the-middle-path

Finding the Middle (Path)

Black and blue or white and gold?

It’s safe to say that “the dress” ruined (almost) as many relationships as Monopoly. It was, in a word, infuriating. How could anyone think it was white and gold? (I still can’t see it.)

In life, a lot of things might seem like “the dress.” I’m fair and my parents are lame and unfair; I’m good and my ex is evil. Why am I sad while everyone else is happy?

Our world has conditioned us to look for winners and losers, right and wrong. We love opposites.

But, the truth is that things just don’t really work like that. Most facts are not mutually exclusive. In many cases, two separate ideas can both be right.

The Middle Path

An author once told me, “the best bad guys have really good qualities.” They’re smart or cunning, charming or funny. Look at the Joker.

When we recognize that good and bad can be found in everything, we improve our understanding of the world and others. It makes us more flexible and accepting of change and adverse life events.

It turns out that everyone isn’t out to get you. There’s just another side to it that you missed.

But, when we’re so convinced that “the dress” is black and blue, it can be difficult to see the side of white and gold, to give those people validation.

Validation is a HUGE part of the Middle Path. It’s just as important for your parents to recognize why you want to go to that unsupervised rager as it is for you to understand why it’s “never happening.”

On the inverse, the Middle Path helps us to understand ourselves as well. We may feel altogether sad, but there’s probably something to be happy about. (Also, other people are sad too, even if their glamorous social media pics suggest otherwise.)

If DBT were a tool kit, the Middle Path would be your level.

The Middle Path at Blueprint Mental Health

Blueprint Mental Health specializes in adolescent DBT. We treat teens and young adults experiencing a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Further, we believe in the power of DBT when used in everyday life. This summer, we are proud to offer weekly DBT training sessions for teens and for parents.

For more information or to sign up, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

 

 

3 Simple Tricks for Distress Tolerance

You wake up in the morning, make a cup of coffee, and turn on the news (or peruse it on your phone). These days, it seems as if every news story is a bad one: natural disasters, crimes, political unrest. It’s stressful.

In a recent Huffington Post article entitled “How To Maintain Your Emotional Wellbeing During Tragic News Events,” writer Rachel Moss offers some tips for recovering from such negative news stories. Her subheading reads:

“We always have a choice about how we respond.”

This is the guiding principle behind distress tolerance and DBT as whole. Whether you are looking at images on the news or experiencing tragedies in your own life, distress can take a toll on our mental health and cause us to behave in irrational ways.

We may find ourselves in a slump of depression, lashing out at the people we love, or turning to destructive behaviors. In each of these cases, DBT skills can help us choose a better response.

Do the Opposite.

If you’re swiping through upsetting social media posts, stop. When you want to scream or cry, force yourself to make a silly face. Having a hard time getting out of bed? Take your dog for a walk. Whatever you’re doing, do the opposite. Steer your mind and body away from the source of your stress.

Go Back to Gratitude & Positivity.

In the spirit of doing the opposite, remember the things in your life that you are thankful for. Indulge in some good, 0ld-fashioned happiness. Eat your favorite food, light a candle with your favorite scent, and listen to your favorite song. Give back to your friends, family, and community. Surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people.

Get Real.

You may have heard the term “fact-checking.” Fact-checking forces us to back up our feelings with the reality of a situation. This means facing those stressful thoughts, but also acknowledging that there is more to the picture. Believe it or not, that picture has some good in it. Recognize that good and all of the other good in your life that simultaneously exists. Acknowledge that you or someone else in the world has overcome this situation in the past. Moving forward and being happy is possible.

Distress Tolerance Skills at Blueprint Mental Health

Distress tolerance is one of five modules used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT has been proven effective in treating individuals struggling with mental and behavioral health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and more. Blueprint Mental Health is a boutique mental health provider, offering individual therapy and groups for teens and young adults experiencing mental health issues. We specialize in the use of DBT for teens, and are offering DBT training sessions for teens and for parents this summer.

To learn more or sign up, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal Effectiveness: Mental Health Meets Social Health

Last week, we talked about ways to implement mindfulness into your daily routines. While mindfulness is perhaps the most well-known module of DBT, it takes more than just “being present” to master this therapy.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps us to improve ourselves internally so that we can begin tackle the external. Among these external factors are our relationships with others: parents, teachers, co-workers, friends, etc.

Social interactions can be stressful and unpleasant, especially for those struggling with anxiety or other mental/behavioral health issues. Interpersonal effectiveness addresses this, seeking to make us better communicators and peers.

How does it work?

Social interactions are an unavoidable part of life. We rely on others in order to achieve certain needs. These needs can range from emotional support to approval or permission. And, whether we recognize it or not, our mental health plays a huge role in how we interact with others.

Our thought processes and feelings often affect the way that we communicate with others. If we are feeling stressed, we might be more irritable. Or, if we’re sad, we might be more closed off and less open to conversations. Our perspectives and desires may prevent us from being empathetic or understanding other points of view. Or maybe, depression or self-doubt prevents us from talking to others at all.

While mindfulness can be a great tool in regulating emotions that interfere with communication, interpersonal effectiveness goes a step further.

Maintaining Relationships & Assessing their Importance

In everything that we do in life, we seek to achieve a positive outcome. We eat for energy (or for taste); we go to school to improve our futures; and we do what our parents want because we value our relationship with them.

Unfortunately, our mental state can cloud this understanding. Even though we value our parents, we aren’t always nice to them or obedient to their wishes. Our brains have something else in mind (no pun intended).

Interpersonal effectiveness is like a post-it note reminder in such situations. It forces us to consider…

  1. How important is this relationship to me?
  2. How do I want this person to feel about me?
  3. How do I maintain this relationship?

In an essay by accomplished Major League Baseball player Chipper Jones, he recalls the pressure to use performance-enhancing drugs during his career. He writes to his younger self:

“[Y]ou’re going to be open to using steroids in 1996. Like, really open to it. And you should be forever grateful that your wife was around to discuss it with you…[S]he’s going to ask you this: ‘Would you be able to look your parents in the eye if you earned a bunch of accolades and honors while taking steroids? Would you be O.K. with that?'”

He concludes, “It’s going to be all you’ll need to hear. You’ll never touch the stuff.”

The truth is that, for many of us, our relationship with our parents is important to us.

It’s so important, in fact, that when we stop to consider its importance, we might treat them differently. Whether this consideration helps us to make better life choices like Chipper, or merely refrain from shouting at them when we don’t get our way, the outcome is going to be positive.

This, however, is only the beginning. Interpersonal effectiveness also helps us with being direct and assertive in our communication and teaches us how to prioritize our needs and have them met.

Interpersonal Effectiveness at Blueprint Mental Health

Blueprint Mental Health specializes in the use of DBT for teens. We work with individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other mental health issues to help them improve their lives and relationships.

This summer, Blueprint Mental Health will be offering two DBT training sessions for parents and for teens. Through real world scenarios and fun pop culture references, we’ll discuss the five modules of DBT, including interpersonal effectiveness.

For more information about Blueprint Mental Health and its DBT training sessions, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

Mindfulness

5 Easy Ways to Make Time for Mindfulness

When you think of the word “mindfulness,” what images come to mind? A Buddhist monk meditating or maybe a private therapy session?

The truth is that mindfulness doesn’t require a special room or the help of a professional. Anyone can practice mindfulness at any point in time.

Simply, mindfulness is the act of being present and aware. This may seem a bit vague. After all, most people would consider themselves aware. 

Yet, most people forget about mindfulness or don’t recognize that they’re even practicing it, especially during these five routine parts of the day:

While Driving

Driving is an optimal time to practice mindfulness. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty difficult.

With little else to do in the car, our morning and evening commutes are often spent thinking– anticipating the long day ahead or reflecting on the stress behind you. Each ticking minute is spent wondering how much longer until you get there.

As New Jerseyans, we’re no strangers to traffic and road rage. One unfortunate driver or road block can easily set the tone for the rest of our day.

We may be physically in our car, but mentally, we’re far away– at our desk, at the point in time when that dirtbag cut us off, or running through our evening errands.

The solution? Ignore the clock. Keep your mind off the office, and just be.

Listen to music that you can sing along to and do exactly that: sing. Or, listen to a podcast. Try some childhood road trip techniques like observing the scenery, searching for unusual license plates, or counting everything that is blue (while keeping your eyes on the road, of course).

At Work/School

Another hard one. After all, this is often the most stressful part of our day. (Is it 5 o’clock yet?)

Mastery of multitasking has become an expectation in the modern work world. So, how can we be mindful when our to-do list resembles a dictionary?

First, stop and breathe. Take a quick walk even if it’s just to the bathroom. Come back to your desk with a clear mind and revisit that to-do list. It’s time to prioritize and be realistic. What are you actually capable of accomplishing in the rest of the day? Is there someone you can contact to address the things that may fall short? Make a plan. Write it down on a new, clean piece of paper, and tackle each item one task at a time.

Take periodic breaks to breathe, walk, drink some water, and rest your eyes. Try to devote your whole mind to the task at hand, and worry less about what remains to be done.

Then, when you clock out, leave all thoughts about that to-do list at the door until you return the next morning.

During Conversations

We’re all guilty of being less than mindful during our daily social interactions. We see the other person’s mouth moving and can hear the words they’re saying, but are we listening?

Oftentimes, we aren’t. Instead, we are thinking about something that happened before, planning our response, or looking forward to something yet to come.

Mindfulness can make a huge difference in improving our communication skills.

Be attentive. Trace their words in cursive in your mind. Remember, you do not need to have an immediate response. In fact, utilizing the empty space between their statement and yours can help you think more clearly and respond more appropriately.

Try not to carry the stress of previous or future events into your interactions, rather treating them independently with a rational mind. In doing so, we avert the habit of taking out our emotions on the wrong person, and create healthier relationships with those around us.

While Working Out

Competitive athletes are masters of mindfulness. You may not realize it, but you’re probably being mindful during your workouts, too. (And, if you aren’t, your workout is definitely suffering.)

Working out often requires that we maintain focus on the movements and responses of our body. It’s hard to ignore the sensation of muscles burning, sweat trickling, and your breath becoming more labored. While these aren’t the most pleasant things to acknowledge, they’re great examples of mindfulness.

The next time you find yourself thinking about something that happened in the past or what you have to get done after your workout, bring your mind back to the body.

How is your form? Where are you feeling it the most? Are you breathing? (Don’t forget that.)

Incorporating yoga stretches at the beginning or end of your workout can also provide you with a moment for mindfulness. Because yoga focuses so heavily on balance, posture, and form, the attentiveness you give to your body will free you of past or future thinking.

Before Bed

You lay down at the end of the day with the lights off, and suddenly, you’re alone with your thoughts–thoughts that are anywhere but the present and that are capable of keeping you up all night.

For some people, watching TV before bed can help quiet their mind. However, if TV before bed isn’t your thing, try soft and peaceful music.

Practice paced breathing. Count the length of your inhales and exhales and then make an effort to lengthen them by one count or two. Put one hand on your stomach and take deep belly breaths. Feel the expansion of your whole torso when you inhale.

Visualize a shape expanding and shrinking with each inhale and exhale. Or, think of a person or place that brings you complete joy. Bring your mind there.

It is much easier to sleep when we clear our mind of any worries and fears about today or tomorrow, making mindfulness a perfect bedtime activity.

Mindfulness at Blueprint Mental Health

Mindfulness is among the five modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), for which Blueprint Mental Health specializes with its teen clients. In addition to offering individual and group therapy for teens and young adults, Blueprint Mental Health offers training sessions on DBT and mindfulness for both teens and parents.

For more information, contact us today! Call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

2017 DBT Summer Series

It’s summer! Time to kick back, relax, and pick up some DBT skills!

John Mopper, LAC of Blueprint Mental Health will be offering two DBT training programs this summer: DBT Skills Training for Teens and DBT Skills Training for Parents/Caregivers.

These 8-week programs will educate individuals on DBT, including the five skill modules:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Emotion Regulation
  • The Middle Path
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness

DBT Skills Training for Teens

Wednesdays 12-1 p.m. beginning July 12

This is not your typical DBT training… Learn DBT skills through real world scenarios, pop culture references, and more!

For more information, check out the flyer here.

DBT Skills Training for Parents/Caregivers

Thursdays 7-8 p.m. beginning July 13

Imagine you are on an airplane, getting ready for takeoff. When reviewing the emergency plan, there are specific instructions that if the oxygen masks drop down, apply your mask first before helping a child. The reason is that you can’t help your child if you can’t breathe. The same is true when your child is struggling with depression or anxiety.

For more information, check out the flyer here.

Why learn DBT?

DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is effective in assisting individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other mental health issues.

For parents or caregivers of teens struggling with mental health issues, implementing DBT in their own lives can make all the difference in helping their children.

For more information on the benefits of DBT, click here.

For more information on the benefits of summer treatment, click here.

Sign up today! Call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

Mental Illness in Young People

“Roughly half of all lifetime mental disorders…start by the mid‐teens and three‐fourths by the mid‐20s.” (US National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health)

Research shows us that most people with mental illness have been experiencing it since adolescence or young adulthood. In fact, prevalence of mental illness is nearly identical among adult and teen populations.

The most common mental health issues affecting young people are depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism.

Ch-ch-changes (and other external factors)

For teens and young adults, change is the norm–physical, emotional, and social. Between puberty, building and losing relationships, and experiencing major life milestones, these changes come with plenty of stress.

Moving or changing schools, lack of self-esteem, arguments with friends and family, and other social or school pressures can contribute to mental health problems in teens.

Recent studies show that these stressors are extending beyond adolescence. “In 2014, the proportion of [college] students who said they felt frequently depressed rose to 9.5 percent,” according to a UCLA study.

Young adults face financial hardships, the stress of looking for a job and moving out, and other major life changes. The state of the economy and social issues can also lead to feelings of sadness or worrying for the future.

It’s in our biology.

It is important to remember that there is a biological/genetic component to mental illness as well. This means that anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. are sometimes embedded in our brain systems.

It makes sense, actually, that the closer we are to reaching full brain development, the more this biology and psychology begins to shine through.

Blueprint Mental Health: Young Adult & Teen Therapy

Blueprint Mental Health provides outpatient mental health therapy and groups for teens and young adults. We utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help young people experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Through these therapies, individuals learn to cope with external stressors and change patterns of behavior that may be preventing them from enjoying life.

For more information on Blueprint Mental Health, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

 

mental health awareness

Fast Facts & Resources for Mental Health Awareness Month

The last full week of Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to a close. Each year, mental health advocates launch campaigns to educate and advocate for mental health disorders and treatment options.

Some of our favorite campaigns this month included the #1in4 and #1in5 tags on Instagram and Twitter and Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf video series. This video series featured a different public figure each day who spoke about their own experiences with mental health issues as a child. (See Emma Stone above.)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental health issues. While such disorders are quite common, stigma surrounding mental illness and treatment is often an obstacle for those in need of support.

Mental Health Facts

  • 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 teens experience a severe mental disorder during their life.
  • Psychiatric disorders are more prevalent in children and teens than asthma and peanut allergies.
  • 18% of adults in the U.S. have experienced an anxiety disorder.
  • 16 million adults in the U.S. have had one or more major depressive episodes in the past year.
  • 1 in 10 teens experience anxiety disorder.
  • 12.5% of teens have had a major depressive episode in the past year.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death for people aged 10-24.
  • 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
  • It is estimated that as many as two-thirds of children and teens with a mental health disorder do not receive treatment.

Blueprint Mental Health & Mental Health Awareness

At Blueprint Mental Health, our goal is to provide skills education to not only our clients but to the community at large. We offer presentations for a variety of audiences on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), coping skills, and mindfulness. These presentations can help caregivers support those experiencing mental health issues, help individuals manage their own symptoms of stress or anxiety, and increase awareness amount treatment options.

For more information on Blueprint Mental Health, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

Image attribution: (Top left) Child Mind Institute, speakupforkids.org; (Top right) @kristenanniebell Instagram

Quick Tips to Ditch Stress and Cope with Finals

As the weather gets warmer and school draws to a close, students across America face one last buzzkill: final exams.

With their GPAs hanging into balance and a year’s worth of notes to read through, it’s no wonder that final exam season comes with a ton of stress for students. Teens face pressure from parents, teachers, and pesky college applications to make a last-ditch effort to keep their grades high (or get them higher).

Finals aren’t going anywhere, though. They’re a inconvenient part of life that’s here to stay. But that doesn’t mean that they have to be quite as miserable.

With these quick tips, students can find ways to cope with end-of-the-year stress and tackle finals head-on.

1. Get ahead of the game.

We know you’ve heard it a million times, but maybe this time you’ll listen. Do. Not. Procrastinate.

You’ve known about the exam since September, so what’s your excuse for waiting until 10 p.m. on the night before to study?

When you give yourself more time to master material, you can break up your studying into smaller, more manageable sessions. This will not only improve your ability to retain information, but also help you avoid the inevitable panic of waiting until the last minute. Plus, if you have any questions, you can ask your teacher in class (and not in a frantic e-mail at 2 in the morning–P.S. they’re not answering).

Having an organized plan of attack will eliminate the worry of uncertainty and boost your confidence. You’ve got this!

2. Take care of your body.

Our mental health has a direct correlation with how well we’re physically doing. Babies aren’t the only ones who get fussy without enough sleep.

The week before finals is primetime for late-night cram sessions, energy drinks, and sugary snacks. But all of these things are actually making you more stressed (and drowsy).

Trade in the caffeine for a glass of water and the candy bar for some fruit. Drinking water prevents us from becoming dehydrated, a major cause of lethargy, and healthy snacks with natural sugars and proteins keep our energy high without that dreaded crash.

Oh, and did we mention, get at least six hours of sleep? Studies show that a sleepy brain can be as ineffective as a drunk one, and no one wants to take a chemistry exam while under the influence.

3. Take breaks, move around, and get some fresh air.

Our brains aren’t equipped to work for eight hours straight. At some point, you’re going to find yourself reaching for your phone, taking Buzzfeed quizzes that have nothing to do with Shakespeare, or staring off at nothing. And that’s okay.

Yes, you heard correctly. It’s totally okay and actually beneficial to take mental breaks from studying.

Every hour or so, allow yourself a couple of minutes to indulge in something a bit less stressful than calculus. While retreating to Instagram is absolutely acceptable, fill a few of your breaks with non-screen time. Give your eyes a break from blue light and step out into the sunlight. Walk around. Stretch.

And then turn off your phone and get back at it.

4. Get support if you need it.

There’s no shame in asking for help. Whether you want to go over Spanish vocab with your best friend, need to stay after school with your teacher to remember Eurpoean geography, or talk to a counselor because you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to reach out for support when you need it.

There are professionals (and just good-natured people) out there that you can lean on. You don’t need to go through finals alone.

If your teen is looking for extra support, call Blueprint Mental Health at (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

 

Getting Ahead: Teen Summer Treatment

With summer vacation swiftly approaching, teens across New Jersey are getting ready for two and half months of care-free fun. While sleeping in, playing video games, and hitting the beach might be on the agenda, summer is also a great time for self-improvement and preparing for September.

School Stressors

During the school year, teens experience anxiety, refusal, bullying, and other social issues that affect their mental health.

Treatment for these issues is often reactive. Individuals often only get help when they reach a “breaking point” or after a dramatic event, despite series of seemingly small warning signs.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to make immediate time for treatment. Parents are often reluctant to pull their children out of school or add an extra activity to their hectic schedule.

Once summer comes and school is out of the equation, however, many of these issues are forgotten and go untreated.

The Summer Solution

Summer vacation provides teens with the opportunity to address issues associated with school, such as anxiety, depression, school refusal, bullying, communication, when they aren’t actively happening.

Through a proactive approach to treatment, individuals learn the skills necessary to cope with the stressors before they arise in the coming year. Teens get ahead of the stress and triggers that they will inevitably experience, and be better equipped to control their emotions and respond to life with a healthy mind.

Teen Summer Treatment at Blueprint Mental Health

At Blueprint Mental Health, we recognize how stressful school can be for teens. We aim to provide our clients with the coping skills necessary to regulate their emotions, improve their relationships, and reduce this stress. Through the use of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), we treat teens experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

If you’re interested in summer treatment for your teen, call (908) 256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.

Adolescent Group Therapy NJ

Adolescent Group Therapy NJ: Peer Support Benefits

When you picture going to a therapist, what does it look like? Perhaps, images of red couches and interpreting ink blots come to mind. You sit alone in a room while your therapist asks difficult questions and takes notes on a clipboard. But what if, instead, you’re sitting around a table with other people just like you? Learn more about Adolescent Group Therapy NJ below.

Group therapy, very simply, is a method of treatment that involves more than one client. These groups may focus on a specific type of therapy (like DBT), teach a specific skill, or be used to process emotions or recent experiences as is appropriate.

While at first glance, group therapy can seem a little unusual, it actually has many benefits, especially for teens.

Benefits of Adolescent Group Therapy

Some of the most frequent behavioral issues that teens face stem from poor communication. Whether your teen becomes angry and irrational during conversations, or refuses to open up at all, group therapy (and DBT) can help.

Through increased social interaction between teens, group therapy provides the opportunity to improve interpersonal skills and practice appropriate and respectful communication.

Group therapy shows teens that they are not alone. Has your child ever used the phrase “You just don’t understand”? As parents, teachers, or therapists, sometimes it can be hard for us to fully grasp the feelings and experiences of today’s adolescents.

However, when faced with other teens who are going through similar experiences and can relate to their struggles, adolescents feel understood and supported.

More people also means that more ideas and more diverse backgrounds are heard. Teens work together to offer helpful insights and unique perspectives to the group’s collective understanding of a topic. As adolescents experience new people and stories, they develop skills of empathy and patience that carry into all social interactions.

Adolescent Group Therapy NJ at Blueprint Mental Health

Blueprint Mental Health offers outpatient therapy to teens and adults who are experiencing an array of mental health issues. We use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help our clients. Through these therapies, they learn to cope with challenging experiences and emotions, and change their patterns of behavior. Opportunities for group therapy are available. 

For more information, call 908-256-6965 or e-mail info@blueprintmentalhealth.com.