4 Tips For Talking To Parents About Depression

As a teen, talking to parents is hard enough. It can feel like your parents are constantly judging you or that they just don't understand. The problem is, when we feel like they don't understand us we tend to pull away from them, making it even more difficult for them to understand where we are coming from. Add depression onto that and it makes it even worse. Parents may not understand your symptoms and it is important that they do. Here are some strategies for talking with parents about depression.

1) Set some ground rules before the conversation starts. 

It is perfectly okay to tell your parents that you want to talk to them and then set some limits for the conversation. Some parents can ask a TON of questions so a limit you may want to set is, "I will answer 5 questions" or however many you feel comfortable with answering. Another example of a limit you may want to set is the length of the conversation. Saying that you are willing to talk for 10 or 15 minutes is perfectly acceptable. This way everyone knows ahead of time what to expect regarding the rules of the conversation. 

2) Have a conversation "time out" discussion.

During emotionally charged conversations people can become easily upset. Before having an emotional conversation decide together as a family how you will know when someone is getting too upset to continue the conversation. It may be when people start raising their voices, rolling their eyes, cursing, etc. Whatever the pattern is for your family try to identify this as a marker that the conversation needs a "time out." Next decide how long the time out should be and what you should be doing to calm down during that time out. It won't help if you go to your room and break things, or if when you leave the room your parents start to immediately talk about you. Decide what each person will do in order to calm down and where that will take place. Deciding these things ahead of time will make it easier to implement the time out when the conversation happens. Remember though, a "time out" is not an opportunity to sweep things under the rug. I recommend continuing the conversation sometime in the next 24 hours. 

3) Make a list.

It can be so hard to remember all the things we want to say to people when we are in an emotionally heightened state of mind. I find that it can make it easier if you write down a couple of points you want to make ahead of time and reference those points during the conversation. This will also help you to stay on point and avoid having the conversation go in a different direction. 

4) Do it in therapy.

A therapist can be a wonderful tool for you to use to assist in talking with your parents about your depression. Talk with your therapist about what you want to communicate and how. A therapist may also be able to provide your parents with some education on depression. A therapist can also be there to provide emotional support during these tough conversations. Communication is a skill that is learned and continuously worked on throughout life. The goal for having these conversations with a therapist present is to learn how to have them more effectively when you are on your own. 


3 Tips for Getting Rid of Anxiety at School

Anxiety can be debilitating and can make even the most confident person feel afraid and small. Below are three tips that if practiced together will help to get rid of your anxiety, not just at school but anywhere! These are coping skills and like any skill, you get better and more effective the more you practice. My advice is to practice when you aren't anxious. That way when the time comes for you to use the coping strategy you will be a pro and find it that much more useful. 

1) Breathe. This seems automatic right? Not always. When we become anxious our breathing rate can increase or we can do the opposite and hold our breath. This contributes to the brain's stimulation of the fight, flight, freeze reflex. That automatic system that is helpful when being chased by a tiger but not so helpful when taking a math quiz and you have to think. The problem with the fight, flight, freeze response is that it shuts down our frontal lobe, the part of the brain that is responsible to thinking! One way to get our frontal lobe back in action is to take slow deep breaths. I like using square breathing. This is a technique where you breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds and then breathe out for 4 seconds and you guessed it, you do it 4 times. Next time you start feeling anxious give square breathing a try. 

2) Wet noodle. What does this mean? Wet noodling is when you relax every muscle in your body, ultimately resembling a wet noodle. When your body is tense it sets off that fight, flight, freeze response and research shows that it is IMPOSSIBLE to set off that response if your muscles are relaxed. So what does that mean for you when you are taking a test and can't remember the answer, triggering a wave of uncontrollable anxiety? Take a moment to let all the muscles in your body go and start to feel your frontal lobe come back on board. It will be so much easier for you to come up with that answer if you are taking that test with a relaxed body. 

3) Tapping. Ever wonder why you at times uncontrollably shake your leg when your anxious? It is our body's way of trying to re-engage the frontal lobe. A better and more effective way of doing that is to tap both feet alternating right and left. Better yet, get your hands involved and walk around. Research shows that when we engage both sides of our body our cortisol levels (that stress hormone that triggers the fight, flight, freeze response) drop and thus we are better able to use that most important part of our brain, the frontal lobe.