5 Ways to Help Your Daughter Through Teen Depression

Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder as it’s diagnosed, is on the rise in teen girls. According to the Pew Research Center, teen depression for girls increased by 66% between 2007 and 2017, with 1 in 5 girls experiencing at least one depressive episode.

There hasn’t been a lot of published data for 2020 – 2021 yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this number continues to rise. The impacts of the pandemic have been hard on everyone, particularly teen girls. Teens are in this important developmental stage of pulling away from their parents to assert independence (a key transition for adulthood!). They turn towards their friends and peers as an all important source of connection and finding their identity. Recently, these have become trickier to navigate. Stack on top of that, rising stress and you have a recipe for disaster. But let’s not leave it on this grim note – I want to send a message of hope – there are things that you do that help your teen rise above depression. There are things she can do to bring more joy and meaning to her life. 

Photo by Mark Decile on Unsplash

If your teen daughter is experiencing low moods most of the time (including anger, irritation, sadness, and numbness), isn’t acting like herself, is pulling away or losing interest in activities she usually enjoys, is struggling to socialize, and/or having trouble sleeping (either over or under sleeping) she may be experiencing depression.

In my years of practice,  I have developed a program – The Happiness Pill Program –  specifically to help your daughter through her  depression. Oftentimes, teens wish they could simply take a pill and fix their depression, but this is often not a long-term solution. The Happiness Pill Program will give your teen daughter the skill sets to get through depression, and step into the joyful, confident person she wishes to be. You can check it out HERE.

And to get you started right away, to support your teen daughter to shift beyond depression, here are 5 tips that you can share with your teen by:

  • Learning about them
  • Modeling them
  • Inviting them to try these out for themselves 

Teen Depression Tip #1: The Power of Thought

Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. Give this a try (thank you Amira Alvarez for this exercise!) Imagine someone you love deeply. Picture them in your mind doing something that makes you smile. Notice what happens in your body when you really imagine this person doing that thing that brings you pure joy. What did you notice? My heart feels full and expansive and a smile paints itself on my face. But that person is not in front of me doing that thing. This is not happening in real time, I am simply using my thoughts to shift my emotional state and the sensations in my body. 

Helping your teen daughter recognize that she has the ability to overcome difficult moments and switch things around is an impactful tool to take away the power of depressive thoughts. Invite  your teen daughter to start simply noticing her thoughts and being curious. You’re not telling her what to do with any of her thoughts. Instead, you are simply getting her to start checking in with herself when thoughts pop in.

 “Is this thought serving me, or blocking me?”. You can help them start to tell the difference between a helpful thought – one that empowers them to be the confident person they want to be, and respond to things in the way they desire to – and a thought that blocks them. A blocking thought is one that isn’t serving them. 

“What can I do with this thought instead?”

One exercise you can offer to help with thoughts that don’t serve your teen daughter is a ‘mental vacation’. This is a tool to unhook from a thought that is leading to low emotions and turning into a negative spiral of thoughts. She can (you can do this too!)  picture herself somewhere peaceful and safe, it can be somewhere she’s been, wants to go, or somewhere completely imaginary. Next, she can take a few moments to really imagine what it would be like there, with all of her senses – what can she See? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste? 

One easy way to shift gears and create a break for herself. 

Teen Depression Tip #2: Self-Care Assessment

Self-care might bring up the staple image of bubble baths, candles and soothing music. This is great if that’s your vibe. Self-care is in fact sooo much more than that. The way I think of it, is any action (small, medium, or large) that you take that is one step above just surviving. It may not take you

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash

into thriving and that’s ok! 

Help your daughter, by getting clear for yourself on what some of your self-care rituals are. Do you have an amazing lotion that you use? What about reading quietly for a few minutes after everyone’s in bed? Do you invest in therapy or coaching? How about going to the gym or go out with a friend from time to time. It’s for you to decide what self-care is and what is a level up from just getting by. 

You can encourage your daughter to be curious about how she is taking care of herself, to look at things from a different angle. Bring awareness to it, and then ask how it impacts her.

Body movement is an especially neglected one that I like to bring awareness to in my sessions with teen girls. It’s an integral part of overall health. Your daughter can check in with herself by asking things like, “How am I taking care of myself physically? What’s my sleep like? How is my tech use impacting my physical health?” The key here is not to tell her what to do, instead have her come to her own reflections on how physical health behaviors are positively or negatively impacting.  

From there what action (small, medium, large) can she take to make an adjustment. This gives her the power to choose what she does next.

Teen Depression Tip #3: Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to one’s self,  and you can help grow this skill.

Teen girls tend to be harder on themselves than others (aren’t we all?). I find asking teen girls to imagine what they would tell their best friend in the same situation a good start to lead into self-compassion. “If  your best friend were struggling in the same way you are, how would you help them? What would you say to them? What support would you offer them?”.  They can then turn that around to themselves and see in what ways their response is similar or different to how they would respond to someone they care about. 

For many of us, the way we respond to ourselves is V-E-R-Y different,  often a lot more negative, than how we respond to others. Instead of the kindness and empathy you might offer to your best friend, you are thinking things like – “Why can’t I get this? Everyone’s judging me. I’m a failure”. Your daughter is probably experiencing something pretty similar or even more intense.

When she is in the headspace of “I’m a failure, I can’t do this, I keep messing up”, etc. it can be really hard to take action and move forward. Bringing awareness to this opens up a space for your daughter to start treating herself a  little more kindly. 

Teen Depression Tip #4: Being in the Now

If your teen daughter is going through depression, her nervous system is feeling it too. She might experience detachment, or a numbness; where there is a  lack of feeling, sensation, and/or emotion. She could be feeling cut off from the world, from herself, and her environment; a loss of connection.

Helping your daughter connect to the present moment by using grounding and mindfulness techniques can help to rewire the nervous system to a place where she’s more relaxed and calm – so she can feel safe in her body and connect to self, others, and environment.

Here are a few ways you can help your daughter feel more grounded:

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

  • 5 Finger Breathing
  • Box Breathing
  • Slow down the breath with one hand on your chest or stomach while you breathe in and out 
  • Taking a breath in and humming as you breathe out
  • 54321 Senses Exercise (noticing what you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste, etc.)
  • Placing feet on the floor and really noticing the pressure and sensations of your feet being connected to the ground
  • Placing hands on the wall and applying pressure. Noticing what it feels like
  • Taking a walk and combining the 54321 exercise
  • Rubbing your palms together to create some heat and slowly noticing as they cool off
  • A little cold exposure like washing hands in cold water, splashing face gently with cold water, etc. 

Teen Depression Tip #5: Highlighting Uniqueness

Last, but certainly not least, highlighting your daughter’s strengths, qualities, skills, and resources is a wonderful way to help them realize what makes them unique. And further to that, start taking actions that move them in the direction of who they actually want to be and how they want to show up. 

What is it that makes your daughter, her?  What characteristics or skills does she have? Which does she want to develop? What’s important to her (her values)?

If there are things your teen values, but feels she isn’t stepping up  in the way she wants to, how can she get there?

Highlighting strengths, qualities, characteristics, uniqueness, values, etc.  is really important because it can help them see and step into who they want to be; their most confident selves.

I like to use the character strengths exercise with teens to help bring awareness to their strengths, how they are playing out right now,  and which ones they would like to grow. 

I sincerely hope these tools have given you a place to start! Don’t forget to check out The Happiness Pill Program – I designed it to support you AND your teen daughter through this journey. You can also download your FREE Anxiety & Depression Toolkit for Parents along with our mini webinars, all free and delivered straight to your inbox! Download your copy HERE.

Tool Kit

Email us with any questions, any time: info@pyramidpsychology.com

Love,

Chantal


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Keeping Teen Depression at Bay: 100 Ways to Boost Your Mood

If you are in Canada or anywhere in the Northern hemisphere, the change of season is in full swing – along with the increased likelihood of falling into depression. There are less daylight hours and gone are the freedoms of summer until next year. The stress of being back to school combined with the colder dark days hits hard for many teens.

This is not always the case, some of you might be welcoming the routine, knowing what to expect, and activities and things to keep you occupied. But if you have been finding yourself feeling a little more sad, irritated, angry, or stressed, or know you could easily slip into one of these, this article is for you.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Be sure to scroll to the bottom to get your printable version of the 100 ways to boost your mood and keep depression at bay.

Get your printable PDF here: 100 Ways to Boost Your Mood – for Teen Girls. 

The weather change and back to school routine are just some reasons you might be feeling low. Sometimes you might not even be totally aware of what’s leading to that down feeling, but you know how hard it is to get motivated to do anything. It can seem impossible to want to take action even if you know those things will make you feel better. 

When I get in a slump, it can be really hard to do my workouts even if I know in my brain how good I  will feel afterwards. I’ve come to learn that oftentimes the more I’m resisting doing something, the more I really need to be doing that thing.   

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

Things can quickly spiral into that bummed out dark place. Like if you’re feeling more and more tired, your emotions might feel like they are rollercoasting or flatlining into numbness. The idea of picking yourself up and doing something to change how you feel can truly be a challenge, even down to showering, eating, reaching out to a friend, doing something fun or active, etc. 

And even though it might seem like turning around the Titanic when it comes to boosting your mood when you’re feeling depressed, there’s a reason why it’s so important to take action to lift your spirits. Because what you do is what gets set into your habits and what you think is what gets patterned into your brain. The brain loves the path of least resistance, so if you constantly give it low, sad, depressed, unmotivated energy and motions, that’s going to be your brain’s go to and what it will want to continue.

On the other hand, the more you give yourself that boost – doing and trying things that lift your mood – the more your brain and body are going to want to do those things, bringing more joy, love, excitement and contentment into your life.

It doesn’t mean you’re not ever going to feel sad, crappy, or depressed sometimes. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to be hard to get up and do that thing. However, I have compiled a list of 100 things that can help boost your mood out of feelings of depression. You can use this as a quick reference guide to go back to…

Pick 3-4 to try each week or pick your top 10 and do those consistently over this month. I really hope you will see a positive difference in your life!

  1. Move your body for 20 minutes today
  2. Hang out with someone you like
  3. Help someone out
  4. Get some more sleep – try a 20 minute nap or go to bed earlier for the next couple nights
  5. Eat something that has mood enhancing properties – like berries, bananas, nuts, etc.  
  6. Listen to something funny- funny video, song, podcast
  7. Call someone who makes you laugh 
  8. Smile- fake it til you make it – science that says boost serotonin and dopamine (feel good endorphins)

    Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

  9. Think of something you are looking forward to in the next week/month/year
  10. Remember a happy memory
  11. Try a self-compassion exercise 
  12. Spend time cuddling with an animal
  13. Go for a drive and just take in sights
  14. Sign up for something new (class, webinar, activity, club at school, etc.)
  15. Volunteer – giving back makes us feel good.
  16. Dance
  17. Eat some chocolate – Go dark for this one.
  18. Create a bucket list or a list of things you’ve never done but would like to and choose one thing to go and do
  19. Go outdoors in nature
  20. Ask a friend to make plans for a future date
  21. Make a happy or mood lifting music playlist
  22. Take an amazing selfie
  23. Go back and do something that you used to enjoy when you were younger
  24. Go see a movie – preferably something inspiring or funny
  25. Read a book 
  26. Draw something
  27. Make art (paint, sculpting, collage, etc.)
  28. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time (e.g. aunt, friend) and ask them about their day
  29. Write down some affirmations 
  30. Make your own list of mood boosting ideas
  31. Go shopping
  32. Put on your favourite outfit and go out
  33. Go to a party
  34. Organize or plan a party
  35. Play a sport
  36. Do something kind for someone else unexpectedly 
  37. Read poetry
  38. Write poetry
  39. Do something thrill seeking (e.g. roller coasters, mountain biking, ice climbing, cave diving, hot air balloon, etc.)
  40. Go to a pet store and pet the cutest furry fluffy critters you can find
  41. Write a letter to your future self
  42. Do a series of pushups, situps, squats and lunges for 90 seconds each
  43. Look in the mirror and say 3 nice things about yourself
  44. Get a spa treatment (e.g. massage, manicure, pedicure)
  45. Go to a laughter yoga class
  46. Go to a regular yoga class
  47. Do something a little extravagant (e.g. expensive dinner, rent a limo, wear something nice, splurge on something)
  48. Give/get a hug

    Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

  49. Snuggle a baby
  50. Play with a younger cousin/sibling
  51. Do something physically vigorous like a run or hike
  52. Offer yourself words of encouragement
  53. Go for ice cream or another delicious treat
  54. Give someone a compliment
  55. Make a list of things you’d things you like to do today and knock them off celebrating each one you get to
  56. Research your dream career
  57. Have a meal with people you enjoy
  58. Book a session with a therapist or teen life coach
  59. Play a game 
  60. Cook a nice meal
  61. Ask 3 people what they like about you
  62. Listen to inspiring videos
  63. Watch funny memes
  64. Make a video
  65. Set a 28 day challenge
  66. Go into a crystal shop and pick out one that speaks to you
  67. Journal your feelings, hopes, and dreams
  68. Use a mood tracking app everyday for the week
  69. Garden or do something that has you getting your hands dirty
  70. Read a book from your childhood
  71. Learn something new
  72. Run some stairs for 5 minutes
  73. Buy a inexpensive gift card to your favourite treat place and give it to the next person in line
  74. Start a gratitude journal/list 
  75. Download and start on an acts of kindness calendar
  76. Create a dance routine with a friend
  77. Write a song
  78. Make up the most outrageous touchdown celebration move
  79. Flip through a fashion magazine and snapshot your favourite outfits
  80. Find someone famous who looks like you 
  81. Check out this calendar to download all kinds of action calendars to boost happiness and download the app
  82. Watch a ted talk on happiness
  83. Clean out your closet or another space
  84. Show love to someone your care about
  85. Write a thank you letter to someone (you can send or not)
  86. Tackle a to do list
  87. Drink plenty of water

    Photo by quokkabottles on Unsplash

  88. Meditate
  89. Organize something
  90. Find, printout, write out quotes that you like and make them visible
  91. Scrapbook a favourite memory
  92. Sing
  93. Make a new friend
  94. Give something up 
  95. Try a new wellness app
  96. Play video games
  97. Write down a list of your strengths and qualities
  98. Create a vision board where you imagine your ideal self/ideal life- 
  99. Use mental vacation technique (imagine a favourite place- imaginary or real and take it in through all your senses – what you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste).
  100. Use your posture to boost confidence and mood.
Boost Your Mood

Love,
Chantal

 


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Thought Distortions: You Have the Power to Choose Happiness

Sometimes, your brain can play tricks on you and create thoughts that bend the truth, or alter reality –  these kinds of thoughts are called Thought Distortions. They can also be called Thinking Traps or Cognitive Distortions.

Having these thoughts doesn’t mean you can’t trust your brain, but you may want to ask yourself how you can look at these thoughts differently… The ability to find happiness in your thoughts and experiences is already within you. There are techniques and strategies to activate what I call your ‘Happiness Pill’.

Photo from Canva Pro

Getting Hooked

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has between 12,000 – 80,000 thoughts A DAY! over 6,000 (can we please reference) thoughts A DAY! Your brain brings your attention to some of them more than others; the thoughts you believe in the most..

Giving your attention to some thoughts can be helpful – like if you think you are a great artist, or you believe you have good support in your life. Of course you want to believe these thoughts! They make you feel really good. You want to let yourself believe in them.

However, there are other thoughts that can get you hooked or hijack your brain and don’t serve you as well. Things like “I”m going to mess this up. I ALWAYS make mistakes here. People don’t actually like me, they just feel bad for me.” These thoughts can make you feel really down, or bad about yourself, and they impact your behaviour negatively. You might not step up and do the things you want to do because you’re stuck in your thoughts (or trapped). It happens to all of us!

These thinking distortions are kind of like those mirrors at the carnivals, you know the ones that are curved, and wobbly. They make your body look bizarre, and wonky; distorted. Your thoughts will sometimes do things like that – they will distort reality.

The difference between the mirrors at the carnival , and the thoughts in your head is that sometimes you don’t know you’re looking through the wonky mirrors, so you believe what you’re seeing/believing is true.

The key to seeing through thinking distortions is to recognize times when you are standing in a mirror like this; when you are hooked on a thought. To bring awareness to what it is leading you to think and feel about yourself. If you look into the mirror and see something you don’t like, then maybe that’s not a thought you want to hold onto. You have the power to choose which mirror you want to look into.

There are many different types of Thought Distortions. Here are the six most common ones I hear from the teens I work with:

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Six Types of Thought Distortions

  • Catastrophizing is when you think about something that has happened and immediately jump to the worst case scenario – “I got a bad grade, so now I am going to fail the whole class. I said something that wasn’t cool, so now I’m never going to have friends; everyone is going to hate me.”
  • Minimizing is when you take your accomplishments and your successes and dismiss them. If you believe you aren’t good enough, you minimize any thoughts that could prove that wrong. Like if you got a part in a play, or a new job and you say things like “Oh, I only got the part because the teacher didn’t have other options” or “My friends works there, that’s why I got the job.” You dismiss that any successes may actually be because of you! Who you are. Your personality, characteristics, talents, skills, etc.
  • Labelling is when you put a label on yourself, about who you are, rather than it being something you did, or that may have happened. You label yourself as something, rather than labeling the behaviour.

    Photo from Canva Pro

    Instead of thinking “oh, I made a mistake” you’re thinking “I AM stupid, or I AM lazy.”

  • Mind Reading/Jumping to Conclusions is when you think you know what another person is thinking or feeling, without having any proof of that; nobody is actually saying that. Let’s say you’re at a party, and you’re feeling a little awkward, so you’re hanging out in the corner, not really talking to anyone. Mind reading could look like: “they all hate me, nobody wants to talk to me. Everyone here thinks I”m so weird.You jump to conclusions!
  • Black & White Thinking (AKA all or nothing thinking) is when there is no grey zone in your thoughts. It’s either/or; can’t be anything else. This shows up in ‘always’ or ‘never’ type of language – “I ALWAYS mess up new conversations. I NEVER get picked first for the team.” Oftentimes, you might have thoughts that begin with “everyone” or “no one”… If your thought begins with some of these, you’re likely in all or none thinking.
  • Personalization is when you make a situation about you, when it isn’t really about you. You take the blame for things that have very little to do with you or are outside of your control. It is different from taking accountability or responsibility for something you’ve done; this is where everything is your fault.Let’s say you and some classmates at school got a bad grade on a group presentation. A personalization thought would look like “this is all my fault because I didn’t draw the poster well enough. I caused everyone to have a low grade, because I was so terrible at presenting.” The truth here is likely that everyone had a part to play in the low grade.

 

Photo from Canva Pro

Alternative Thinking

Now that you can recognize the different types of Thought Distortions, you can begin to notice when you are thinking in this way. Here are some questions you can ask when you notice these thoughts:

  • What situations are these types of thoughts showing up in? ( E.g.: do they show up more when I’m at school, or when I’m with my friends?)
  • What are the most common thinking traps for my brain?
  • Is this actually true?
  • What’s the evidence for this thought?
  • What’s the value in standing in front of this mirror? Why do I want to stand here?
  • DO I want to???

Photo from Canva

The next step is to think of alternative thoughts – if the thought you’re currently thinking is a possibility, what else could it be? Ask yourself:

  • How does this thought make me feel? Is this how I want to feel?
  • What is the behaviour – or the way I am acting – because of this thought/how it makes me feel? Is this the behaviour I want?

If your answer is no to either of these questions, what could be an alternative, another thought that would lead to a different feeling or behaviour?

For example, you could be thinking “I didn’t get invited to the movies because nobody likes me” which is making you feel really crappy about yourself… You may choose to stop talking to your friends (the behaviour), or isolate yourself from others. Or instead, you could think: “what else could it be? Could there be something else that is true?”

You want to find thoughts that may lead you to feeling better, or taking a different action.

Imagine all of your thoughts in a day (12,000+, remember!) are all in one big glass house that is covered in the mirrors we talked about earlier. Which ones do you want to stand in front of? What is a mirror you would rather look into?

Photo from Canva Pro

That could be a mirror of confidence – if you want to stand in front of that mirror, ask yourself what would it look like?

A mirror of confidence might look like: “They didn’t invite me this time, maybe they didn’t know I wanted to come to the party/find it fun. I really like hanging out with people and can’t wait until the next opportunity to join them!” Where does thinking these instead lead you to feeling? It may help you feel better; motivated, and confident.

Your actions will look different when you feel differently – you might go talk to new people, or be active in the social media group your friends are in.

Being aware of your thoughts, asking these questions, and thinking alternative thoughts is the power you have to make a choice about what you think and feel. It is how you find happiness in your experiences – your own ‘Happiness Pill.’

This work is not easy. There might be a lot of mirrors in front of you with distortions and images you don’t like! You have to work to find mirrors without the distortions, the ones that will support you. It takes effort and work, which can be discouraging. But I promise – it is so worth it!

The Happiness Pill Program is a program I created just for you and all the other teens who are also feeling anxious and thinking worried thoughts. It is a program designed to give you the power to find, create, and choose your own happiness. You will get to connect with me personally to map out the life you want, and build a friendship circle (online) of friends who are building the same skills as you are. Send me an email for more information – you can feel light, and free with the things you will learn in the program!

You can also follow me on TikTok (@therapywithchantal) or Instagram (@therapywithchantal) for daily tips, resources, and quotes.

As always, reach out any time!

Love,
Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Your Body Image: 6 Things That Will Make You Think Twice

Do you ever find yourself looking in the mirror thinking “I wish I had …..[bigger, thinner, longer, better ____________]” – this is you looking at your body image.

Every day youth are bombarded with images and messages about their appearance and the impossible beauty standards put forth by society. Measuring your worth by how your body looks is a slippery slope of negative self-talk, body bashing, and self-loathing.

What if you could use your appearance to tell a story, to share your uniqueness, to uplift your self-image and stop the negativity in its tracks? 

If you’re ready to think twice about how you feel about your body image,  read on.

Photo found on www.medium.com, an article by Juliet Torrisi.

The Difference Between Self Image and Body Image

Self-image is a larger term that includes how you see yourself in relation to yourself, other people, and to the world that you live in. Basically anything that is involved in ‘self’ impacts and is a part of your self image – values, beliefs, memories, experiences, thoughts, feelings, physical appearance, spirituality etc. Your self-image and sense of self is always evolving and changing.

Saying that, there are some core messages, or beliefs,  that develop when you are younger (like under the age of 10), when we are generally very reliant on the adults in our life. They become core to your identity and how you see yourself. Sometimes you might be clearly aware of what they are and sometimes these beliefs might be a little more on the subconscious side. These could be things that were verbally said –  ‘you are so athletic’ or ‘she’s so shy!’ The things you  believe can also be nonverbal – things that weren’t said, and/or behaviours from others that you then internalize as beliefs  about yourself.

Body image is one aspect of self-image that focuses on how you see your self physically –  Your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about your physical appearance. Body image is built on many different things – past experiences, things you see in the world, messages you get from parents/adults, friends, cultural groups, etc. Media is a big influence on how you develop body image as well – what you see and hear on social media, in shows, movies, and advertisements.

Photo from Canva Pro

Ideal Body Image

What is an ideal body image anyways?

The way I see it, it’s about feeling  good in your own skin – with how your body looks, knowing that it is unique. When you’re aware of what your body is capable of; you feel empowered by that. Noticing the power in your body and all that it is is an important first step –  INSTEAD of picking apart the flaws – the things you think are wrong with it, or how it doesn’t meet up to certain standards (standards that are, for the most part, unattainable and quite unrealistic to reach).

An ideal body image supports your wellbeing and mental health.

How can you move towards a body image that supports your wellbeing – and make good choices for your mental health –  in spite of all the different things and people that influence your self-image?

Here are six ways to think twice about your body image:

1. Find Your Body Image Role Models

Surround yourself with people who practice body positivity for themselves. People who love their bodies even with their imperfections, and even if they don’t look like what social media advertises as the body. They love themselves and focus on what their body can do, and on putting things on and in their body that make them feel good, strong, and powerful.

People who may have goals for their bodies – like strengthening their body, increasing their fitness level, or gaining/losing weight – but are kind and compassionate with themselves. They love themselves where they are at, while having their goals.

Photo from Canva Pro

Body image role models can be in the circle of people you already know – a parent, teacher, friend, or other relative.

You can also look for role models outside of your circle too, people you don’t know. These could be influencers or famous people that are modelling body positivity.

Find public figures, celebrities or influencers that look similar to you – e.g. same ethnicity, body shape, or style. It can even be about finding a specific feature – a hairstyle , or something else unique about your body. It’s a great thing to have more diversity and representation of different types of people so you can do this! For me, I also found people who had similar values and beliefs that I have.

It’s important to see and hear others like you, who love their bodies, so it’s easier to see that you can love your body, too.

2. Be Critical of Social Media

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone’s highlight reels” and it is often very true. A lot of media out there – photos, videos, etc. – are not a true depiction of reality.

When you see an image or someone on a show and you notice you’re feeling a little low on yourself, you can do a little check-in and ask yourself:

  • Is this photo really how this person looks? Is it a real life image, or has it been altered? Is it just a highlight moment, or is this how this person looks on the daily?
  • How much time and energy did it take for this person to look this way? Is that something I want in my life?

    Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

  • What do I admire about people in my life that I respect? Do I admire just their looks, or are there other things I respect and look up to them for? What other things could be important?
  • Could this image have been photoshopped? Is there a filter or other edits going on?

It’s really important to be critical of the different things you see. To question the highlight reels being posted on social media vs what reality really looks like.

Every body comes in different shapes and sizes, with different marks, tones, scars and unique features. Your body tells the story of your life! Of who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and how you’ve gotten this far.

3. Know Where to Get Information

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

 

Seek out credible resources – through coaches, teachers, websites for teens etc. Here are a few to get you started:

4. Social Media Breaks

Did you know being on social media increases cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone?

When you’re online for long periods of time, it increases your stress response. It comes with dopamine spikes (depending on what you’re doing), the natural pleasure/reward chemicals, followed by a crash or constant stress, which can ultimately plummet your mood, confidence, and self-esteem – you really begin to feel down on yourself.

It’s important to get breaks from this rush of stress so you can be in a place to make decisions that are going to support a healthy self image. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you will see yourself in a positive light, and take actions that line up with the kind of body image you want.

Photo from Canva Pro

Here’s how this plays out sometimes. Say you were planning to go for a run tomorrow, and were scrolling social media late into the night, you wake up feeling exhausted and totally unmotivated. The likelihood of you going for that run is not

great. Your brain may start telling you things like – “I didn’t run, I’m so lazy, I’m not getting healthy, I don’t look good etc.” and it can spiral so you’re all caught up in your thoughts.

You also want to take social media breaks to distance yourself from the constant game of comparison – constantly filtering through and comparing bodies, faces, and filters, seeing people who look a certain way/look differently than you, etc.

Your brain is running a mile a minute trying to make sense of all this stuff! The more that you are hooked to the comparison machine, the worse you feel about yourself. It’s good to take a break and interact with real life people and the world in front of you to give you a different perspective on things.

5. Practicing Body Acceptance

Body acceptance isn’t simply accepting your flaws. Body acceptance is about recognizing that there is so much more to your body than appearance alone. Practicing body positivity can bring you to a place where you allow yourself to see your body for what it is. Yes, it has an appearance that shows to the outside world. But it can also do all these things, and that’s really important to be curious about and dial into.

What is it that your body is capable of? What can your body do? Stretching, moving, dancing, walking, playing a sport really well… It could also be that your body is really great at being still and chill. There are so many different things!

There is so much more to your body than just looks, and they are ALL unique! No two bodies are alike – even identical twins have differences. It’s quite fascinating!

Honing in on what YOUR body can do allows you to look at your physical self and see all of the things your body is great for… Your body may be able to do things better than someone else – and their body could do other things better than you, etc.

Photo from Canva Pro

Here are 3 things you can do to practice body acceptance:

  • Create a really great feeling about yourself by naming the following things:
    – 3 things your body can do
    – 3 things you enjoy about you body
    – 3 things you enjoy about your personality
    – 3 things you have done or can put on your body (accessories or clothing) that feel good
    – 1 recent accomplishment
    Once you have everything listed, keep the list somewhere safe that you can access any time you are feeling low – a note on your phone, or a piece of paper in your purse or wallet.
  • Make a list of 10 things you love about yourself – you can choose to have some body orientated things on your list, or not. This is also a list you can keep handy to review when needed. Or even hang on your bedroom wall!
  • Download my Body Image Tips guide to have a condensed reminder of all the things you’re reading in this blog article. A reminder of all the things you can do to create a healthy self image.

4. Be Body Aware

Being body aware means tuning into your body and using it as a really cool resource, instead of body shaming and bashing it all the time.

Think about how amazing your body is, and how informative – it’s constantly giving out messages! When you’re nervous or stressed, your stomach might be in knots, or your heart is beating faster. If you’re having a super fun time, or with people you love – your heart might feel expansive, your face might light up with love. The messages your bodies give you are a really cool thing.

Instead of thinking ‘this body is this thing that I must hate, that will never live up to any standards’ do a mindset switch to think ‘my body is actually SO cool and SO unique and there isn’t another one like it… My body is imperfect, and that’s okay! It’s capable of so many things – it is an amazingly beautiful information giving machine that can be a resource for me.’

You can tune into this ability, ideally every day, by stopping for a minute and noticing what messages your body is giving you; what kind of sensations. Is your stomach grumbling because you’re hungry? Are your toes tingly because you’ve been sitting down for a long time? Is your back tight because you’ve been in a hunched over position? Is your body feeling energized? Really good? Sluggish and wanting to move?

There are a few ways of doing this:

Pause for a minute, take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel from head to toe OR toe to head.

Mindfulness meditation practice – focus on just one part of your body. I will sit with my eyes closed and see if I can just pay attention to my left hand and see if I can notice any sensations in my hand, or my fingers. I try to notice the weight, sensations, and temperature of it. Then I’ll draw attention to my right hand and repeat the process.

Tune into your body by focusing on only one thing it’s doing. Focus on just your breaths, or your stomach as it expands and contracts.

As you’re noticing these different sensations, notice what your mind is telling you about your body – the messages that are showing up.

Are there moments when it’s being really kind? When you look in the mirror and think ‘I love what I did with my makeup! My arms are looking toned right now.’ Or is your mind telling you things like ‘this is not looking good right now. I wish I had a body like ________.’

Notice what the ratio is between good and bad thoughts. Are there more bad thoughts or good thoughts?

Go for a 5:1 ratio. Let’s say it takes saying 5 positive things to balance every 1 complaint or negative comment. Try this for yourself! Practice doing it on purpose – for every negative message your mind sends, create five good ones back!

Another thing you can do with these messages is to ask yourself – would I say the same thing to someone I love or care about? To my best friend? If the answer is no, ask yourself what you would say instead.

I want you to know that struggles with body image are not something you are alone in – even when it feels that way. Many, many teens – and adults! – are also struggling. If you’d like to connect with other teens just like you, and learn all of these tools in-person, with tangible things you can use to support your self-image, check out my upcoming Body Image Workshop for Teens.

You can reach out any time.

Love,

Chantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Everything You Need to Know About Therapy – On and Off the Couch

Can you picture yourself walking in your favourite park, sun shining down on your face, picture perfect trees against a vast blue sky backdrop?

What if this was your counselling session?

Photo by Priscilla De Preeze on Unsplash

When choosing a therapist to work with your teen, fit is really important. You want to choose someone who your teen feels comfortable with, someone who you can communicate with easily, and someone with knowledge in working specifically with teen issues.

Beyond these considerations, you’ll also want to think about how the sessions will unfold. When I was developing my therapy practice,  I gave a lot of thought to the different ways I worked things out when I was a teen. I have memories of walking with my best friends, tea in hand, venting about relationships and school stress. I remember keeping a journal for poems, art, and just letting it all out. I also remember blasting my music until the feelings passed.

That’s why it’s important to offer different ways for teens to meet with me. Here’s a little more information on the ways therapy can look when working with the team at Pyramid Psychology.

Photo by Priscilla De Preeze on Unsplash

Walk and Talk Sessions

My friend reminded me the other day that I had talked to them about the idea of walk and talk therapy sessions over 10 years ago. Although I’m definitely not the only person to have thought of this idea, it has been percolating in my mind over many years.

Walk and talk therapy sessions are when I meet with a client in a safe outdoor space (generally Fishcreek Park in Calgary, Alberta) and we walk during the session. We can take breaks and sit on the park benches or walk the entire time.

This kind of therapy can be great if:
– You are intimidated by the idea of sitting face to face with someone and talking about vulnerable topics
– You like to move
– You like being outdoors
– You have good conversations with others while walking

 

Photo on Canva Premium

Movement produces endorphins and other natural chemicals that help boost our mood. So the combination of being able to talk about your struggles while moving can be a natural way to help thoughts, feelings, and experiences transform from the inside out. Even paying attention to the speed of walk or the pace can help bring awareness to your teen’s experience and their ability to make choices that are right for them.

When I asked my first walk and talk teen client how the pace of our walk was, they answered, “what do you mean?”. I invited them to notice if our walking speed was too fast, too slow, just right and to notice that in their body. At first, I think the teen thought it was a little weird, but as they settled into noticing, they realized they wanted to walk just a little slower and we adjusted. It may have seemed like a small moment but it was so significant to have them check-in with how they were feeling in that moment and to advocate and ask for a change. This is a skill they continue to grow and use in their everyday life.

Walking side by side with your therapist can also help to even the playing field. What I mean by this is sometimes it can be intimidating for teens to talk to adults, let alone psychologist adults. Walking together can help it feel a little more comfortable and casual. The quality of the therapy is there, but the feelings surrounding it may make the conversation flow with more ease. You can check out www.pyramidpsychology.com for a little more information on walk and talk sessions.

 

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Expressive Arts

Expressive arts is a way of supporting teens (people of all ages really) to express, understand and discover while using experiential mediums such as paint, writing, drawing, photography, movement, music, crafting etc. Expressive arts is different from art therapy. It uses many different ways for teens to reflect and get to that place of change and action. Expressive arts also uses something called the Intermodal Process. The Intermodal Process means using multiple mediums in one session in order to gain a deeper understanding.

For example, you might start by creating an image and then write about the image or you may start by listening to some music and create a drawing in response.

It’s important to know:
– You don’t need to be an artist or
– Even think you are creative
– All you need is a little bit of curiosity and an open mind
– It can be as simple as starting with scribbles or creating a mini sculpture with pipe cleaners

I have trained for some time in expressive arts and the really humbling part is that in order to learn you need to do it. So I have tried many different ways of being creative, some which I love, some which I learn so much, and some that I won’t use that much in the future.

Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

If a teen is interested in using expressive arts, we talk about it at first and discuss how it can be used occasionally during sessions as an additional way to process thoughts, feelings, experiences OR that it can be used as the main technique. It’s important for us to find the right fit. I also start off by getting to know the teen’s type of creativity they feel most comfortable with. Teens have said to me it’s been helpful to know the art is not graded and there is no expected outcome. The art making process is just as important as the product (the thing you create).

When teens (and me!) use expressive arts in session, oftentimes, they are surprised at what they notice and what comes to their awareness. It can help them:
– transform an emotional response (e.g. anxiety to calm)
– put into images/art/music feelings and thoughts that are difficult to put into words
– take an experience that feels scary and big and make it into a tangible creation that isn’t as overwhelming
– bring awareness to their inner experience in order to make changes and come to resolutions
– learn new skills, new ideas, and new knowledge

If your teen is less verbal, needs more time to process their experiences, or enjoys being creative, expressive arts might be a really good fit. The Thirsty for Art Podcast and Shelly Klammer are a couple resources to check out to learn more.

 

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Virtual Sessions

Some teens like virtual sessions because they can hop on from the comfort of their own home. If your teen has a private, cozy space where they can talk to their counsellor,  this may be an option. It can be nice to have your pet snuggle up to you while in session and be able to sit on your bed or wear your pajamas.

Virtual sessions are not for everyone and here are a few things for your teen to consider:

  • Is my home a space safe?
  • Is it quiet and distraction free?
  • Am I ok meeting someone in 2D?
  • Am I virtually tapped out?
  • What are the pros and cons of this type of therapy for me?

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On the Couch

Meeting face to face in a specific office space has its advantages. It is a container for therapeutic work. The space is dedicated for this and once a teen leaves, they metaphorically leave some of that tough stuff in that space. Having a consistent  familiar space to meet can also help with that feeling of comfort and safety. Knowing all you need to do is show up and the space will be there, unchanging, and familiar can alleviate additional stress. Talking with someone face to face can help add things like non-verbal cues (e.g. body language) which gives another bit of information.

Your teen’s choice on how they want to work with their therapist is part of growing their self-esteem and confidence. You can always mix things up also and have some off the couch and some on the couch sessions – making the process of building bulletproof mindsets as creative as they want it to be!

Love,
Chantal

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook – Thanks!

– Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology – helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets.


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

10 Ways to Survive the Holidays with Your Bestie During a Pandemic

I was taking a socially distanced walk with one of my best friends the other day and I felt so grateful to see her in person, hear her voice, and laugh and complain about life – especially during the holidays –  with one of my favourite people in the world.

It got me thinking about friendships and how important it is to connect with friends and people who bring us up, especially in your teen years! Friends can be the anchors that help you get through everything. They can be the fuel that encourages you to go for it. They can be the rock that is there for you, kind, genuine, trusting, and loving you just the way you are.  With a lot of the country going into some form of lockdown over the holidays, those moments of being together and hanging out with friends are going to be trickier to have.

Photo by Harold Wijnholds on Unsplash

Here are 10 ideas on how you can get through the holiday season with your besties this year (in no particular order):

1. Go For a Walk  Find a spot and go walking or hiking together. You can explore and talk and there’s the added bonus of moving your body which is a great mood lifter.

2. Bake Cookies Together (virtually that is) – Set a time to meet virtually and pick an activity whether it’s baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, painting a picture, making an ornament, etc. Once you have the activity in mind, each of you gather materials or one of you gather materials for both and do a drop off at the other’s house. Hop on-line and let the magic and laughter begin.

3. Try a Class Together  Another virtual option is to try a class together. You can challenge yourselves to a workout, dance, yoga, art class and much much more. You can start here for some upcoming events.

4. Enjoy the Snow – Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating… Getting out there in the snow gives you some face to face
Chantal

Photo By Nicolas Gras on Unsplash

5. Gaming Together – Need I say more?

6. Do Something for Others – Inspired by my friend (thanks Mel!) Helping others feels good over the holidays is even better alongside a friend. Meet up with your friend and shovel driveways together or break up the ice on the sidewalks. You can find ideas that easily allow you to be distanced and safe while helping others. The community will appreciate your good deed. And bonus – you get to hang out with your friend.

7. Start a Group Chat – Having a group chat can be a great way to stay connected. Make it a place where friends can drop funny photos, memes, and quotes to get you through the day. Your group chat can put a smile on your face and let you know you are not alone.

8. Drop Off a Gift – Doing a little surprise drop off for a friend can make their day and let them know you are thinking of them. You can even consider making something yourself, so it’s extra special. There are some great DIY ideas you can start with here.

9. Make a Tik Tok – Make a Tik Tok video and dedicate it to your bestie. You can also make a Tik Tok together or come up with friend challenges that you can participate in together in a fun way.

10. Mail Something to Each Other – You and your friend can agree to write each other a letter or make a card and then send it by snail mail. It can be fun and different to receive mail this way!

Add to the list – Let’s keep the list going! What other ideas do you have to get through the holidays with your friends this year?

If you are struggling with your friendships and you want to learn who to let into your squad of BFF, follow me on Instagram for weekly ideas and tips: @therapywithchantal


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

SELF-INJURY AND SELF-HARM: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR TEEN IS CUTTING

Many of the teens I work with have used self-harm as a coping behaviour. Teens might feel like their parents “don’t get it” and like it is the only coping mechanism that is providing some temporary relief. It can be terrifying for parents who discover this and feel unsure on how to help with their teens pain and suffering.

If you are a concerned parent of a teen who is self-harming, this blog will talk about the what’s, the why’s, and the how to help.

Photo by Greg Little: grummanaa5

WHAT IS SELF-INJURY AND SELF-HARM?

Self-harm and self-injury can be used interchangeably and they are behaviours such as cutting, hitting, scratching, pulling out hair, punching hard objects, etc. Any behaviour that causes injury to one’s body can be considered self-harm. This is different than participating in a high risk activity that may cause self-injury in that the purpose of self-harming behaviours is to cope with psychological pain and overwhelm. Cutting is one of most prevalent methods of self-harm in adolescents at this time.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

WHY DO PEOPLE SELF-HARM?

We know that self-harming behaviours are used as a coping method to deal with psychological pain and overwhelm. Sometimes parents will ask me, “is my teen doing this to get attention?”. Well the short answer is: Maybe. Not attention in the way of “look at me” but more so a cry for help or a way of saying “I’m really struggling right now”.

Other times, parents will wonder if their teen is trying to complete suicide. Most often suicide is not the desired outcome. Teens who are self-harming may also have thoughts of suicide, but the self-harming behaviour is not usually intended as a lethal means.

So then, why? Well most often self-harming behaviours are used as a way to get relief in managing psychological pain. Whether it is to numb, express, or release pain or a way of gaining a sense of control over emotional overwhelm, these are usually the reasons people turn to self-harm.

The problem with this type of coping is that it provides temporary relief, meaning the psychological pain and overwhelm come back, which keeps a person in a cycle of self-harm. Also, physiologically there is a release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that are linked to that sense of relief. The more a person engages in self-harming behaviours, the more the body habituates and people tend to need to do more of the behaviour in order to get the same physiological response.  This means higher risk in the behaviour, such as deeper or more cutting, and this can lead to dangerous outcomes and unwanted consequences (e.g. infection, scarring, etc.)

Photo by Jose A. Thompson on Unsplash

HOW YOU CAN HELP WHEN YOUR TEEN IS SELF-HARMING

The first thing is to take it seriously. The sooner you can respond with caring and empathy, the quicker you can turn around this coping strategy. If your teen is scraping their legs or rubbing themselves really hard in response to a situation, this still warrants your attention in a real way. You can help early on and avoid the behaviours from escalating into something worse. Responding with caring and empathy can include: 

  • Letting your teen know you have noticed the behaviour
  • Letting your teen know you are concerned
  • Letting your teen know they do not have to feel shame about this but it is important to get some help and get to the root
  • Letting your teen know you are there for them and want to help
  • Asking your teen about the behaviour
  • Asking your teen about what’s going on, their feelings, things they are struggling with, etc.

After that, come up with a plan (with your teen) to help them stay safe and reduce the risk of self-harm. Consider using the TTURN acronym to help TTURN things around. 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

T – Tell a trusted adult 
(get your teen to name 3+ adults they can talk to if they have the urge to self-harm, e.g. parent, teacher, coach, relative, etc.)
T – Tag your triggers 
(ask about things, people, situations, and emotions that increase the urge to self-harm)
U – Up your self-care 
(get your teen to collab on a list of things they enjoy doing or people that bring them comfort, e.g. reading, listening to music, going for tea, hugs, doing their hair, exercising, hanging out with friends, etc.)
R – Replacement behaviours 
(understanding why your teen is using self-harming behaviours will help you come up with alternative behaviours that have less risky consequences. For example, if it is about numbing pain which releases endorphins, look at some behaviours that release endorphins such as, exercising, punching a pillow, eating dark chocolate, laughing, etc.)
N – Negotiating Harm Reduction 
(come up with ways to reduce the risk such as making sharp objects less accessible, having them pain or draw on the body parts instead of injuring, using rubber bands or ice instead of sharp objects, etc.)

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels

Third, consider working with a therapist for additional support. The root cause of self-harming behaviours may be related to managing feelings such as anxiety, fear, stress, anger, depression etc. It may also be related to larger mental health concerns or a lack of coping tools and strategies. A therapist can work alongside your teen (and your family as needed) to help them develop other strategies and offer them a safe place to express their thoughts and emotions.

As a therapist myself, I can support you and your teen with creative sessions in person, via video, or walk and talk appointments. I use hands-on methods to support your teen to communicate through their self-harm. You can book a free consultation with me here.


portrait of Chantal outside in a fieldChantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

Encouraging Good Grades: How to support your teen’s grades during a pandemic

A parent was saying the other day that they wanted to motivate their teen’s grades in a positive way, and they were asking if they should be punishing them for bad grades and how often to check on their school work.

With the current conditions and restrictions of the pandemic, your teen’s grades may be struggling more than ever. Academic success is hard. As a parent, watching your teen struggle with motivation and success can be really difficult. Your mind might go to that place of seeing failure in their academics as something that will screw up their future and lead to lost opportunities, leaving you stressed out and fearful.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

If you want to support your teen to succeed in their school achievements, but don’t want it to be an uphill battle, here are a few questions to consider: 

1. Should I punish my teen for bad grades?
Punishing for bad grades, whether that’s consequences, screaming or lecturing, can lead to increased anxiety and low self-esteem. Pushing too hard for the grade may backfire.  Before you punish or give consequences for grades, consider what factors are leading to the low grades. A different course of action will be taken if your teen is struggling to understand materials vs. your teen is spending hours on-line and not creating enough time to study and complete assignments. Even if your teen is spending hours on-line, that in itself can be a coping mechanism to deal with a lack of organization and time management skills, learning difficulties, or a lack of understanding the materials. Be curious and take the time to inquire about what is contributing to the poor grades.

If you do choose to implement consequences, it is much more effective to curb the behaviour and not the grade. For example, if your teen wants to do their homework in their room and this is leading to distraction and incomplete work, you can remove the privilege of doing homework in their room to curb the behaviour of distraction. If your teen is on-line for hours and not getting their work done, you can remove the privilege of screen time until a set amount of school work is completed. By curbing the behaviour, you foster opportunities to increase effort and skills such as organization and time management skills, that are useful for life. Punishment and consequences will not build those skills – see more in question 3.

Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on Unsplash

2. Should I reward my teen for good grades?
Along the same wavelength as punishing, rewarding is much more effective when it corresponds to the behaviour. In this case, it’s the behaviour you hope to see your teen master such as, effort, focus, engagement, planning, and preparing. Communicating your expectations around accomplishments is very important. Be specific and goal oriented, where it is clear and achievable for your teen. Clear and Achievable😊. Instead of the expectation “I want you to get a minimum of X in all your subjects”, you might have something like, ‘I want you to read every night for 1 hour” or “I want all homework complete prior to free time”. Praise the efforts when you see them. You may also have incentives in place for some specific accomplishments. Again, I would focus on the behaviours over the actual grade. If going out for ice cream or their favourite latte is the incentive, acknowledge the effort and the prioritizing of their time that you saw over the actual grade.

Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash

3. How can I help my teen achieve academic success?
Part of this is the bigger picture stuff. Consider the value you hold around the grades. What does this represent for you? Values drive people to believe things, so take some time to reflect on what your values are around the good grades- e.g. lifelong learning , education, contribution, success, status, etc. Share those with your teens. Teens still rely on parents for guidance, modeling, and making sense of the world.

Be clear and collaborative when it comes to your teen’s grades; your expectations and goals. Have an open dialogue where there is room for sharing expectations, problem solving, and setting goals for academic accomplishments. Getting your teen’s input here allows them to be more invested in the process- you really want to have some of the motivation be intrinsic (motivated by personal reward).

Get to the root of what’s happening. Know the difference between contextual issues and more global issues. If your teen is struggling with math (Oh did I ever!), brainstorm ways you can help like getting a tutor, allowing for more regular time to work on math, working with their teacher, researching ideas of presenting the materials that work for them, etc. If your teen is struggling with more global issues such as organization, time management, focus, and study skills, you can help by coming up with a study plan together, sharing time management and organization ideas, and having them test out tools such as apps, reminders, and alarms. Need some suggestions? Start here for app recommendations or here for study ideas.

In the end the greatest reward will come from your teen feeling competent and capable in their accomplishments and achievements.

​If you found this post on your teen’s grades helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

The Social Chameleon: 10 Reasons Why You Want to Be Yourself

A teen was saying the other day how they were tired of changing their personality to match their friend group – they said “it’s hard to be yourself”. Have you ever thought, “if I act like myself how will people react?” and “what if they judge me? Changing your personality or the way you behave in order to make friends and fit in will likely leave you in inner chaos and feeling completely dissatisfied.

​If you want to feel good in your skin and be yourself, even if it feels like a scary possibility, consider these 10 reasons below on why being yourself is best.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

10 REASONS WHY BEING YOURSELF IS BEST

1. More to Offer – If you spend your time and energy trying to act like everyone else, your thoughts, feelings and personality get lost in the mix. Being a copy of someone else is like eating the same food every single day; it can get to be kind of dull. When you stop putting all that energy into changing who you are, you will be able to let your unique personality shine through and you will have so much more to offer.

2. Independence – Part of being a teen is starting to gain more independence and a sense of self. Getting to know what you like, believe in, and think is an important part of growing up. The more you get to know and show this part of yourself, the more agency you grow. That’s your ability to act independently and make your own free choices. Sounds good right?!

3. The Best of Friends – When you change who you are to fit in, you are not likely to be spending your time with “your people”. It might be hard to get along with your friends and you may realize that they are not true friends. When you start behaving like yourself, it is like a compass finding the best kind of people and best kind of friends in your life.

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

4. More fun– Being guarded or watching what you say, think, or feel takes a lot of effort. It’s like putting up a fortress around you and constantly watching for chips or cracks in the foundation. Letting that guard down and being yourself means you can focus your attention on doing the things you love and having fun doing them.

5. Discover Your Talents – Everyone has skills and unique talents to share with others. In order to develop them, you need time to discover them. Being yourself allows you to figure out what it is that you like and what you’re good at. Everyone benefits from that!

6. Within Your Control – Spending your time constantly worrying about what others think is like throwing money in a shredding machine – it gets you nowhere. There is a much bigger impact you can have on yourself and others, and that is to recognize what is outside of your control and what is within your control. For example, others thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are not things you have any control over. You may be able to influence people, but ultimately their choices are theirs. Now, your own thoughts and behaviours are definitely something that are within your control and within your ability to choose. Your response is also within your control. You choose how you want to respond to others and to situations. Would you rather be worrying all the time or having fun with people who like you for you? You get to choose.

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

7. Boost Your Confidence – Being yourself might seem risky at first, but this risk is worth the effort. Your confidence depends on your ability to take risks. The more risks you take that move the needle towards the person you want to be, the easier it gets and the more it boosts your confidence. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard or scary, but it does mean it will be worth it.

8. Dust Yourself Off – Part II of boosting your confidence. I don’t want to sugarcoat things so I am going to say that sometimes acting like yourself might feel like a total bust or a failure. If that happens, know that failure is something that everyone experiences and it also boosts your confidence. How you handle failure is the key. So, if being yourself means you lose a friend, gaining a new true friend is now a possibility. If being yourself means you stop participating in a certain group, finding a new group who like the same things will now be an option.

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

9. Discover Your Hobbies – Changing yourself to fit others molds is kind of like sitting on the sidelines instead of being in the game. If you commit to being yourself, you will start to find things that you enjoy and get to do those.

10. Live Adventures – Speaking of sitting on the sidelines, getting to know who you truly are (and you are changing all the time) allows you to be living your life instead of watching it go by. Adventures and experiences that you might see others having on social media or in your peer groups can be yours to have. Or even better, you can be creating your own adventures. And I don’t know about you, but living my life sounds much better than watching others live theirs.

It’s not always easy to be yourself. It starts with taking the first step. A mentor once told me, “be yourself and the world will adjust” and I think they were onto something pretty good.

Sincerely,

​If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

 


Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.

Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.

Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to info@pyramidpsychology.com or DM us via Instagram or Facebook. 

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