The Secret Handbook 4 Teens

End of the school year got you stressed? Just breathe!

Last night at dinner my daughter and I were talking about how she and her classmates were all starting to experience elevated levels of stress with end of the year exams and standardized tests looming in the not-so-distant future. I’m sure she inwardly roller her eyes (maybe, maybe not) when I immediately used this as another opportunity to talk about the power of your breath to help calm you down.

As I’ve previously discussed here, I have embarked on my own breathing and meditation journey since experiencing a panic attack a few months ago. In fact, today is my 58th day of meditating using the Headspace meditation app and my second week of my beginner yoga practice which is a whole ‘nuther post. Through meditation I’ve certainly become more aware of my thoughts and breath and I’ve found that frequently during the day, I check in to see how I’m breathing. When things get tense at work or with life, I remember more and more to just take three slow deep breaths. I pause to look at my bracelet which read “Be Present” to ground myself in the present moment (because everything is actually always ok in the present moment when you’re not worrying about the past or future) and I breathe.

Breathing is a powerful tool to use when school pressures start to mount and it doesn’t have to be complicated either.

Just take three deep belly breaths.

And I do mean belly breaths. No shallow half-hearted breaths here! Breathe in so deeply that your lower belly expands (you know, like when you eat too much and get a food baby pooch? Yup, like that.), and sloooowly let your belly flatten as you exhale that breathe. You’re almost done – just take two more breaths like that.

Breathing like this to help manage your stress doesn’t mean you get to study less or that all your worries will fade away but studies have shown that this type of breathing actually causes your brain to change in positive ways. So who knows, maybe meditation and paying attention to your breathing will make it easier to take your tests and finish out the school year in a more positive way. I’m not making any promises but approaching stressful situations with a little more peace and a calmer body can’t hurt. Namaste my friends and wishing you many successes as your close out your school year!


Ever Have a Panic Attack? I did & it is NOT fun.

panic button

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted since my Dad died and while I know that I’ve been grieving and have been experiencing stress, I thought I was coping pretty well. I still got up and went to work every day. I still talked to my friends, went grocery shopping and spent time with my family. The weeks after my Dad passed were the most stressful…we moved my Mom, sold her house, got her settled and drove to NJ every weekend from down south so sure, there were lots of hours in the car. Still, I thought I was doing pretty well.

Well, two weeks ago my Mom went into the hospital with a respiratory virus. Because she has an existing lung condition even a cold can be a big problem so to say I was stressed would be an understatement. My stress was compounded by the fact that my Mom has been telling me and my sisters that she just wants to go be with my Dad in heaven. Then my sister really freaked me out be telling me that I needed to come up to see my Mom immediately implying that she was dying. OMG.

So yeah, stress. My mom went into the hospital on Thursday night and they quickly got her stabilized and my other sister informed me that no, my mother was not dying and that I could relax. Sure I felt relief but I guess I was underestimating how stressed I was. On Saturday I felt funny. Not like myself. Short of breath. Dizzy. Nauseous. Headache. I sorta knew I had a sinus infection and even though I’ve had these symptoms for a few weeks now, I was still attributing them to various other issues…I must just have a head cold. Allergies. My asthma was acting up. As my I began to feel worse and worse my husband insisted he was going to take me to the emergency room. And then it all started.

I felt a tingling start in my spine and it soon traveled to my arms and legs. I began hyperventilating and asked my husband to call 911 telling him I was having a heart attack or stroke. My arms and legs began to shake uncontrollably and I felt like I was hanging on to my consciousness by a thread. The EMTs got there and monitored my heart rate, put me on oxygen and took me to the ER after assuring me I was not having a heart attack or stroke (at which point I decided I must be getting ready to have a seizure then because my body was so out of my control). What did they know?! I felt like I was dying!

So they did all the things they usually do in an ER. Put in an IV, heart monitor, more oxygen, chest xray, bloodwork etc etc. And then the doctor came in and told me I had a panic attack. I was embarrassed, horrified, confused, and in disbelief that stress could do that to my body.

So, what’s the point of my tale? It’s to tell that I am now a firm believer that stress really can kill. Yes we all hear about how stress is bad for you. How you need to do things to manage stress and we all poo poo it and say yeah yeah, I know. I’ve got this though. I’m good. I’m getting through all my days aren’t I? I’m getting my work done. I’m living my life. I’m managing my stress like a pro. Until you’re not.

Honestly, I still don’t quite feel like myself since my little trip to the ER but I immediately began taking steps to truly take care of myself (instead of just saying I am). I am trying to eat healthier. I’m limiting sugar. I can’t even think about coffee or caffeine at the moment because the idea of taking anything that would make my heart race like that again is terrifying. I stretch. I have started walking again. I am honoring my body when it tells me I need to rest. But most importantly, I am truly practicing mindfulness and meditation. I religiously spend a few minutes meditating every day but I’m not doing it on my own. I downloaded the Mindfulness apps and Buddhify (my favorite) and I manage to find the time to quiet my mind and monitor my breathing.

I’ve spent many posts here preaching about the importance of meditation but I have to admit, I got lazy and didn’t practice what I was preaching. Don’t be like me. Meditate. Quiet your mind. Manage your stress. Don’t just tell yourself you’re managing it when you know you’re really not.

There are a lot of things that can kill us in life but this is one that we can control so why not control it? I see the stress that my daughter is under in school and now I worry more than I used to about how she’s managing it. And how you all are managing the stress in your lives. With that, I’ve realized it’s time to get back to blogging. It’s time to stop ignoring the things that I care about in life and start to actually engage in life again. It’s time to manage my stress. It’s time to help you manage yours.

Thanks for reading folks. It’s good to be back.

4 Ways 4 Teens 2 B.E.A.T. Stress

I see how stressed out my teen daughter and her friends are about school and their crazy and intense schedules (up too early, to bed too late, too many activities, too many responsibilities….sound familiar?) Basically, stress if going to be a part of your life unless you decide to manage it.  Lucky for you, there are a few easy things you can do every day to help you manage this stress. I’ve made it really simple for you. Just remember the letters B – E – A – T. These are four easy ways to BEAT stress.

1. Breathe.

When you’re stressed, whether you realize it or not, you start to breathe more shallowly. You deny your body of oxygen and getting more oxygen via a few deep breaths is one of the easiest things you can do to calm yourself down. This doesn’t have to be complicated but there are a few different techniques out there. One of my favorites, and one that helps me to fall asleep really quickly, is called the 4-7-8 technique. Basically you just breath in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of 7 and then exhale for a count of 8. It might feel weird at first but it works. If you want to do something simpler just count your breath. Breath in and count to one, breathe out and count to two. Breath in and count to three, breath out and count to four. Now start over. Honestly, do whatever feels comfortable for you but just breathe.

2. Eat Right.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Eat right. Don’t drink sugary soda. Avoid fast food. Blah blah blah. I know you’ve been told to eat your veggies since you’ve been little but what you eat can really impact how you feel. Our instincts when we’re stressed are to eat comforting and fattening junk food but eating healthy makes you feel better inside which makes you feel better outside and so when you eat right, you feel right. I’m not saying you need to give up your comfort foods completely but don’t drown your stress in food. It will just make you feel worse.

3. Accomplish Small Tasks.

As a life coach I worked with graduate students who were trying to write their dissertations for their PhDs. They would come to me with huge lists of what they wanted to accomplish each day. “Write for 2 hours!” or “Finish one book each day” and I have to tell you, this is just crazy and reaaaaally adds to your stress. If you are going to learn one study/work habit make it this one – break everything down into small tasks. Got a paper to write? Write down a list of all the things you have to do to get it done: 1) Research the author and find 5 articles about her, 2) Write one paragraph on the author’s childhood, 3) Outline the last paragraph of the paper, etc. Sure you already sort of know all of the steps but writing them down into reasonable chunks and then checking them off when you do them is a huge stress reliever. You get to see everything you have to do and then get to see your progress. Again, sounds simple but do it consistently and you will see how much less stressful school tasks can be.

4. Take Time 4 Yourself

I’m not going to tell you to stop watching videos of puppies and delete your social media accounts to relieve stress because that would be, well….stressful! In order to manage your life you need to take time for yourself and do the things you enjoy. But here’s the thing, you can plan for these things to make them seem like more of a part of your life instead of constant distractions. When you get home from school tell yourself that you’re going to take 30 minutes just to do whatever you want to do. It can be watching TV, texting your friends, going outside, sitting and staring blankly at a wall…whatever makes you happy and relaxed. Do it and enjoy it without guilt. But when those 30 minutes are up, get back to whatever you need to do until your next break. I know time management can sound like it might be stressful but it’s really just being organized and managing your precious free time smartly. You’ll see that you actually do have time for everything and may even find that you have time leftover to do ever more of what you love. Trust me, it works.

So there you have it. Four easy things to do to BEAT stress. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. You tell me what you do to manage your stress. Share it with other teens and share it with me! We all lead crazy stressed out lives but by being aware of yourself and your time and body and energy you can go a long way to managing stress, as a teen and forever.

Search 4 a Dream, Not a Job

These days I hear so many teens worrying about what college they will get into and what kind of job they will get (or fears about not getting a job once out of college) and I’m here to beg you to change the way you think about your future.

Please please please search for and pursue your dream and don’t worry about the actual job. Think about why this is important. Surely you know people who hate what they do right? Think about the adults you know (maybe even your own family members) who drag themselves to a job they hate every day just so they can get a paycheck. I’m not saying there aren’t times when you might need to take a job because you need to earn money but if you start planning the right way now, hopefully your job will just be you living your dream and happening to earn a paycheck as a bonus.

Use your time at school to help you build this dream and vision.

Go into college being open to new ideas and new experiences. Take classes that you might not even think you’re interested in because it could be the one that blows your mind and changes your perspective on life. Get good grades because you are inspired to learn. Plan your future and create an action plan to get you where you want to be, not to just get you a job. Don’t come out of college and go on and aimlessly search for something that sounds moderately interesting just because it’s time to make some dollars and join the real world. Nothing could be more depressing.

So how do you actually do this? How do you build a dream and not just become a job seeker? All it really takes are some actions (which you can actually write down as an actual plan but that’s another blog post) that you execute along the way.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you want to go to college with a goal of opening your own cupcake business. Now think about what you need to learn and do to build that business. You’d probably want to take some business classes and maybe some finance-related classes in school. You might also want to take some cooking classes on the side and maybe an art class to inspire your creative mind. Maybe you get a summer job working at a bakery to learn the ropes. Maybe you find a mentor who has created a successful business. Maybe you spend your free time baking up new and interesting batches of delicious cupcakes to test on your family and friends. Perhaps you go to a bank to learn about small business loans and what would be required of you. Maybe you read books about successful entrepreneurs (or famous bakers!) for inspiration and ideas. I could go on and on but basically, there are any number of steps you can take to design and pursue your dream.

Now, it might turn out that you go on and find an add for a job as a baker and that’s great but you can also take deliberate steps to pursue a dream and not just a job. You’ll notice the one thing I did not say is required is that you go to Harvard, Princeton, Yale or Stanford to achieve this dream. There are many many wonderful colleges and universities out there where you can learn, grow and plan your future. The name on your college sweatshirt will not make or break your dream. Trust me on this.

Want some help? Comment here with your questions and I will try to help you map out your dream!