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MEDITATION

Meditation is an ancient technique that has been practiced by people across all traditions because it enhances our well being. Meditation is a proven tool to reduce stress & anxiety. If things feel overwhelming: Try recentering with one of these short meditations:

BREATHING TECHNIQUES FOR STRESS RELIEF

Take a deep breath in. Now let it out. You may notice a difference in how you feel already. Your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious. Some simple breathing exercises can make a big difference if you make them part of your regular routine.

Before you get started, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a place to do your breathing exercise. It could be in your bed, on your living room floor, or in a comfortable chair.

  • Don't force it. This can make you feel more stressed.

  • Try to do it at the same time once or twice a day.

  • Wear comfortable clothes.

Many breathing exercises take only a few minutes. When you have more time, you can do them for 10 minutes or more to get even greater benefits.

Deep Breathing

Most people take short, shallow breaths into their chest. It can make you feel anxious and zap your energy. With this technique, you'll learn how to take bigger breaths, all the way into your belly.

  1. Get comfortable. You can lie on your back in bed or on the floor with a pillow under your head and knees. Or you can sit in a chair with your shoulders, head, and neck supported against the back of the chair.

  2. Breathe in through your nose. Let your belly fill with air.

  3. Breathe out through your nose.

  4. Place one hand on your belly. Place the other hand on your chest.

  5. As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one that's on your chest.

  6. Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath.

Breath Focus

While you do deep breathing, use a picture in your mind and a word or phrase to help you feel more relaxed.

  1. Close your eyes if they're open.

  2. Take a few big, deep breaths.

  3. Breathe in. As you do that, imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm. Try to feel it throughout your body.

  4. Breathe out. While you're doing it, imagine that the air leaves with your stress and tension.

  5. Now use a word or phrase with your breath. As you breathe in, say in your mind, "I breathe in peace and calm."

  6. As you breathe out, say in your mind, "I breathe out stress and tension."

  7. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.

Equal Time for Breathing in and Breathing Out

In this exercise, you'll match how long you breathe in with how long you breathe out. Over time, you'll increase how long you're able to breathe in and out at a time.

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair.

  2. Breathe in through your nose. As you do it, count to five.

  3. Breathe out through your nose to the count of five.

  4. Repeat several times.

Once you feel comfortable with breaths that last five counts, increase how long you breathe in and breathe out. You can work up to breaths that last up to 10 counts.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

In this technique, you breathe in as you tense a muscle group and breathe out as you release it. Progressive muscle relaxation helps you relax physically and mentally.

  1. Lie comfortably on the floor.

  2. Take a few deep breaths to relax.

  3. Breathe in. Tense the muscles of your feet.

  4. Breathe out. Release the tension in your feet.

  5. Breathe in. Tense your calf muscles.

  6. Breathe out. Release the tension in your calves.

  7. Work your way up your body. Tense each muscle group. This includes your legs, belly, chest, fingers, arms, shoulders, neck, and face.

SAFE PLACE OR PERSON

Think about your safe place or person. Think about three words that would describe your safe place or person. Say the words in sequence, with the image of your safe place or person in your head. Repeat as needed.

Example

Little Brother ~ Curly hair, soccer, dimples

My Nana’s house ~ Love, clean, tamales

OTHER CALMING TECHNIQUES

Look at picture of something or someone that usually calms you

Hum quietly to yourself

Listen to calming music

Use Positive Self Talk

Read or draw

Give yourself a 10 second hug

Positive affirmations are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.

Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple, and all you need to do is pick a phrase and repeat it to yourself.

You may choose to use positive affirmations to motivate yourself, encourage positive changes in your life, or boost your self-esteem. If you frequently find yourself getting caught up in negative self-talk, positive affirmations can be used to combat these often subconscious patterns and replace them with more adaptive narratives.

11 Positive Affirmations for Teens

Social pressures and academic stresses can take their toll on teens, but they can turn around negative self-talk and do something positive about they think and feel. Here are some affirmations that are well-suited for teenagers:

  1. I am a quick, capable learner;

  2. I believe in myself as a person and I believe in all my capabilities;

  3. I am unique and beautiful;

  4. Others respect me for following my own beliefs;

  5. If a few people don’t accept me, I’m fine with that;

  6. I forgive others for sometimes doing the wrong thing, and I forgive myself when I do the same;

  7. I am kind and good to the person I see in the mirror;

  8. I deserve to see myself as amazing;

  9. Whatever difficulties come my way, I have the power to overcome them;

  10. I was born strong, and I grow stronger every day;

  11. Today, I am going to trust myself and my instincts;

  12. I am good enough, and I am fine with just being me.;

  13. I treat others with respect, and they treat me the same;

  14. I choose to rise above the hurtful things that might come my way;

  15. I am working every day on the best me that I can be.

These positive affirmations for teens are inspired by this article from the Positive Affirmations Center, and this video by Jason Stephenson.


MINDFULNESS

“Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

Asking someone to define mindfulness is kind of like asking, “What does chocolate taste like?” Or “What does your favorite song sound like?” Definitions can only give you a small
idea of what the real experience is like. Just reading about mindfulness without experiencing it yourself is like going to a restaurant to read the menu, without tasting any of the food. Just as the point of going to a restaurant is to taste the food, the point of mindfulness is to experience it for yourself.

That said, there are some descriptions of mindfulness that might be a good place to start. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition
of mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way:
 on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (1994, 4) is simple and to the point. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment. Mindfulness is about shifting out of autopilot and awakening to the here and now. Mindfulness is about freeing yourself from regrets about the past and worries about the future.

Please note: Mindfulness can be beneficial for people who have trauma related disorders. However, practicing mindfulness exercises may cause some people to re-experience traumatic memories. Guidance by a skilled mindfulness instructor is recommended.

Here are a few other ways of describing mindfulness:

  • “Being present”

  • “Awareness”

  • “Awakening”

  • “Concentration plus attention”

  • “Seeing clearly”

  • “Compassionate awareness”

  • “Openheartedness”

  • “Loving presence”

People in every culture around the world have recognized the wisdom of openhearted, present-moment awareness, whether or not they called it “mindfulness,” for thousands of years. Everyone can be mindful. You have probably already experienced moments of natural mindfulness. Perhaps you’ve had times, without even trying to, when you were deeply aware of what you were doing; the only thing that mattered was the present moment—the past and the future seemed to disappear—and you were filled with gratitude for being alive. Maybe this happens for you when you play sports. Or maybe you experience this kind of awareness when you play a musical instrument, when you pet your dog or cat gently, or when you listen to your favorite song. Whether you realized it or not in those moments, you already know how to be mindful!

Living life more mindfully can help you to handle stress when it arises, and also experience life more fully, with more joy and gratitude.

Breathing: The Heart of Mindfulness

You breathe in and out about twenty thousand times a day. How many of those breaths are you consciously aware of? How many of those breaths do you really enjoy? If you’re like most people, the answer is “not many.” The foundation of all mindfulness practices is to bring your awareness to your breath. This is also known as “coming back to your breath.” Your breath is a wonderful gift that brings your mind and body together in the here and now. You can start to bring yourself back to the present moment, and begin to free yourself from stress, with as few as three mindful breaths. Right here. Right now. Give it a try.

Informal Mindfulness: Don’t Wait—Meditate!

Informal mindfulness involves bringing mindful awareness into everyday, routine activities that you already do. Being mindful as you simply go about your day can be a source of joy as well as stress relief. Any time you are sitting, you can follow your breath, smile, and come home to the present moment. You can practice doing this while sitting on the bus, sitting in a car, or sitting in the classroom. You can also bring this same mindful awareness to any other activity of daily life. You can touch the present moment deeply as you brush your teeth in the morning. You can let go of stress by being mindful as you put on your clothes, tie your shoes, or walk to class. Try informal mindfulness for yourself. What are you waiting for?

Guided Meditations

You can try more ways to practice mindfulness with these free guided meditation recordings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Got more questions about mindfulness?

More Resources

Click here for more mindfulness apps, websites, books and resources.

(Excerpted and adapted from The Mindful Teen by Dzung Vo, MD)

GROUNDING TECHNIQUES

Create personal calm

Adapted from: Seeking Safety by Lisa M. Najavits (2002). www.winona.edu/resilience

Instructions:

Review this handout. Then, answer the reflection question that follows.

What is Grounding?

Grounding is a set of simple strategies that can help you detach from emotional pain (e.g., anxiety, anger, sadness, self-harm). It is basically a way to distract yourself by focusing on something other than the difficult emotions you are experiencing. You may also think of grounding as centering, distracting, creating a safe place, or healthy detachment. Although grounding does not solve the problem that is contributing to your unpleasant emotions, it does provide a temporary way to gain control over your feelings and prevent things from getting worse. Grounding anchors you, gives you a chance to calm down, and allows you to eventually return and address the problem that is triggering the unpleasant emotions to begin with. And grounding can be done anytime, anywhere, and no one has to know.

Ways of Grounding:

There are three types of grounding. You may find that one of these types works better for you, or that each is helpful.

1. Mental (focusing your mind)

2. Physical (focusing your senses)

3. Soothing (talking to yourself in a very kind way)

Mental Grounding:

1. Describe your environment in detail, using all of your senses – for example, “The walls are white, there are five blue chairs, there is a wooden bookshelf…” Describe objects, sounds, textures, colors, smells, shapes, numbers, and temperature. You can do this anywhere.

2. Play a “categories” game with yourself. Try to think of types of dogs, jazz musicians, animals or famous people that begin with each letter of the alphabet, cars, TV shows, writers, sports, songs, cities.

3. Describe an everyday activity in great detail. For example, describe a meal that you cook (e.g., “First, I peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters; then I boil the water; then I make an herb marinade of oregano, basil, garlic, and olive oil…”).

4. Imagine. Use a pleasant or comforting mental image. Again, use all of your senses to make it as real and vivid as possible.

5. Read something, saying each word to yourself. Or read each letter backwards so that you focus on the letters, not the meaning of words.

6. Use humor. Think of something funny to jolt yourself out of your mood.

7. Count to 10 or say the alphabet, very s . . . l . . . o . . . w . . . l . . . y.

Physical Grounding:

1. Run cool or warm water over your hands.

2. Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can; notice the sensations and the experience.

3. Touch various objects around you: a pen, your clothing, the table, the walls. Notice textures, colors, weight, temperature. Compare the objects you touch.

4. Carry a grounding object in your pocket – a small object (a small rock, ring, piece of cloth) that you can touch whenever you feel unpleasant emotions rising.

5. Notice your body: the weight of your body in the chair; wiggling your toes in your socks; the feel of your back against the chair.

6. Stretch. Extend your fingers, arms, legs as far as you can; slowly and gently roll your head around.

7. Clench and release your firsts.

8. Jump up and down.

9. Eat something in a savoring way; fully experience the food; describe the sights, aromas, textures, flavors, and the experience in detail to yourself.

10. Focus on your breathing, noticing each inhale and exhale. Repeat a pleasant word to yourself on each exhale.

Soothing Grounding:

1. Say kind statements, as if you were talking to a friend or small child – for example, “You are a good person going through a hard time. You’ll get through this.”

2. Think of favorites. Think of your favorite color, animal, season, food, time of day, TV show.

3. Picture people you care about and look at photographs of them.

4. Remember the words to an inspiring song, quotation, or poem that makes you feel better (e.g., serenity prayer).

5. Say a coping statement: “I can handle this,” “This feeling will pass.”

6. Plan a safe treat for yourself, such as a piece of candy, a nice dinner, or a warm bath.

7. Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week – perhaps time with a friend, going to a movie, or going on a hike.

TIPS:

• Practice! Practice! Practice! Like any other skill, grounding takes practice. So practice as often as possible and before you actually need it. Then, when you need to call upon this skill you will have it, know it, and use it well.

• Try to notice which methods you like best – physical, mental, or soothing grounding methods, or some combination.

• Start grounding early on in a negative mood cycle. Start before the anger, anxiety, or other feeling gets out of control.

• Create your own method of grounding. Any method you make up may be worth much more than those you read here, because it is yours.

• Make up an index card or type in your phone a list of your best grounding methods. Have the list available so it is there when you need it.

• Create a soundtrack of a grounding message that you can play when needed. Consider asking your counselor or someone close to you to record it if you want to hear someone else’s voice.

• Have others assist you in grounding. Teach family/friends about grounding, so that they can help guide you if you become overwhelmed.

• Don’t give up!

Now, list three of the strategies described above that you think will work best for you. Then practice these skills regularly, so in times of need you will know what to do and how to do it successfully.

3 grounding strategies I am committed to learning, practicing, and applying:

1.

2.

3.

After practicing and/or applying these grounding strategies, what have you noticed? Do you feel more in control? Do your emotions change? Are you able to calm yourself and focus on something other than the unpleasant emotions and situations?