler series. David Wechsler was an American psychologist who created IQ tests for adults, children, and very young children. Although he designed the tests several decades ago, they’ve gone through revisions and updates.
Children as young as 2.5 through 6 years old are eligible to take the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI). Children ages 6 through 16 years old are eligible to take the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). When a high IQ is suspected in a 6 year old, the WISC is usually administered.
To optimize performance, most kids should take the IQ test in morning hours. (The exception is the rare “night owl” whose thinking is sharpest in afternoon or evening hours). Avoid scheduling an IQ test to occur after school; mental fatigue is likely to detract from your child’s performance.
Depending on your child’s age and test-taking style, IQ tests usually last between 1.5 to 3 hours. Typically, younger children require less time to test. Many children (especially younger ones) need to take breaks between subtests. Snacks, games, a walk outside, or other non-thinking activities are part of testing youngsters. Breaks help them test better.
The IQ test is actually a set of subtests. Children have described the subtests to me as, “kind of like school but funner,” and “like a game sometimes,” “tricky a little,” and “OK.” Your child’s subtest scores are compared to the scores of others within 3 months of his/her age.
IQ is not just one number. IQ tests yeild as many as 15 subtest scores, 4 index scores, and a Full Scale score. Each of these scores is associated with raw scores, percentile ranks, and more. The most meaningful IQ report will include a sea of scores…in a very understandable way.
In order to do well on the IQ test, a child must be: (1) motivated to do his/her best, (2) engaged, (3) focused, and (4) emotionally regulated. A child can do poorly on an IQ test for a variety of reasons, but can do well only if truly able. So, IQ scores can underestimate but not overestimate your child’s intellectual functioning.
Preparing your child for the IQ test should include: ensuring a good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast (whole grains, fruit, and/or proteins), and the selection of comfortable clothing.
If your child is sick the morning of the test, cancel the test. Even over-the-counter medicated children should be called in sick. Be aware that many medications for colds and allergies can decrease mental processing speed…a highly used skill in IQ tests.
You should also talk to your child about the IQ test. But, avoid using the word “test.” It can create unnecessary anxiety. Instead, say something such as: “You’ll be working for a couple hours with Dr. Ann. She has activities planned for you. Some are like what you do in school. Some are more fun, like word games, blocks, and puzzles. You should ask for breaks when you need them. Ask questions if you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do. The work you’ll do is very important because it helps us know how you think and learn best. Please be on your best behavior and try your hardest. There’s no way to fail in your work. Almost every kid sometimes makes mistakes. Just keep trying and do your best.”
The psychologist should help your child feel comfortable upon introductions. Since anxiety can seriously interfere with test performance, the effective psychologist will be sure to use a variety of strategies to make your child feel mentally prepared and engaged.