Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays!
This time of year typically brings a huge amount of anxiety and depression when people are focused on keeping up appearances or making up for perceived lack or life about-turns or dealing with grief and loss, all the while trying to maintain a cheery positive exterior. Every single day I mention to clients that they are better off just being “a good honest version of you” and not a shiny version that someone else needs, just to make them feel better or avoid tough feelings or facts. Ugh. It’s so much work not being you!
Our teens are, sadly, struggling too. Holiday downtime might be the very best time to “detox” kids off of their screens and develop better eating and time management techniques; there’s no school schedule to adhere to, we can give them the 3-5 days that any detox takes and they can enter the next semester cleaner and calmer. But, as I also see every day, this is a very unpopular idea. (btw, flip phones have had their single biggest year of sales increase last year…)
The key is not just closing down the devices, maintaining regular sleep and clean eating patterns, getting out into nature and being active, and encouraging a healthy dose of boredom – it’s that they need ALL of these simultaneously. Many practitioners are stuck in focusing on the surface symptoms (depression, disordered eating, anxiety, cutting, etc.) instead of seeing these as the clues to the deeper issue: kids have pain. And, frankly, much of their pain is our fault. Just because we have these shiny devices and ridiculous sports schedules and convenient drive-throughs it does not mean that their developing brains can manage or deal with it. In our home, devices are typically referred to as “portable dopamine pumps” (citing David Greenfield of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction). And that’s exactly what they are; for adults to a certain degree, but completely to adolescent brains. As I also say every single week: Mother Nature will win this one. We must honor and work with the facts of healthy brain development, quick fixes and scapegoating will get us more of the disastrous results we are seeing.
I love natural solutions and amino-acid supplements as bridges from a toxic landscape into a healthy valley. Trudy Scott always offers wonderful, scientifically-backed (not popular with big pharma) solutions for self-empowerment and taking the reins back. Her recent blog post is very good at describing tools and methods to get teens off of pharma by using amino acids, diet and lifestyle change to traverse this difficult landscape. Parents need to make all of the same changes too, which in my humble opinion, is often why it’s even harder for households to admit and adhere to the changes that are needed. There will be pain – for one and all. But the pain of good change is always preferable to the pain of remaining the same.
Recently, I have become smitten with a local NH advocate for letting kids experience the gift of failure. Jessica Lahey brings sensible, sound and do-able tips to overwhelming feelings and the fear of change. So many parents are terrified of their kids being out-paced or left out or left behind, but have we all slowed down enough to really wonder about where this more-faster-opportunity-fear path is leading us, and them?
So, there you have it, my reflections and offerings to one and all this holiday season. We can all disengage and unplug just a bit more, make a few healthier changes each day regarding diet and time management, and get outside even for a few more minutes every single day. May these changes make you and your 2018 healthy and bright!