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Mental Health

teen mindfulness program

Breathe In, Breathe Out: How Mindfulness Helps Teens who Struggle with Depression and Anxiety

Breathe In, Breathe Out: How Mindfulness Helps Teens who Struggle with Depression and Anxiety 640 426 se_admin

Teen suicide. Substance abuse. Bullying and fights. Although seemingly unrelated, these all too frequent epidemics are plaguing today’s schools; and, frequently, they seem to spring from a single common source. Teenagers are finding it tough to cope these days; the challenging, sometimes stifling demands of peer pressure and academic performance placing undue stress on their sensitive psyche.

In order to combat these issues—and, for that matter, the feelings of anger, frustration, and sometimes out and out the hopelessness that accompany them—many school districts are offering mindfulness sessions in school.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and paying attention to yourself and your surroundings in the moment. For many teenagers, their day consists of running from school to after school clubs to homework to family obligations. Their days are tightly packed, and even in their down time, they are rarely focusing on one task at a time. For example, during homework time, many teens can also be found chatting with friends via social media or watching videos. For previous generations, a ride in the car or a walk around the neighborhood forced them to look out the window or take in their surroundings. Today, teens can be watching movies, listening to music, or posting on social media during those same activities. Being mindful and slowing down is no longer a built in part of their day. Instead, teens need to learn how to actively engage in mindfulness practices and set aside the time to do them. 

Mindfulness involves the teaching of techniques like breathing and meditation to help people calm themselves and control their emotions.

Here is how you and your teen’s teacher can put mindfulness to work for them:

  • Guide the teen in the commission of deliberate deep breathing exercises. The phrase “Stop and take a good deep breath,” never has been more applicable. The simple act of stopping, falling silent, and taking a good, deep breath can do much to center and calm a frenetic teen; especially if they happen to be in the throes of an anxiety attack, when the simple process of breathing becomes strained and difficult.
  • Learn more about yoga and meditation. These sacred, time-honored arts have been utilized for centuries to bring peace, balance and happiness to people of all ages. Through instructional classes, books and videos, you can learn the principles and practices of yoga and meditation; passing this information on to your troubled teen. Teachers can lead meditative sessions in the classroom, and physical education teachers might integrate yoga into daily fitness regimens. Parents can morph a good yoga or meditation session into an enjoyable family activity.
  • Encourage self-reflection. Train your teen to reflect on and contemplate their problems and stressors; also to discuss these issues with parents and teachers, so that you can work together to find healthy and workable solutions.
  • Teach and encourage your teen to express themselves. When teens are empowered to release their tensions and frustrations in constructive and highly creative manners, then they no doubt will feel calmer, more centered, and more in control of their emotions. If they can sing a song instead of scream, draw a picture instead of take a drug, write instead of cut, etc., then they will develop a positive and intensely constructive outlet for their emotions.

Form a mindfulness team with your teen. When you meditate, breathe or draw/write/sing with the troubled teen, then you will bring the divine circle of mindfulness to its completion—to the benefit of both of you.

Mindfulness for Better Mental Health

A 2021 study found that mindfulness courses, like many other mental health practices, can reduce anxiety, depression and stress and increase mental wellbeing within most non-clinical settings. Many people who practice mindfulness report feeling calmer and more balanced in their emotions, but how does mindfulness actually help improve mental health?

One way that mindfulness can help is that it reduces rumination. Rumination is the process of continually thinking about the same thoughts. Often, teens who experience anxiety feel stuck in a rumination loop, where they are fixed on negative or “what if” thoughts. Several studies have shown that mindfulness reduces rumination. In one study, researchers asked 20 novice meditators to participate in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. After the retreat, the meditation group had significantly higher self-reported mindfulness and a decreased negative affect compared with a control group. They also experienced fewer depressive symptoms and less rumination. 

Another benefit of mindfulness is stress reduction. Researchers believe the benefits of mindfulness are related to its ability to dial down the body’s response to stress. When we are chronically stressed, our response system becomes taxed and burnt out. Mindfulness can teach practitioners to regulate their body’s response to stress. Psychological scientists have found that mindfulness influences two different stress pathways in the brain, changing brain structures and activity in regions associated with attention and emotion regulation. Scientists are also beginning to understand which elements of mindfulness are responsible for its beneficial effects.

There is also promising research that mindfulness can help alleviate depression. Studies have suggested that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is just as effective as medication in preventing depression relapse among adults with a history of recurrent depression, and in reducing depressive symptoms among those with active depression. Practicing mindfulness can also help teens cultivate a sense of self-compassion. Oftentimes, teens experiencing depression may feel like they are failing or that there is something wrong with them because they feel that they can’t engage in the world or be successful the way they believe their peers are. These depressive thoughts can worsen their symptoms, but mindfulness encourages teens to be kinder to themselves. Self-compassion helps teens practice self-kindness, recognize their common humanity with others instead of feeling isolated and ashamed. It encourages teens to not fixate on their perceived faults. Mindfulness can also help teens manage their inner critic and lessen its impact, which may help alleviate some of their depressive symptoms. 

Reacting Vs. Responding

Also related to stress and anxiety, mindfulness teaches students to respond versus react to a situation. Our reaction is often that first impulse. For example, if a teen has a negative stress response, like an emotional or physical outburst that is their reaction. This is why something that seems small to parents, like requesting your teen put their phone away for dinner, can elicit a huge or angry reaction. It could be that your teen is worried that they will be left out if they don’t respond right away to their friends. This worry triggers their stress response and subsequent outburst. They may not have the words in the moment to communicate their worries and instead scream about how they hate you and slam doors. Mindfulness teaches teens to acknowledge and identify their emotions as they come up. If they are practicing meditations, thoughts may come up like “this is boring” or “my back is uncomfortable”, and all those thoughts are acceptable. Mindfulness is not about judging their thoughts or emotions, it is about noticing them and then taking a step back before they respond. 

Teens who practice mindfulness are training their brains to respond instead of reacting in a stressful situation. When they are asked to put away their phone, thoughts may arise like “That’s not fair!” Or “I’m going to be left out!”. But now teens realize that not only are those feelings valid, but they also have the power to choose how they respond to those feelings. By practicing deep breathing, they may take a breath, calm themselves, and then be able to better communicate to you. What started as “I hate you!” can then turn into, “I’m worried I’ll be left out because my friends are making weekend plans right now. Could I have five more minutes to wrap this up?”. They are learning how to acknowledge and communicate their feelings through slowing down and paying attention. 

Solstice East Can Help

At Solstice East, we help our students and families learn to regulate their emotions through the modalities of mindfulness, relationship therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, adventure therapies and art-based therapies. We emphasize this teaching by training every member of our staff how to self-regulate, and how to help a teenager develop her own self-regulation skills. We provide our team with opportunities to implement regulation skills in real-life settings to increase their ability to provide attunement, safety and predictability while in-relationship with your daughter.

We believe that a holistic approach is an effective way to help young women truly heal from trauma.  Instead of focusing on one specific “problem” area or issue, we treat the entire person (mind, body and spirit). It is our belief that cutting-edge and evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as EMDR, neurofeedback, somatic experiencing, Trauma-Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and gender-specific addictions treatment are essential to your daughter’s healing process.

The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. For more information please call (855) 672-7058.

Role Models for Girls: Your Daughter’s Hero Is An Indicator of Success

Role Models for Girls: Your Daughter’s Hero Is An Indicator of Success 150 150 se_admin

Parents of girls often hear things like “Oh, she’s a beauty!” Or “She’s going to be a heartbreaker!”, even when their daughter is very young. Girls often get the message from society that they are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and that their main interests should be princesses and unicorns. And while there is nothing wrong with enjoying sparkles and unicorns, it is important that young girls understand that these interests can be a part of them without defining them. So how do girls learn that there are many different interests and opportunities available to them?

Role models play an important part in a young girl’s life. Seeing women represented in successful roles such as CEOs, athletes, artists, or scientists helps girls imagine themselves in those same positions. Having a positive role model can be the difference between having a prevention mindset and having a growth one. 

A prevention mindset:

When youth approach life with a desire to prevent or avoid disasters and negative outcomes, they are more likely to gravitate toward role models who will help them learn avoidance strategies. These strategies might include cheating on tests or using drugs and alcohol to escape life challenges.

The other option of a growth mindset offers a much more optimistic outlook.

A growth mindset:

When they see themselves as active learners and achievers who accomplish goals through hard work and perseverance. With this type of mindset, youth strive to achieve their best selves. And they look toward role models to show them the way.

In helping your daughter find a role model, consider her interests and goals. If she is passionate about the arts, she probably won’t be interested in Ada Lovelace. But a young woman fascinated by the stars may gravitate towards role models like Mary Jackson. As you explore why your daughter has chosen the specific role models for girls that she looks up to the most, ask yourself why, and what effect this can have on her future.

How To Be a Positive Role Model

While famous and accomplished women may make good role models, the best role model for your daughter is you. It can feel like a lot of pressure to know that her eyes are always on you, but there are ways that you can be the best role model you can for her:

Be a Good Listener: Teens may not share their lives as easily as they did when they were children, but that doesn’t mean that we stop listening. Sometimes, just the act of being present and allowing your daughter space to talk when she is comfortable can be an effective tool to teach her the importance of holding space for herself and others. 

Be Affectionate: One of the best ways of nurturing a positive and happy child is through unconditional love and care. Love is not only about hugging your daughter, taking care of her basic needs. Love is when you exhibit interest in your daughter’s life or show her that you care. Feeling that love from you helps her learn how to express her own love in a healthy way. 

Be Honest: Contrary to how it may feel, you don’t have to be perfect. It’s OK that you have weaknesses and flaws. Instead of pretending that you are always right, which is impossible for anyone, acknowledge when you make a mistake. Show your daughter how to graciously acknowledge when she makes her own mistakes and remember that one setback doesn’t negate all of the good things she has done. 

Be Gentle With Yourself: There is a saying that “little pitchers have big ears”. It is the idea that our children are always listening. They are listening to how you talk to them, but they are also listening to how you talk about yourself. If you are constantly critiquing things like your body or perceived flaws, this is how she will learn to talk to herself as well. Sometimes you may not even realize how often you mention a diet or how you “need” to work off that dessert. But your daughter hears it and begins thinking that this is how she should view her relationship with food as well. Instead of talking about your “flaws”, try being radically confident. Talk about your strengths and accomplishments. Celebrate your body for being strong and carrying you through life. When viewed through this lens, you can teach your daughter to be confident in her self-esteem. 

Set Goals: Setting goals, implementing them, and achieving the same are some of the important aspects of bringing up children. These three aspects may apply in all spheres. Whether it is about your child’s academics or his behavior, you may adopt this approach to achieve results in all fields of life. This is a great opportunity to show your daughter what a growth mindset looks like. You may encourage your child to come forward with his dreams, aspirations, and goals, and work together with your child in achieving them.

Model Healthy Coping Skills: What happens when things go wrong? Do you blow up when that car cuts you off in traffic? Do you give up when you don’t get the promotion you hoped for at work? Life will always have its issues, but what matters is how we deal with them. By modeling healthy coping skills, your daughter learns that there are different ways to solve her problem or deal with big emotions. 

Residential Treatment for Success

For young women who are looking to improve self-esteem and tap into that growth mindset, a residential treatment program can provide them with the tools they need for success. The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff.

Solstice East students are highly intelligent and highly sensitive. Our teens are creative and capable, but vulnerable to the pressures of their surroundings. They often experience the world differently through misperceptions and are impacted by issues of anxiety, depression, identity, attachment, mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Solstice East is committed to treating each student through a combination of individual, family, equine, and adventure therapies as well as treating and diagnosing a range of issues including (but not limited to) trauma, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors, attachment, and identity issues.

At Solstice East, we talk about The Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is a journey that includes universal themes found in literature, theatre, and film. These themes are prevalent in both ancient and modern societies. During the Hero’s Journey, the hero advances through phases of self-discovery, along the way facing their personal dragons in the form of fears, doubts, and insecurities. As our troubled teen girls advance victoriously through these challenges they grow towards becoming “at-one” with their true self. We work to help our students see themselves as the heroes of their own stories. 

The therapeutic alliance, the relationship formed between therapist and student, is one of the most powerful factors in the healing process. Using the relationship-based approach as our guide, the therapists understand the value of spending time with the girls beyond the walls of the therapist’s office. Building rapport outside of the office setting is critical to the development of a therapeutic alliance between the girls and therapists, which is necessary for the healing process. As one of the top residential treatment centers, our therapists often participate in adventure therapy outings, camping trips, recreation activities, and mealtime with residents. Because they have a manageable caseload, they are able to be more involved in these opportunities.

At Solstice East, we help our students and families learn to regulate their emotions through the modalities of mindfulness, relationship therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, adventure therapies, and art-based therapies. We emphasize this teaching by training every member of our staff on how to self-regulate, and how to help a teenager develop her own self-regulation skills. We provide our team with opportunities to implement regulation skills in real-life settings to increase their ability to provide attunement, safety, and predictability while in-relationship with your daughter.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a top-rated residential treatment center caring for adolescent females ages 14-17. Our 25-acre campus, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains just outside of Asheville, NC, offers on-site equine therapy, an accredited academic schedule, plus world-class therapeutic programming to treat a wide range of trauma and disorders. Our clients receive a unique combination of therapeutic techniques stemming from both traditional and holistic mental health treatments that are gender and age-specific. We strive to empower our students with the ability to believe in themselves by providing the tools, support, and motivation necessary to instill these beliefs for life.

The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. For more information please call (828) 414-2980.

Identifying Unhealthy Relationships and Creating Healthy Ones

Identifying Unhealthy Relationships and Creating Healthy Ones 150 150 se_admin

Creating new relationships is an important part of development in adolescence. This is a time when teens are beginning to form their own interests and identities outside of their family unit. It can be exciting, but it also comes with a new set of challenges. As teens begin to create new relationships, both with friends and romantic, they also run the risk of relationships changing or even ending. For teens who have not experienced a relationship that ends, it can feel confusing or overwhelming to figure out what comes next. When a friendship or relationship with a significant other turns bad, it can be devastating to many teens.

Identifying Unhealthy Relationships

Most adults remember their first crust or their first school dance. There is a spark of excitement around new relationships, especially during our formative years. And because everything is new and thrilling, it can be easy for teens to get swept up in a relationship. Some teen girls may find themselves forgoing their friendships to spend all their time in their new relationship. They may begin to eschew hobbies or interests they previously enjoyed, instead of trying to mold their interests to fit those of their romantic interest. 

A relationship becomes unhealthy when it involves mean, disrespectful, controlling, or abusive behavior. Some teens who have grown up in an environment where fighting or abuse was common may believe that this behavior is normal. Teens in unhealthy relationships may make excuses or misinterpret bad behavior. If a boyfriend or girlfriend is acting jealous or possessive, they may think “Oh, that just means they really like me.”. It is important for teens to understand the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and ask themselves the following questions:

Does my boyfriend/girlfriend:

  • get angry when I don’t drop everything for him or her?
  • criticize the way I look or dress, and say I’ll never be able to find anyone else who would date me?
  • keep me from seeing friends or from talking to other guys or girls?
  • want me to quit an activity, even though I love it?
  • ever raise a hand when angry, like he or she is about to hit me?
  • try to force me to go further sexually than I want to?

Encouraging Healthy Relationships

Understanding the traits of an unhealthy relationship is helpful, but it is equally as important to understand how to create a healthy relationship as well. Here are some qualities to think about for a healthy relationship:

  • Mutual respect. Respect is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Does your partner respect your boundaries? Do they listen when you say “no” or you tell them that you are uncomfortable? Respect goes both ways and means that each person understands and values the other person’s boundaries.
  • Trust. Jealousy is a natural emotion, especially for young adults who are experiencing a relationship for the first time. But it is important to pay attention to how you or your partner react when those feelings of jealousy arise. Can they recognize that emotion without being controlled by it? Do they trust that you are committed to their relationship? Without trust, you cannot have a healthy relationship.
  • Honesty. Without honesty, there can be no trust in a relationship. Can you and your partner talk openly about your concerns or needs? Do they follow through when they tell you they’ll meet you for dinner or text you later? If your partner is consistently being honest with you, it can allow you to feel more confident in the relationship. 
  • Support. It may be easy to celebrate together when good things happen, but is your partner still there for you when things go wrong? In a healthy relationship, your partner will be there for you to lean for support no matter what is happening. Sometimes, there is a fear that big disappointments or setbacks will be too much for others to handle. You may worry that your problems will make it too hard for them to love you. But a supportive partner will always be there for you, no matter what. 
  • Fairness/equality. Just like friendships in elementary school, relationships are about taking turns as well. Does one person always choose the activity or do you take turns doing something you’ll each enjoy? If a relationship turns into a power struggle with one person fighting to get their way all the time, the relationship quickly becomes unbalanced. 
  • Separate identities. In a new relationship, it is common for two people to want to spend every free moment together, and the time they aren’t physically together is spent texting or calling. Being able to make compromises is important in a relationship, but it should mean that you feel like you are losing yourself. You and your partner should both have other people, hobbies, and interests in your lives. Neither person should feel like they have to pretend to like something they don’t or be someone who they are not. Both people should feel comfortable developing new interests and friendships while they are in a relationship. 
  • Good communication. In any relationship, good communication is key. Can you talk to your partner about your fears or concerns? Do they listen when you talk to them about things that are important to you? Do you feel comfortable talking to them even when the topic is challenging? Does your partner give you the time and space you need to communicate your feelings?

Moving Past Old Relationships

Some relationships may end because they are unhealthy. Some other relationships end simply because they have run their course. People grow and change, and it is just a natural part of life that many relationships will end. But even understanding that it is normal and natural, it can sometimes be challenging to move past an old relationship. 

For some, losing a significant other because of a break-up can feel very painful. To go from seeing them and talking to them every day to having no contact may feel inconceivable. It may be hard to imagine your life without them. Because of that emotional pain, it is easy to see why fast-forwarding through those hard feelings may sound appealing. You may try to distract yourself by keeping busy with other things and people, ignoring those painful emotions. But the reality is that the end of a relationship usually requires a grieving period, where you can take some time to process what has happened. Rather than trying to suppress your feelings, allowing yourself to feel them is integral to the healing process. Know that you can always reach out to family and friends for emotional support as you go through the process. 

After a relationship ends can be the perfect time to reconnect with yourself. If you were in an unhealthy relationship, take some time for yourself before attempting to jump into a new relationship. Perhaps you found that you were losing your identity in your previous relationship, choosing to go along with what the other person wanted instead of thinking about your own needs. Taking a break can help you assess what those needs are. Reconnect with your own interests and passions. This could be engaging in activities you previously enjoyed such as cooking or hiking. This could also be joining a group where you will be surrounded by people who enjoy the same interests as you do. It can feel validating to be around like-minded people who appreciate your talents and passions. 

It can be easy to replay a relationship over and over again, remembering where things went wrong or wishing you had done something differently, but blaming yourself only brings about negative emotions and delays the healing process. Instead, try to see the relationship as a learning experience. Every relationship, if we let it, can teach us something about ourselves and give us greater clarity about what we need to be happy. Know that a relationship isn’t a failure just because it ended. If you grew as a person and learned something to move your life forward, then it served a purpose and was truly a success.

Remember that just because a relationship failed, that does not mean that every relationship will fail. Each relationship teaches us a little bit more about ourselves and what we are looking for in a partner. By practicing those traits of a healthy relationship and looking for a partner who also has those qualities, you can work to build more healthy relationships in the future. 

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

Solstice East supports a therapeutic culture where acceptance, change, and growth is recognized and embraced. Our approach employs the guidance of The Hero’s Journey and its themes, providing a foundation for our students to advance victoriously and grow closer to internal harmony. Solstice East students embark on a therapeutic journey that teaches inner growth and understanding and fosters positive relationships. Our groundbreaking approach allows our students to heal while compiling skills and practices to best serve them throughout their life journey.

For more information about how Solstice East handles social media addiction, please call 828-484-9946!

eating disorders in teen girls

A Dangerous Situation: Consequences of Eating Disorders in Teen Girls

A Dangerous Situation: Consequences of Eating Disorders in Teen Girls 2560 1707 se_admin

Today’s teenage girls face an onslaught of messages from peers, social media sources, and magazines depicting a sensationalized version of what the ideal female form should look like. Despite recent body positivity campaigns to help promote and celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes, surveys indicated that 33% of teen girls believed they were overweight and a staggering 56% were attempting to actively lose weight.

A new study in 2020, found that higher numbers of Generation Z adolescents in particular are engaging in dieting practices and increasing exercise to lose weight, and when asked they are likely to overestimate their own weight. Engaging in these practices to lose weight, rather than looking at diet and exercise as a way to promote health and wellbeing, can put adolescents at a much higher rate for developing an eating disorder.

The onset of eating disorders typically occur during pre-adolescence or adolescence, and this effect size is enormous for teen girls as more than 90% of diagnosed eating disorders are found in females. Given the monumental consequences, both short and long term, for developing an eating disorder, it’s imperative for parents to learn about the various types of eating disorders, their symptoms, and treatment options to get their daughters the help they need as early as possible. Research has indicated that early diagnosis and intervention are two key steps toward possible recovery.

Common causes for developing eating disorders

It’s not uncommon for teens to change their eating habits from time, as they may experiment with trying different eating styles such as veganism or vegetarianism, or they may actively try to eat healthier. These changes often pass quickly and spotting these changes in eating patterns can help you determine if there is cause for concern or if your teen is just experimenting with her diet.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint any one cause of developing an eating disorder, there are many factors that may put your daughter at risk. One of the main systemic causes thought to be associated with eating disorders are social attitudes toward body appearance, particularly unrealistic ideals of what a female body should look like. Adolescents are also more likely to be at risk for developing an eating disorder if they come from a family with a history of weight problems, physical illnesses, mental health issues, or a genetic predisposition for eating disorders. An individual history of other mental health disorders such as anxiety, OCD, and problems with substance abuse can also put teen girls at risk for developing an eating disorder.

Family dynamics and participation in athletics can also increase the risk of eating disorders if teens are surrounded by high levels of stress, poor communication, and feel pressure from unrealistically high expectations. This is particularly relevant for athletes as many sports such as ballet, running, wrestling, or gymnastics emphasize leanness in order to be a better competitor.

There are three common eating disorders diagnosed in adolescent girls and each comes with its own set of symptoms and complications. These are binge eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia.

Common eating disorders and their symptoms

Binge eating disorder is defined as regularly consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time without the ability to control the binges, and subsequently feeling extreme guilt about the binges. Due to the guilt they feel, teens may try to hide their food binges by eating in private and make unsuccessful attempts to diet in order to curb this compulsion. The following are signs your daughter may have a binge eating disorder:

– Eating large amounts of food in short periods of time
– Eating even when they are not hungry
– Eating so much they make themselves physically uncomfortable
– Sneaking or hiding food and eating in private
– Feeling they are unable to control food consumption and feeling depressed or disgusted after binging

Bulimia is also categorized by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, but it is also marked by purging, where one follows up a binge with compensatory behavior such as vomiting, using laxatives, using enemas, fasting, or excessive exercise. Teens with bulimia will often hide their binge and purge episodes, and can be difficult to detect as they are usually close to a normal weight. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

– Eating large amounts of food with no apparent weight changes
– Hiding food or discarded food containers
– Engaging in excessive exercise
– Frequent trips to the bathroom after meal time
– Inappropriate use of laxatives or diuretics
– Frequently clogged showers or toilets

Lastly, anorexia is categorized by an obsession with thinness and presents by taking extreme measures to avoid eating and control the quantity and quality of the foods that they do eat. Individuals with anorexia also typically experience body dysmorphia in which even after they are at unhealthily low weights they still feel fat and restrict calories because they have a distorted image of their own bodies. Symptoms of anorexia include:

– A distorted view of one’s own body weight, even if they are underweight
– Restricting or discarding food in secret
– Obsessively counting calories and checking nutrition labels
– Denying feeling hungry
– Creating rituals about preparing and eating food
– Exercising compulsively
– Extreme emotional changes such as irritability, depression, and anxiety
– Missing periods or having irregular periods

Developing any of these eating disorders can put your daughter at risk for some severe short and long term negative impacts on physical, mental, and social health.

Short and long term consequences of eating disorders

Struggling with an eating disorder will have many impacts on teen girls not only while they are experiencing the disorder but for years to come as well. Disordering eating can impact a teen’s ability to function normally and participate in all her usual daily activities.

Anorexia’s immediate complications are extremely dangerous and in some cases can be fatal. During the disorder, anorexia can cause fatigue and fainting, a slow heart rate, low blood pressure, heart failure, osteoporosis, muscle loss, kidney failure, and loss of menstruation. In the long run, anorexia increases the risk for having psychological problems, such as developing anxiety and depression, lifelong physical complications such as weakened heart functioning, bone density, gastrointestinal issues, damage to the reproductive system, and organ failure, and neurological issues such as seizures, disordered thinking, and numbness in the hands or feets. Some impacts, such as severe bone loss, can be irreversible.

Bulimia can immediately cause dehydration, an electrolyte imbalance, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, tooth decay, acid reflux, inflammation or eruption of the esophagus, and intestinal distress. Many of these consequences will dissipate once a person recovers from bulimia but there are also lingering long term health impacts due to the period of poor nutrition. These include diabetes, brittle bones, dental problems, and reproductive difficulties such as infrequent menstrual periods.

In the short term, binge eating disorder can cause emotional issues such as shame, guilt, social isolation, physical complications such as weight gain and fatigue, and mental issues such as anxiety and depression. The long term consequences of binge eating disorder are those most often associated with being overweight and include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver and gallbladder disease, and sleep apnea.

These complications, both in the short and long term, signal an importance to get your daughter treatment as soon as possible, as earlier interventions are known to have a more positive impact on the healing journey.

How to get help if your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder

There are many ways you can help prevent and treat eating disorders in your child. Families can play an essential role in preventing eating disorders by knowing the key risk factors and opening up a dialogue surrounding nutrition, body image, and health. Some key strategies in prevention are dispelling common eating disorder myths, discouraging dieting behaviors, eating meals as a family, avoiding weight talk including teasing about weight, focusing on healthy eating habits, and discussing healthy behaviors that promote well-being rather than weight maintenance.

Eating disorder treatment often takes a multidisciplinary approach and can include medical, psychiatric, individual, and family therapy along with nutritional rehabilitation aimed at restoring a healthy body weight. Because of the many health complications associated with eating disorders, it’s common for treatment to require close supervision of a medical profession, either in in-patient or out-patient treatment facilities. In some cases, medication may be administered if psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression are also present.

A variety of therapies has been found to be effective in treating eating disorders. Individual therapy will usually involve behavioral and cognitive techniques and group therapy allows individuals to find a safe place where they can open up about their struggles and relate to others experiencing similar challenges. Family therapy is also common and focuses on supporting the family in nutritional rehabilitation and how to navigate mental health issues. Nutritional therapy or counselling can provide your daughter with nutrition education, meal planning, and goal setting, which seeks to help her cultivate a healthier relationship with food for life-long change.

If your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder and the associated complications, Solstice East can provide her the all-encompassing and supportive care she needs to put her on the path toward healing.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a top-rated residential treatment center specializing in the treatment of adolescent females ages 14-17. We offer on-site equine therapy, an accredited academic schedule, and world-class therapeutic programming to treat a wide range of trauma and disorders including eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Our clients receive a unique combination of therapeutic methods stemming from traditional and holistic mental health treatments that are age and gender specific.

Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. Our groundbreaking approach allows our students to heal while compiling skills and practices to best serve them throughout their life journey. For more information, please call (828) 759-5903.

creating a schedule for kids

Benefits of Making a Schedule for Teens: Why Teens Need Structure

Benefits of Making a Schedule for Teens: Why Teens Need Structure 2560 1709 se_admin

Teenagers are experiencing an interesting stage of life. They are beginning to experience more freedom with their time and can begin to choose how they manage that time. Time management is an important life skill, but for many teens, it’s not something that comes naturally. Creating good habits is the foundation for building life skills, and a schedule is a great place to start for teens. 

Benefits of Having Structure for Teens

For many teens, their day is packed from wake up to bedtime with school, homework, extracurriculars, family obligations, and time with friends. It’s easy for things to slip and get left behind when teens get busy, and chances are, if they are given the choice between finishing their homework and chatting with friends, they are going to choose the latter. Creating a schedule helps teens manage their time so that responsibilities don’t fall through the cracks. For example, if they have a big project due at the end of the week, working on it in 30 minute increments through the week can keep them from feeling overwhelmed by having to do everything all at once at the last minute. A schedule can also teens work toward their goals. If they are hoping to make the first string of the basketball team, adding practice time into their weekly schedule can help them stay focused on their goals. 

Having a schedule can also help alleviate feelings of anxiety in teens. When teens feel like there isn’t enough time in their day to complete all their tasks they can feel overwhelmed, anxious, or even defeated. Teens struggling with mental health issues may feel irritable or withdraw from activities they previously enjoyed. A schedule can keep these teens engaged and could potentially keep those symptoms at bay while the structure may help minimize worries about what will come next or how they should be spending their time. 

Helping Your Teen Make a Schedule

When helping your teen create a daily schedule, have them list out everything they need to do with their home life, school work, extracurriculars, and friends. They can then categorize those tasks into things that need to happen daily, weekly, and monthly. This can help your teen visualize when tasks need to be completed. They can use a daily planner, the calendar on their cell phone, or an old fashioned calendar. It is important for teens to be a part of the process of making their schedule. When they have input, they are more invested in actually keeping their schedule. Ideally, you may want them to clean their room every day. But if they decide that they would rather do one big clean at the end of each week, and they prove that they can complete the task as scheduled, giving them the power to decide shows them that you trust them and believe in their ability to build those life skills. This in turn builds their confidence and belief that they can succeed. 

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a groundbreaking residential treatment center that emphasizes the mind-body connection in our unique approach to holistic healthcare.

We have a strong emphasis on family therapy, nutrition, and physical fitness. We also offer accredited, engaging academics, addiction therapy, equine therapy, and psychiatric services. At Solstice, we help set the stage for the infusion of light into the previously darkened lives of the families we serve. For more information please call (828) 414-2980.

what it's like to have high-functioning anxiety

High-Functioning Anxiety in Teens: Warning Signs

High-Functioning Anxiety in Teens: Warning Signs 2560 1700 se_admin

It’s normal for all teens to experience anxiety from time to time when they have substantial events approaching such as a big test, an important soccer game, or a first date. Feeling anxious is a normal reaction to big stressors, but for some teens, anxiety is not just present for big moments, but for all the moments in between as well. For teens who are struggling with high-functioning anxiety, it can negatively impact friendships and family relationships, participation in extracurricular activities, and schoolwork.

Impacts of high-functioning anxiety on teens

Teen anxiety is becoming increasingly common with 25% of 13-18-year-olds experiencing an anxiety disorder.  High functioning anxiety has evolved into a catchall term for people who live with anxiety but are able to function reasonably well in different areas of life. Teens with high functioning anxiety experience a myriad of impacts both mental and physical.

Teens with high-functioning anxiety get really caught up in their own heads and experience excessive fears and worries. Trying to mitigate these worries can lead them to feel restless, hyper-vigilant, and constantly nervous. Teens can also develop a sense of perfectionism to try and keep the anxiety at bay. Socially, anxiety can cause teens to either appear dependent or withdrawn depending on what their fears are.

High-functioning anxiety can also manifest in physical symptoms. Many anxious teens experience muscle tension, stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue. It’s also common for their bodies to flush, blot, sweat, and startle at any anxious trigger.


Warning signs your daughter may be experiencing high-functioning anxiety


With most teens experiencing some form of anxiety occasionally, how can you tell if your daughter is just processing typical teen stress or if they are living with high-functioning anxiety? The following are some warning signs you can look for:

1. Physical changes: Notice if your daughter is complaining of frequent pain that is not normal for her. This could be in the form of headaches, gastrointestinal problems, unexplained aches or pains, or even her saying she doesn’t feel well without any obvious cause.

2. Emotional changes: Be on the lookout for severe emotional alterations such as extreme irritability or unexplained outbursts. Also, notice if she has developed any new or extreme fears that she is constantly worrying about.

3. Social changes: If your daughter used to be a social butterfly, a warning sign of anxiety could be her avoiding social interactions, extracurricular activities, or spending increased time alone.

4. Sleep changes: If your daughter is experiencing significant anxiety, it can change her sleeping patterns, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. She can also experience an increase in nightmares and feel like she is still tired after a full night’s sleep.

5. Academic changes: Rather than seeing a decline in grades, anxiety can actually cause a significant jump in grades because your daughter is working so hard at being perfect. However, anxiety can also cause feelings of being overwhelmed by school and difficulty concentrating while studying and doing homework.

If working through constant anxiety becomes too much for your daughter and family to handle, programs like Solstice East can help.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls ages 14-17 that specializes in treating teens with anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and unhealthy behaviors. We support a therapeutic culture where acceptance, change, and growth is recognized and embraced. This approach allows our students to heal and gain the skills and tools necessary to lead a happy, healthy life.

For more information about how Solstice East can help please call 828-484-9946.

creating habits for success

Creating A Schedule and Habits for Success

Creating A Schedule and Habits for Success 2560 1711 se_admin

Building and maintaining organization and time management skills become increasingly important as children transition into adolescence. With many competing interests like school work, extracurricular activities, time with friends, and home responsibilities, teens can begin to feel an overwhelming sense of pressure if they don’t have the skills and habits in place to manage their time effectively.

Consistency and structure are essential for achieving goals

Teenager’s prefrontal cortexes are not yet mature, meaning the part of the brain that adults use to solve problems and think through a situation rationally is still developing. Immature prefrontal cortexes can lead to risky behavior, boundary testing, and inconsistent behavior. Because of this, it is especially important that you help your teen create a structure that can help her thrive.

Having consistent routines in teenager’s lives provides a structure to help them achieve their goals. There are numerous psychological and emotional benefits to creating and maintaining routines including creating a sense of stability and safety, strengthening relationships, developing responsibility, and building a time management skill set.

Before developing a routine for success, it’s important for you and your teen to begin with the end in mind. What are her goals? What are her values? Where is she hoping to be in the next 5 years? It’s common for teenagers not to know the answers to these questions immediately, so work with your daughter to create a personal mission statement; this mission statement will work as a road map to guide decision making and priorities.

Once you and your daughter have outlined her goals and values, the next step in creating a goal-driven schedule for success is prioritizing. By putting the most important things first, your daughter will learn not only time management skills but how to live according to her values. For example, if her goal is to get into a high caliber university but she knows she needs to get her SAT scores up, choosing to put a prep class ahead of going to the mall with her friends on a Saturday afternoon teaches her to align her activities with her goals.

After priorities have been identified, start to work with your teen to create a concrete schedule that they can maintain. This process does not need to happen all at once, start small and allow there to be many parts of the process. For example, you could start by discussing your daughter’s morning routine because this is the part of the day where she feels angry and stressed. Once a consistent morning routine has been established, you can move on to other parts of the day. As you discuss these ideas with your teen, have her write her schedule out keeping in mind that this is a living document that can be changed. Be sure to encourage and support “me” time in the schedule that allows for rest, play or relaxation to avoid burnout.

When a schedule has been developed, ask your teen how you can best support her in maintaining her schedule and achieving her goals. Would it be helpful for you to offer her reminders, or would she benefit more from independently completing her schedule? Lastly, monitor progress together. Check in with how she is doing and what is and isn’t working. This should be an ongoing conversation as new priorities and challenges emerge.

Solstice East can help set your daughter up for success


Solstice East is a groundbreaking residential treatment center for girls ages 14-17 that emphasizes the mind-body connection in our unique approach to holistic healthcare. Our world-class programming empowers young women to believe in themselves by providing the tools, support, and motivation necessary to instill these lifelong beliefs.

For more information about how Solstice East can help please call 828-484-9946.

teenage-mental-health-facilities

A Family Guide to Teenage Mental Health Facilities

A Family Guide to Teenage Mental Health Facilities 2560 1707 Admin_SE

Are you looking for teenage mental health facilities? Seeking treatment for depression may bring as much anxiety to the family as it does to the adolescent teen girl who experiences the behavioral disorder. You and your teen may require additional support. Solstice East, in North Carolina, can help assist your family in discovering the specific needs of your teen. In this short guide, we’ll consider what the families of a teenager struggling with depression and anxiety can do to help maintain their overall well-being through the process of healing. Remember that Solstice East wants to be here for you as a resource for your family during this challenging time.

Teenage Mental Health Facilities

Teenage Mental Health Facilities

Social Media Mindfulness

Regarding social media, be mindful that all media posted on the internet can become permanently available to the public. This means that in the future, posts will be searchable by the teen’s potential college, employer, political opponent, or cyberbully. Please be careful with what you choose to post about your teen. Let’s protect their privacy.

Family Support

This is probably a time when you want your teen to open up with their thoughts and feelings and so it is important to listen as patiently as possible and to be as supportive as you can.  It’s important to listen even if you disagree with what they are saying so they have a chance to let their thoughts and feelings be heard. It is important for family members to be mindful that stereotyping and blaming anyone in the family, especially the child or teen struggling with anxiety or depression, is not helpful. Try to stay constructive and do your best to avoid blame and shame. These feelings and attitudes don’t help in solving issues and do not create an open environment where children feel safe to share thoughts and feelings. Most families want to do their best to stay resourceful, creative, and to be as loving as possible to the child that is struggling.

Teenage Mental Health Facilities Guide

Teenage Mental Health Facilities Guide

Helping the Family During Teenage Rehabilitation

Family members might experience a personal increase of anxiety and depression when a loved one is experiencing behavioral issues and/or needs professional services, therapy, or treatments.

Parents or guardians, please remind yourself often that teens of all walks of life and circumstances suffer from depression.  Many people tend to think that depression only occurs as a result of major difficult life events such as divorce, the death of a sibling, or other stressful situations. It’s important to remember that depression happens to all types of people in all types of situations and that it manifests in different ways and to different degrees.

In addition, some parents lose confidence in their parenting style and abilities which may not lend to their ability to contribute to their children. Parents also must care for themselves along the way as this allows them to be better equipped to add value to the situation with their troubled teen.

Children’s Mental Health

Every family has a degree of turmoil. For children who are younger than the sibling with depression, this may be a confusing time where additional explanations are necessary to help them cope and better understand the situation. Children often need the opportunity to talk to parents and others to be able to process. When parents understand what their children are going through they can better support them through challenging times.

Teenage Mental Health Facilities

Teenage Mental Health Facilities

Extended Family Support of Teenager Girls

The extended family of the teen with mental health issues and depression can be of great value to the teen going through depression and anxiety. Depending on the family dynamic, grandparents may offer the parents support in the form of watching the other kids. This gives parents time to reflect on and discuss the situation. Parents and the teen may need time to consult with medical professionals in order to gain direction as to how to better support and direct the family.

Aunts and uncles can assist parents and the entire family unit by actively listening and offering emotional support, being involved in the adolescent’s life, babysitting younger children, or providing advice and perhaps a new perspective to both parents and siblings.

Residential Mental Health Facilities: Effective Treatment Programs

Depending on the program, school services may be available to ensure that students with depression do not fall behind academically. Facilities such as Solstice East offers a program designed specifically for teens to receive the personal and academic support they need to succeed. Long-term care facilities help with treating disorders like depression and anxiety. Earning a formal education for female teens in a consistently patterned environment may help reduce anxiety and help your child focus. Dedicated residential mental health facilities also maintain the cohesive contact with the family and they ensure proper handling of health privacy boundaries.

Solstice East Residential Programs for Depression and Anxiety

There are many teenage mental health facilities to choose from but ultimately you want what’s best for your teen. At Solstice East, teens gain lifelong skills which they can carry with them through their on-campus high school experience, into college, and then into future careers and families.

Mental health facilitators who work at residential treatment programs are mission driven. Our teams of professionals provide world class care. These well-known services will help your teen to gain confidence throughout their healing journey. The skills gained at Solstice East are proven to help teens create a successful life and to return home to their families. And once learned, these resources, taught by the professionals at Solstice East, can be drawn on by the teen for many years to come and will help them to create and maintain healthy relationships with family, friends, and self.

 

talk therapy

Alternates to Talk Therapy for Anxious Teens

Alternates to Talk Therapy for Anxious Teens 5184 3456 se_admin

In the middle of a panic attack, teens may experience overwhelming physical sensations that make it difficult to breathe, let alone gather their thoughts and talk about their experiences. Sometimes anxious teens don’t want to talk about how they’re feeling because they worry their fears may sound irrational or their thoughts are racing so fast, it can be difficult to pinpoint what is really going on. Talk therapy is not always effective when teens are experiencing intense emotions or struggle with self-awareness. Mindfulness and movement can be valuable alternatives to talk therapy for anxious teens.

Difficulty Understanding Emotions

Many teens have a difficult time managing their emotions as it is hard to understand what they are feeling. Adolescence is a period of significant changes—physically, emotionally, socially, and neurologically. The brain develops at such a rapid pace that areas responsible for emotions are flooded with activity. When these areas are hyperactive, teens with anxiety often go into fight-or-flight mode, which makes it hard to connect with areas that help with reasoning and decision-making that are still developing.

When teens develop a larger emotional vocabulary, they are better able to articulate what they feel, explore possible causes, and accept their emotional experience for what it is. Accepting their feelings gives them more room to change how they feel than labeling these feelings as “bad” or “wrong.”

Listening to Somatic Experiences 

Often, physical sensations of anxiety are so overwhelming that teens find it easier to name butterflies in their stomach than specific fears they may be worried about. Teens with anxiety may feel sick more often, even if there doesn’t seem to be a medical explanation for their ongoing symptoms. 

Many teens believe that emotions and physical sensations are separate, but they tend to inform each other. Acknowledging this connection allows teens to try self-soothing techniques that take care of their physical body in order to manage anxious thoughts, which can be easier than identifying and challenging anxious beliefs.

The Value of Experiential Learning

Teens learn more from experience than they do from lectures. We believe that teens don’t need to talk about their feelings in order to effectively process them if they’re not ready, if they don’t want to, or if it doesn’t feel right.

Some alternates to Talk Therapy include:

  • Journaling, which allows teens to explore their anxious thoughts without sharing them with others
  • Drawing, which encourages teens to express their emotions without using words
  • Practicing grounding meditation or doing a body scan to check in with physical anxiety
  • Practicing yoga helps teens link movement with their breath
  • Neurophysiological tools, like Brainspotting and Neurofeedback
  • Equine Assisted Therapy helps address social anxiety
  • Adventure activities and other physical activities help teens build confidence

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictive behaviors. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!

Contact us at  828-484-9946 to learn more about experiential therapy.

borderline personality disorder

Reframing Borderline Personality Disorder as Childhood Trauma

Reframing Borderline Personality Disorder as Childhood Trauma 4500 3000 se_admin

We need to start talking about borderline personality disorder for what it really is: a complex response to trauma. While traumatic experiences don’t necessarily trigger signs of a borderline personality, up to 60% of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have co-occuring PTSD. It is understood as a combination of genetic factors and early childhood experiences that influence attachment styles, coping mechanisms, and interpersonal relationships. Reframing Borderline Personality Disorder as Childhood Trauma helps psychologists understand underlying causes and frees teens from the label of fundamental problems with their personality.

Defining Characteristics of a Borderline Personality:

  • Unstable self-image
  • Instability in relationships
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Intense emotions
  • Impulsive behaviors

Environmental Factors:

One of the reasons Borderline traits are considered a personality issue is that most people diagnosed with the disorder do not respond to medication, which suggests that it is more environmental than biological in nature. While Borderline traits persist over an extended period of time, they tend to intensify when triggered by stress or traumatic events.

The relationship between traumatic events and Borderline is unclear. While Borderline may be a response to trauma, people with these traits are also more vulnerable to abuse. Between 40 and 86 percent of BPD sufferers report sexual abuse, up to 75 percent say they were emotionally abused, up to 73 percent report physical abuse, and between 17 and 25 percent experienced severe emotional neglect. Following these experiences, they have developed belief systems about their self-worth and an unstable view of relationships based on hurt and manipulation.

Deconstructing Borderline

The similarities between complex PTSD and BPD are numerous. Patients with both conditions have difficulty regulating their emotions; they experience persistent feelings of emptiness, shame, and guilt; and they have a significantly elevated risk of suicide. In some ways, some signs of borderline mimic signs of autism in relation to inconsistent social skills and reactions to an intense world.

When you take away judgments of character associated with a borderline personality, the disorder is characterized by:

  • History of developmental trauma or reactive attachment
  • Rigid processing
  • Sensory sensitivity
  • Slower nonverbal processing

Problems with a Personality Disorder Label

Labeling people with BPD as having a personality disorder can escalate their poor self-esteem. “Personality disorder” translates in many people’s minds as a personality flaw, and this can lead to or intensify an ingrained sense of worthlessness and self-loathing.

This means people with BPD may view themselves more negatively, but can also lead other people – including those closest to them – to do the same. 

Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach

When reframed as childhood trauma, psychologists are better prepared to address underlying issues and come up with concrete solutions. The “personality label” reinforces learned helplessness and treatment-resistance. Using a trauma-informed approach, psychologists look at teens’ individual strengths and needs to find a way to connect with them. The goal of treatment becomes learning how to establish healthy relationships based on personal values and fears.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for teen girls ages 14-18 struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, trauma, and addictive behaviors. Many of the girls we work with have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and have internalized hopelessness in relationships based on this diagnosis. Our relationship-based program focuses on helping young women heal unhealthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives.

Contact us at (855) 672-7058 to learn more about borderline personality disorder. We can help your family today!