Supporting Your Teen Through Mental Health Issues: Anxiety, Depression, and Emotional Regulation Skills

Have you ever wished you had a magic wand to banish anxiety and depression from your teenager’s life?

Every day, your teen could be dealing with multiple sources of stress, including the pressure to:

  • excel in academics
  • meet family and societal expectations
  • fit in with classmates
  • secure a promising future
  • cope with big issues like gender, sexuality, economic, and environmental concerns

All while projecting an online life full of so-called Instagrammable moments! No wonder your teen can feel overwhelmed.

While we can’t conjure away these burdens, we can certainly provide you with some powerful strategies to help your teen preserve a sense of optimism, even while navigating through emotional distress.

In this blog, we’ll dive into the world of teen anxiety and depression and explore effective strategies for emotional regulation. These strategies will serve as a guide to support your teen when you recognize their emotional distress.

Understanding Teen Mental Health Causes and Issues: Your Role as Parents

The U.S. Surgeon-General has called the alarming increase in mental health issues among American youth “the defining public health crisis of our time”. In fact, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021, more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health in 2021. This emphasizes the importance of addressing these issues and providing support for your teen.

Icon of a brain thinking with a statistic below.

As a parent, it’s important to know that the teenage years are a crucial and often turbulent time affecting your child’s social and emotional development and their mental well-being. You can support them by encouraging good habits like practicing mindfulness, eating well, and getting regular rest and exercise, as well as helping them to develop strong problem-solving skills and supportive relationships. For good or ill, your teen’s friend group and the quality of your family’s home life also significantly impacts their well-being. In addition, watch for potential threats like bullying, violence, or possible substance abuse. Some youth may be at higher risk for mental health issues due to their specific circumstances and need additional care and support, including teens experiencing:

  • unsafe, unhealthy, or difficult living conditions
  • discrimination, poverty, and marginalized backgrounds
  • limited access to quality support and services
  • chronic illnesses, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, or other neurological conditions
  • pregnancy, parenting, early or forced marriages, or foster care

Signs your teen may be having mental health difficulties

In addition to more overt symptoms like mood swings, irritability, anger, and tearfulness, you may observe:

  • low energy
  • notable changes in sleep, weight, eating habits, or other everyday patterns
  • excessive exercising, or fear of gaining weight
  • loss of interest in the things they usually love, or quitting activities that they enjoy
  • spending more time alone, and withdrawing more than usual from friends, family, and community
  • canceling plans with their closest friends with little or no explanation
  • academic struggles that seem different or more intense: for example, failing quizzes in their favorite subject or refusing to do homework they used to easily handle
  • running thoughts or worries that won’t leave them alone
  • a whole new set of friends you’ve never met before
  • engaging in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends
  • refusing to talk about what’s bothering them, even after you’ve made it as safe as possible to openly discuss hard issues
  • Obsessing over a certain goal, possibly with the belief that if they don’t achieve it, their life will never be the same
  • signs of drug, alcohol or other substance use
  • signs of self-harm such as cuts, burns, bruises, etc. that your teen tries to hide or can’t explain fully and credibly
  • indications they may be having suicidal thoughts
  • statements that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear

Remember, simply noticing one symptom from a list doesn’t necessarily mean your teen is facing a serious mental health issue. Biological changes, including hormonal shifts that all pre-teens and teenagers experience, can impact their mood, school performance, and more. However, if you regularly observe one or more of these signs, it’s essential to initiate a discussion about mental health with your teenager.

Emotional Regulation Skills: An Overview

Emotional regulation, the ability to effectively manage and respond to our emotions, plays a crucial role in maintaining mental well-being and can even alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. When we take the time to release our emotions in a suitable manner and allow ourselves to recover, we experience a sense of satisfaction in how we handled the situation. This feeling of accomplishment not only improves our current mental state but also equips us to better handle similar situations in the future. The good news is that you, or a professional, can help teens to learn and hone these skills – and by actively working on emotional regulation, they can cultivate a healthier and more resilient mindset.

Practical Tips for Parents: Helping Your Teen with Emotional Regulation

A few tips to help your teen develop emotional regulation skills include:

Identify and reduce triggers: This is an important step in helping your teen manage their strong emotions. Encourage them to look for patterns in their environment and situations when they experience intense feelings. Sometimes, these emotions can stem from deep insecurities or past trauma, making it initially challenging to pinpoint their cause. However, having awareness of triggers is empowering, as it allows your teen to avoid them when possible and feel more in control when they cannot be avoided. Prompt your teens to reflect on what is happening around them and why it reminds them of something painful. By understanding and acknowledging these triggers, your teen can take proactive steps to minimize their impact on their emotional well-being.

Tune into their physical symptoms: Emotions can be amplified by other physical factors (e.g. being hungry or tired) — like turning up the volume of their feelings. Recognizing and addressing these factors might help temper their emotional response. Ask your teens if they feel more overwhelmed when they’re ‘hangry’, haven’t slept well, or maybe about to get their period.

Consider the story they’re telling themselves: We can’t read our teens’ minds, but we can consider the story they might be telling themselves. Strong emotions can sometimes cause us to jump to conclusions, and not always the right ones. Advise them to hold off judgment for a moment, and ask them: “What other explanations might be possible?”

Engage them in positive self-talk: When emotions are running high, self-talk can easily turn negative. Your teen may internally say “I messed up again.” “I’m useless.” Instead, encourage them to treat themselves with empathy and to think positively. “I always try so hard.” “I’ll do better next time.” Positive self-talk helps calm their feelings and transforms the moment into a plan for doing better next time.

Encourage mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help your teen stay connected to their emotions without feeling overwhelmed. Engage in guided mindful exercises with your teen. There are numerous resources available, including apps and websites that offer guided meditations or mindfulness exercises specifically designed for teens. Here is one. These exercises can help your teen relax, reduce anxiety, and increase their overall sense of well-being.

Promote healthy expression of emotions: Let your teen know that it’s okay to express how they feel. Validate their emotions when they do. Take their feelings seriously — sometimes your teen just needs you to listen and be there for them.

Help them curb impulsivity: When your teen feels angry or afraid, it’s important to remind them that their reactions can sometimes hurt the people around them, including you. Advise them to think before responding, to take a moment to pause and take a deep breath. Counting to ten can also help bring some calmness to their mind. By doing this, they can create space for a calmer, logical and kinder response. It’s crucial to focus on what’s best for both them and you in these situations.

Shift their focus to positive emotions: Human beings are prone to ‘negativity bias’ meaning we pay more attention to negative emotions than positive ones. Positive feelings are less dramatic, but so important to your teen’s mental health. Encourage your teen to try to focus on the positive moments, and the way it boosts their resilience and well-being.

Encourage and suggest stress management techniques: Techniques like deep breathing, physical exercise, and creative outlets can help manage stress. Encourage them to explore activities that allow them to express themselves. These activities can serve as a healthy escape and help redirect their emotions in a positive way.

Remember, as a parent, it’s essential to model these techniques yourself. By practicing these strategies and encouraging your teen to do the same, you create a supportive and healthy environment for both of you.

How Parents Can Support Teens Struggling with Anxiety and Depression

Supporting a teen struggling with mental health issues can feel overwhelming to them and to you. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Validate their emotions: Let them know their feelings are real and important.
  • Build a strong support system: Encourage supportive relationships with friends and family and consider seeking the help of a professional counselor or therapist.
  • Seek professional help when necessary: If your teen’s symptoms persist or worsen, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. At The Bougainvilla House, we offer a range of services for youth and families.
  • Pay attention to your own mental well-being and seek help if you need it.

Early intervention is key in treating anxiety and depression. There are many professionals ready to help, from therapists and counselors to psychiatrists.

TBH can help

If your teen is having trouble coping with anxiety and depression, don’t be afraid to seek support for them.

If they want professional help, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for them, with an understanding and welcoming staff and environment. We are ready to assist them and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.

The Bougainvilla House also offers Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.

Call now to find support for them and your family: (954) 764-7337.

Conquering low self-esteem: How to boost a fragile sense of self-worth

Girl sitting on the floor with hands on her chin with low self-esteem.

Would you say an emphatic “Yes!” to the questions “Do I like myself? Am I a person of worth?”  

If you can’t say ‘yes’ with assurance, you’re not alone.   

Call it self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love, or self-acceptance — we all face issues with our sense of self-worth at some point. If you struggle to maintain a positive self-image, please know that you DO matter and you ARE a person of value. Period. But knowing it and feeling it are not always the same thing.  

Maybe your sense of self-worth is fragile, or maybe you just want to feel yourself again. Either way, here is some information to help you understand the many factors that affect a person’s self-esteem, and some tips to help you resist those moments of doubt. 

Your self-esteem changes day to day, impacted by factors such as: 

  • the small and not-so-small successes and failures you inevitably experience.  
  • the important people in your life, and how they perceive and interact with you. 

What is self-esteem?  

Self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself and your worth as a person. It’s based on how you value yourself –similar to self-respect, which describes how confident you are in your abilities and attributes. 

Self-esteem develops during childhood and evolves throughout your teens and adulthood. During childhood, self-esteem is largely influenced by your school experiences and by your interactions with your parents, caregivers, and teachers. During the teen years, your sense of self-worth becomes increasingly influenced by your ability to meet your own expectations and those of others, as well as by your developing identity and self-perception. 

As a teen, just figuring out who you are and feeling good about yourself can be a daily challenge. But protecting and maintaining healthy self-esteem is critical. Your sense of self-worth and value can affect – well, everything! – your decisions, relationships, choices, mood, academic and social success, and your general mental and physical health. 

Let’s start by understanding the elements that together impact one’s sense of self-worth. 

Components of self-esteem 

Healthy self-esteem is formed at an early age by a combination of the following qualities. These components are based on the work of Toronto psychotherapist Dr. Joe Accardi.  

  1. A feeling of personal and interpersonal security – Feeling secure in yourself, your potential, and your familial relationships. 
  2. A sense of social belonging – Feeling accepted and cherished by friends, relatives, and groups (such as sports teams or school clubs) that are important to you. 
  3. A sense of purpose – Feeling encouraged to establish and strive toward your goals.  
  4. A feeling of being capable – Being empowered to make your own decisions and employ creative problem-solving, which develops a sense of mastery over your circumstances. 
  5. A feeling that you can trust yourself and others, and that they in turn trust you. 
  6. A sense of contribution – Contributing to a “greater good” and establishing the practice and habit of giving back. 
  7. A feeling of influence – Feeling the confidence to have some say in decisions or offer your opinion on a topic. 
  8. A feeling of self-control – Practicing self-discipline, thereby reinforcing the sense that you can manage your feelings and your life. 
  9. A sense of reward – Validation by others and the ability to praise yourself for the things you achieve, whether large or small. 
  10. A sense of family pride- If you are ashamed of your family, it may also be hard to love yourself. Learning about your family’s history can help you understand and appreciate their place in the past and present.  

Factors that influence self-esteem

No question, the ups and downs of daily life affect your sense of worth. You might feel good about yourself one day and not so good the next. But it’s also important to realize that some of the factors that impact your sense of self-esteem are more deep-rooted, and you may not be aware of the role they play. Your self-esteem may be affected by: 

  • Age 
  • Disability 
  • Genetics 
  • Illness 
  • Physical abilities 
  • Thought patterns
  • Socioeconomic status 
  • Racism and discrimination 
  • Life experiences 

Research has shown that racism and discrimination can negatively affect self-esteem, as can genetic factors that help shape your personality. However, life experiences are thought to be the most crucial factor, including: 

  • Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical 
  • Poor academic performance in school, resulting in a lack of confidence 
  • Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble 
  • Poor treatment from a partner, parent or caregiver, for example, being in an abusive relationship 
  • Feeling unattractive/comparing yourself to others and on social media. 
  • Ongoing medical problem such as chronic pain, serious illness or physical disability 
  • Mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. 

If you’ve been through a tough time, (for example, perhaps you experienced bullying or abuse), it can make you feel like you’re not good enough or that something is wrong with you. Similarly, if you struggle to succeed at the things you care about, it can shake your confidence in yourself and your abilities.  

For example, if your parents put a lot of pressure on you to do well in school or sports, you might feel like your worth is tied to your grades or athletic achievements. If you don’t do well in these areas, you may feel like you’re a failure as a person. 

Assessing your level of self-esteem 

If you have low self-esteem, you tend to avoid activities where there’s a chance of failure or embarrassment. You might give up on schoolwork, prefer keeping to yourself rather than trying to make friends, or refuse to get involved in sports or other activities. But friends, family, fun, involvement, and a good school experience are all part of a healthy teenage life, so if you recognize behavior like this in yourself or someone you care about, it’s time to get help. 

If low self-esteem is not identified and treated, it can lead to problems such as: 

  • relationship troubles or difficulty making friends 
  • negative moods such as feeling sad, anxious, ashamed or angry 
  • low motivation 
  • poor body image 
  • drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs to feel better  
  • academic struggles, which may limit post-high school opportunities 

It’s normal to lack confidence from time to time — but if it’s escalating and becoming a pattern, it may be time for some self-reflection. If you are unsure about your self-esteem levels, look at these free quizzes to evaluate.  

Self-esteem quiz #1 –  

Self-esteem quiz #2 – 

Building a healthy sense of self-esteem 

It takes effort and time to build up a positive sense of self-worth. Different approaches work for different people, so try only what is comfortable for you. Here are some ideas to think about. 

  • Know that feelings of self-doubt are normal and often, temporary.  
  • Treat yourself with kindness. 
  • Take time to take care of yourself (practice self-care). 
  • Set small realistic goals for yourself. 
  • Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. 
  • Remember you will always have good and bad days, but tomorrow can be a fresh start. 
  • Try to recall past achievements, or occasions when others have complimented you. 
  • Define your worth based on how you feel about yourself, not what others think of you. 
  • Try volunteering. It feels good to help others. 
  • Challenge negative thoughts you might be having about yourself. Remind yourself of your strengths. 
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. 

Self-esteem exercises to practice daily

It takes conscious effort and daily practice to push away negative thoughts and boost low self-esteem. Here is an exercise to try: 

  1. Write 3 things that make you feel good. 
  2. Write 3 things you’ve accomplished or that made you feel proud of yourself. 
  3. Write 3 things you love about yourself.  
  4. Ask someone close to you what they like about you. 

Reach out for help 

If you’re having trouble coping with low self-esteem, don’t be afraid to seek support from friends or family members who love you. 

If you want professional help, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming staff and environment ready to assist you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.        

The Bougainvilla House also offers Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.         

Call now to find support for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

The Myth of the “Strong, Silent Type” – Understanding Male Depression

In an episode of The Sopranos, crime boss Tony Soprano describes American actor Gary Cooper as the epitome of the ‘strong, silent type’. During the golden age of Hollywood, Cooper’s on-screen persona became the dominant image of the ideal American male figure. He portrayed a specific breed of masculinity, a physically strong man of action, quiet and emotionally reserved, never displaying feelings or weakness. Thankfully, things have changed since the 1950s. With the rise of mental health awareness, men are now encouraged to share their emotions and seek help in handling life’s challenges. 

June is Men’s Health Month and, while we have come a long way in encouraging men to be vulnerable, old perceptions of masculinity and gender stereotypes still affect young men.  

Brendan Maher, Movember’s global mental health director, saysyoung men are still feeling under pressure to conform to age-old, masculine stereotypes that stop them from talking about the things that keep them up at night.”  

Why is it hard for young men to talk about their feelings?  

The outdated perceptions of masculinity pressures young men to “man up” when life gets hard, causing them to suffer in silence to avoid being bullied, mocked, or labeled as weak. They feel this pressure not only from older men, such as relatives, but also from peers.  

Call it for what it is: an emotionally stunting expectation that makes it hard for teens and young men to express themselves honestly, because they may come to believe that it is inappropriate and risky to do so.  This reticence can affect their present and future relationships and, potentially, their parenting styles. 

A study conducted by research firm Ipsos MORI, found:

  • 58% of men feel like they’re expected to be “emotionally strong and to show no weakness.” 
  • 38% of men have avoided talking to others about their feelings to avoid appearing “unmanly.”  
  • Over half (53%) of American men between ages 18 and 34 say they feel pressure to be “manly.”  
  • 22% of those in this age group say they’re always or frequently mocked for “not being manly enough.” 

If a boy grows up in an environment where they aren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings, it’s tough to overcome later on in life.  This can lead to problems in developing their emotional and relational abilities.  

There are other reasons why men have a tough time sharing feelings. You can find more reasons here.  

Male depression 

Part of being human is the ability to share experiences and connect with others. Suppressing emotions has been linked to cardiovascular health issues, memory loss,  lower immunity to illness, lower productivity and faster burnout. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, and, significantly, it can also increase male suicide risk. 

In 2020, white males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths, with middle-aged white males accounting for the greatest number of suicides. The symptoms of depression look different for men and women. Men who feel depressed may appear to be angry or aggressive instead of sad, making it difficult for their families, friends, and even their doctors to recognize the anger or aggression as depression symptoms. 

Giving the boot to the “strong, silent’ myth 

The first step toward male mental wellbeing is to encourage all children and teens, regardless of gender, to express their emotions in healthy ways. Emotional Intelligence can be learned, along with stronger communication and interpersonal skills. Parents can start by raising boys who freely express emotions and can question masculinity stereotypes. Older family members can also work on recognizing and unlearning some of these stereotypes themselves. 

Men need to know that they aren’t alone, and that expressing emotions is natural, normal, and healthy. It also helps to hear stories from men in their midlife who have overcome mental health disorders. The more men hear  stories  from different social groups, sexualities, ethnicities, and ages, the more they will feel seen, understood, and supported.  

Men’s Mental Health Resources 

Movember Men’s Stories: 


Young Adult Therapy:  

Need more help? 

If you or a loved one feel depressed or are having a hard time expressing emotions, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.   

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.    

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

De-stress tips that work for students during finals week

End of school year + final tests = Stress 

As the end of the school year approaches many students are experiencing more stress, not less.  Time is getting short to tackle late assignments, write those end-of-year papers, hand in those final projects, give presentations, and prepare for exams.  

At the same time, many are taking part in sports, recitals, theater productions, and other end of the year activities, and looking for summer jobs as well.  No wonder many students feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  

In fact, three quarters (75%) of American high schoolers and half of middle schoolers described themselves as “often or always feeling stressed” by schoolwork.

Stress is your body’s response to pressure. It is often triggered when you’re experiencing something new and have little control over a situation, or when you encounter something that threatens you. Stress is something we all experience. However, too much stress can affect your health, escalating anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension and pain, and more. That’s why it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors. 

Is there such thing as good stress?  

Yes! “Good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we’re excited. For example, that feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster, poised for a wild ride ahead, or the energy you feel when you’re near the finish line during a race. These exciting moments are what make us feel vibrant and excited about life. Without good stress, our lives might be bland, boring, and even unhappy.  

When you view stress as a challenge instead of a threat, this change in perspective allows you to more easily manage the pressure. Think of your stress as an opportunity to prove to yourself what you’re capable of accomplishing. Knowing how to overcome your stress during difficult situations helps you focus on your tasks, stay calm, and avoid focusing on all of the bad things that could happen.  

De-stress tips  

When it comes to relieving stress, it’s about figuring out what works for you. Here are some suggestions to try out:  

  1. Get organized. We understand that getting and staying organized can be hard work but creating a to-do list will help reduce the sense of drain and chaos that you feel as due dates approach. Note the due dates of all your tasks and add them to your calendar, together with your schedule. Don’t forget to include class time, assignment preparation, study time, tests, group meetings, and extra-curricular obligations like practices, babysitting, job shifts, home chores, etc.
  2. Manage your time. Your organizational efforts will pay off with a visual aid to help you plan your work time, avoid overbooking yourself, and find time to hang out with friends, exercise, and do other activities. So instead of waking up without a plan and spending your day doing things whenever you feel like it, try time blocking. Time blocking helps you make productive use of your day, by working during the hours when you feel most focused and engaged. As you plan your time, think realistically about how long each task will take, and schedule studying, papers writing, and assignments for a time of day when you work most effectively. Use other less effective times of the day for exercise, chores, or fun with friends. If you are a morning person, schedule those hours to produce your best work, and vice versa if you feel most focused after lunch. This way, time will always work with you and not against you.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The symptoms of stress can vary depending on the person, but in periods of high stress, be mindful of your body’s needs. Deep breathing strengthens full oxygen exchange and helps slow down your heart rate. The result? Relaxation. Even though breathing comes naturally to us, exercising deep breathing takes practice and conscious effort. Here are some techniques to try at home or during a walk.  
  4. Keep it positive. When you are stressed, how do you talk to yourself and others? Does being stressed turn you into a jerk? If your stress causes you to take out your frustration on others and sometimes yourself – that is not okay. When you feel like your stress is about to burst out of control, try taking a deep breath and remember to adjust your tone and your self-talk. You can say things like “Thank you for your help, but I just need to be alone for a minute” when you’re talking to others or “I can do this” when talking to yourself.  
  5. Exercise. No surprise here! Exercising is a great way to release tension and stress. When you exercise, your focus on something other than your stressful work or school day, allowing you to return to your tasks with a clear head. Exercise also releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals in the brain) which is why you feel good after working out. So next time you’re stressed out, try going for a walk or run, doing yoga, kickboxing, or whatever form of exercise helps you blow off that steam.  

Stress videos to watch: 

  1. How we cope with anxiety & stress by MTV’s Teen Code  
  2. How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal 
  3. Relieve stress & anxiety with simple breathing techniques 

Need more Help? 

If you or a loved one are overwhelmed and having a hard time coping with stress, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.  

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.   

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

ADHD & Productivity – How to Get Things Done

ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is often the subject of jokes, quips, and casual excuses, but living with the real thing is no joke at all. 

ADHD is most often diagnosed in children and teens, but symptoms can continue or even manifest themselves into adulthood. Experts aren’t sure what causes ADHD, but research shows that genetics plays an important role. Know that if you have an ADHD diagnosis, you’re not alone and it’s not a “new” condition – in fact, descriptions of the disorder date to as early as 1902. The good news is, today we better understand the condition and how to help manage it. 

ADHD has nothing to do with how smart you are. A study in Germany found that some characteristic traits, such as hyperfocus, make those with ADHD great entrepreneurs. However, if you aren’t aware of the symptoms, ADHD can make even the routines of life into a daily struggle.

Many people with ADHD face tough challenges staying on task without being distracted.  It may be hard to complete day-to-day tasks on time, like schoolwork or chores. They may hyper-focus on one task or aspect of a task (for example, one paragraph of an essay) and struggle to move on.  

It’s hard to stay ‘in the zone’ and to work efficiently. It’s hard to listen carefully, to take your time, to wait. People living with ADHD may make careful to-do lists but have trouble estimating time commitments and following through to get jobs done, even with the best of intentions.   

Not surprisingly these minute-to-minute and day-to-day challenges and perceived failures can lead to feelings of guilt, stress, anxiety, and depression.  

Over time, the ADHD community has identified and developed a number of coping mechanisms and strategies that help people to live and function successfully with the disorder.  Here are a few tips that might help to boost productivity and concentration. Even if you do not have ADHD, this advice may be useful! 

How can you increase productivity?

  1. Avoid Multitasking – Try focusing on one task at a time. While this may be difficult in some situations, there are ways to avoid multitasking and get things done. Create a list of all your tasks and rank them by priority from most to least important.  This may help you to stop jumping from task to task, becoming overwhelmed, and ultimately succumbing to paralysis and procrastination. You can use this strategy not only at school or work, but also for house chores, appointments, event planning, and all the other small tasks that make up a day. If you tend to misjudge how long something will take, check with someone who can help you make more accurate time estimates. 
  2. Manageable intervals- Did procrastination kick in? Manage your workload in intervals. In track and field sports, intervals are a series of high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. You can apply this approach to your to-do list. Try breaking down tasks into 45 minutes of full focus, followed by a short break to recharge and repeat. The goal is not to speed through your work, but to make steady progress and also to take time for a self-care break, so you can come back fresh and focused! This will help you manage big workloads, get stuff done, and avoid procrastination.  
  3. Set up a work zone – If you attend classes remotely, have a lot of homework, or work from home, you probably already know how difficult it is to work without a designated area. Having a work zone helps you not only feel comfortable while working, but it also helps with productivity. This dedicated space will help your mind to transition into focus mode. Your work zone doesn’t have to be fancy as long as you keep it organized and neat to keep your mental space from feeling cluttered. We recommend that you avoid working from your bed, as it can signal your brain to think about work when you’re trying to sleep. This will only decrease your sleep quality as well as your energy level.  
  4. Devices – If devices are too distracting, perhaps a friend or family member can take charge of them for you while you work. Perhaps you just want to turn off notifications or set your device somewhere out of your line of sight. If procrastination is a problem, decide in advance what strategy will best help you manage device use while you are in work mode. Learn more about how your phone is a roadblock to productivity.  
  5. Hand-Held Fidgets – Do you find yourself scratching, rubbing, picking at your fingers, fidgeting, or engaging in other repetitive behaviors? Having an object like a fidget toy can help you manage small hand/foot movements and calm your thoughts without self-harming. These movements allow people with ADHD to feel focused and to boost their alertness. A fidget toy can be anything from a small ball to roll in your hands, a ball to squeeze, or a pen to play with. See the best ADHD fidget toys for adults here.  
  6. Find an accountability partner- It’s hard to stay disciplined, so ask someone close to you to help you stay accountable regarding goals, routines, and habits. Pick someone who is consistent, and who you can trust. Talk to them regularly about your progress and be honest. Whether you’re trying to be more productive at work, school, or in daily life generally, having someone to help you through it will make it easier to meet your goals. Remember to celebrate every success, small or large!  

ADHD productivity tools 

These additional tools may help people with ADHD to manage their days, routines, and tasks more easily.  

Some helpful tools include: 

  • Lo-fi music: lo-fi music helps the front lobe in our brain to focus – those low hums can also help the brain to focus. Here is a 24/7 lo-fi stream.  
  • Brain Focus: a time management app to block apps and quiet notifications 
  • Calendars: calendars provide a ‘visual’ sense of the passage of time and help you stay organized. You can use physical monthly calendars or digital tools like Google calendars to set reminders and events on your smartphone.  
  • Brain dump: helps declutter your brain by having a place for your thoughts. You can brain dump by writing all of your thoughts in, a notebook or use your notes app on your computer.  
  • Todoist: a checklist app with recurring due dates and the ability to share or delegate tasks to others.  
  • Productive: a habit tracker app to set personal goals, track your progress, and focus on what makes you more productive.  

How can we help?  

If you or a loved one are overwhelmed and having a hard time staying focused, consider talking to a health professional. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help. 

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.  

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.

“The voice inside my head” How to quiet your inner critic

Ever find yourself thinking things like “I shouldn’t have said that!” or “Why did I do that?” or, more positively, “I nailed it today!”? 

What are you thinking right now, as you’re reading this?  

What you’re experiencing is an internal thought monologue, also known as “the voice inside your head,” or your “inner voice.” It’s perfectly normal.  Think of it like the Netflix show You, where the protagonist Joe narrates his thoughts –but without his creepy intentions. This internal conversation might be nothing more than mundane observations or self-queries like “Did I turn off my flatiron?” when leaving the house or “What’s for lunch?” when you’re hungry. Or more emotional concerns might be on the internal agenda.  

This inner conversational capability is thought to develop during childhood, at the same time as external communications skills begin to flower. However, not everyone experiences an internal monologue — others think in a more visual way.  It’s perfectly normal if you don’t experience an inner monologue as described here. 

Your inner voice is actually helpful for problem solving, critical thinking, emotional self-management and behavior regulation. Because the voice inside your head can sound like your own, it is usually tied to your sense of self.     

Your inner voice can serve as a cheerleader, encouraging you to persevere or reinforcing feelings of accomplishment. Unfortunately, it can also be a harsh critic, exacerbating mental health issues like anxiety and depression.   

What kind of messages is your inner voice feeding you, and how do they make you feel? 

Inner Critic  

Your inner critic voice may surface in times of stress and doubt, pummeling you with extremely judgmental messages about your capabilities, looks, or actions, making you think that “I’m not smart enough” while studying, or calling you names (“stupid,” “fat,” “failure,” “ugly”).  

Pediatrician and teen health expert Dr. Anisha Abraham says, “With constant exposure to social media, pressure to fit into a peer group, demands from parents and coaches, and other stressors, teens nowadays are particularly vulnerable to being self-critical.”  

A constant inner stream of criticism isn’t normal or healthy. This destructive inner commentary negatively affects your self-esteem, confidence, and performance at school and work, causing you to quit when things are hard, or to not try at all. However, it’s important to recognize these hurtful thoughts when they surface — because ignoring them just doesn’t work. 

If you push aside negative thoughts or emotions rather than addressing them, they are more likely to recur and to intensify.  If you’re constantly battling your inner critic, here are some suggestions to help you quiet this negative monologue — to say, as Alberto teaches the title character in the Pixar movie Luca, “Silenzio, Bruno!” 

 4 ways to silence your inner critic  

Acknowledge your thoughts – Our brain is a busy place.  As well as running our body systems 24/7, thousands of not-very-organized thoughts swirl around our mind every day. “By one estimate, each day, an average person thinks fifty thousand spontaneous thoughts…chaotic and mostly repetitive from one day to the next,” says Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic. 

 As mentioned, it’s important to recognize self-critical thoughts when they surface and to maintain a healthy balance, by separating the facts from exaggerated reactions and feelings that are simply not true. Most importantly, don’t let these thoughts bully you. It might also help to identify the source of and possible motivation for these negative thoughts (for example, an incident from childhood) as a way to keep them in their place.

Change the narrative – When your inner critic starts to kick in, replace the negative thought with a positive one. This practice will be hard at first. Start by questioning your thoughts. If you’ve been thinking, “I’m not good enough to make the team” you can say, “How do I know? I’m trying my hardest and maybe I AM good enough.” In other words, reroute the inner critic with a positive affirmation, keep your inner monologue light, and actively try to go easier on yourself.

What would your friends say? – This is a serious question you should ask yourself! If you talk to a friend about your feelings of doubt, they will respond with compassion and words of encouragement because they believe in you and they care about you. So be a friend to yourself. Live by the rule “If I wouldn’t say these hurtful things to a friend, then I shouldn’t say them to myself either.”  

Use your inner voice for the better – Your inner critic has a positive role to play, protecting you from danger and helping you to set standards and stay on track. Once you learn how to silence your negative thoughts, you can learn how to use your inner critic to help you choose your path and make better decisions in life. Reframe your inner comments with thoughts like “I’m capable of achieving my goal.  What do I need to do or change to be successful?” 

How can we help? 

If you are having a hard time navigating your inner critic and maintaining positive thoughts, consider talking to a health professional. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help if you or someone you love needs to overcome anxiety and depression or work on skills that help tame the inner critic and build self-confidence.   

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to give you the tools that will support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow. 

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

This February, Celebrate All the Relationships That Matter

3 teen girls hugging

Welcome to February, the month associated with Cupids and hearts, candy and flowers – and romance. 

The history of Valentine’s Day is murky but is thought to originate with at least two martyred Christian saints named Valentine, and may have also been an effort to transform a Roman spring fertility rite into a Christian festival.  

Today, the holiday is heavily about romantic relationships – but it’s also a great opportunity to broaden this focus. Why not use this month to celebrate love in all its forms, and strengthen all your connections with friends, family, and community? 

It’s also a good opportunity to ask yourself which relationships have occupied most of your time and focus, and which ones need and deserve some extra attention. 

Relationships of all kinds are essential to our shared human experience. Some relationships are forever, while others come into our lives just for a season – but all of them play an important and sometimes overlooked role in mental well-being.  

Better Health Channel lists three kinds of connections we typically experience with others 

  1. Intimate connections – with people who love and care about you, such as family and friends. 
  2. Relational connections – with people who you see regularly and who share an interest or activity with you, such as work colleagues, classmates, or a sports league in which you or your children participate.  
  3. Collective connections – with people who share a group membership or an affiliation with you, such as people who vote like you do, or who share the same faith.  

These social connections bolster our sense of belonging and enjoyment of life. Without question, healthy interactions of all kinds also have a positive impact on your mental health. Your most intimate connections, like your relationship with your family, deserve your best ongoing efforts to strengthen (and if you need help, that’s what TBH is here for).  

As adults, we know (and must teach our children) that good relationships of all kinds reward us with a sense of trust, connection, and satisfaction, and can lead to exciting new opportunities and experiences. All our relationships become part of who we are and help prepare us for the next chapter of our lives. They deserve the time and effort it takes to build and maintain them. 

Healthy social connections support our emotional and physical wellbeing by lowering anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that those who enjoy positive relationships typically have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative.   

We’ve all experienced what can happen when relationships go south – whether just two people or an entire group is involved. For relationships to work, everyone must be committed. It’s not always easy – some relationships take longer to build than others. 

How to nurture your relationships Two girls making mustaches from their hairs

Maybe you’ve moved to a new job or community, and you’d like to build new connections. Maybe you’d like to strengthen relationships that you already have. Here are five ideas to help you reach out in a meaningful way to the people in your world.

  1. Take time for the people who are important to you – It seems obvious, right? It’s amazing how taking a few minutes out of your day to check in or show someone that they’re a priority can make a difference and sustain connection – for instance, when you’re at work and your children are at school. Keep a positive, kind, and honest tone, share a moment together, and let them know you’re thinking of them.  
  2. Stay positive – Bring a calm, positive attitude to your encounters and your relationships. Look on the bright side of things, let your personality shine, and take little moments to have fun. You’ll soon see how people gravitate to someone who can make them smile.
  3. Appreciate others– Being appreciated can mean the world to someone. If you notice someone going out of their way to help you, thank them. If your co-worker did a great job, congratulate them. If your child steps in to help when you’re run off your feet, show them you noticed. Recognize the contributions of others, however small. Showing appreciation for someone’s kindness, helpfulness, or hard work makes a big difference to any relationship, whether team or individual.  
  4. It’s the little things that matter – Small words or acts of kindness really matter! Try texting an old friend to ask how they’re doing, pick up your partner’s favorite snack when they’re feeling down, or share a smile or a compliment with a stranger. You never know how much these actions can impact someone’s day.  
  5. Be available emotionally – When you know someone is going through a tough time, be there for them. You may not want to intrude during a difficult time, but it never hurts to let them know you are aware, and that you care. You can simply say, “Hi, I hope you’re okay. If you need someone to talk to just know I’m here to listen whenever you’re ready.”

These days, we conduct many of our interactions and relationships online as well as in person. It’s worth remembering that the same relationship-building principles apply, and in fact, are even more important — showing authentic interest, a positive attitude, and a willingness to listen and engage.  

As humans and social beings, the need to connect with others is part of our DNA. As a community and as parents, it’s on us to model and to teach our children the skills and sensitivity to communicate positively, to give as well as receive, and to see and sense how others react to us. Positive connection-building starts with each of us. So, take some time this month to ask yourself: How am I nurturing my relationships?  

Need More Help?  

Learning to build and maintain positive connections is challenging enough for young people, even more so if they suffer from mental health issues. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help if you or someone you love needs to overcome anxiety and depression or work on skills that help build strong, lasting relationships.  

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to give you the tools that will support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Feeling the Holiday Blues? Six ways to tackle seasonal depression

If you just ‘aren’t feeling the spirit’ this holiday season, we understand and offer our support.  

Maybe you usually enjoy what’s supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ But this year, it’s bringing on feelings of stress, sadness, and loneliness.  

Music, movies, TV, social media, and advertising reinforce the sense that everyone should be feeling their merriest and brightest selves. You might be wondering what on earth is wrong with you.  

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, another festival, or none at all, the holiday blues (seasonal depression) can strike anyone for any number of reasons. 

It’s especially difficult if this is your first holiday experience without a loved one. It can be a lonely time, especially for those who don’t have anyone to celebrate the season with them.  

Or maybe the season becomes an overwhelming, exhausting marathon for you, with extra-heavy demands to bake and cook, shop, wrap gifts, decorate, clean, and entertain. The holidays feel like an endless list of chores instead of fun and pleasurable time spent with loved ones.  

Perhaps the pandemic’s continuing presence – and some lingering social introversion from lockdown days – might be making you feel pressured and nervous about traveling or getting together to celebrate. Is it really safe? 

If you’re already struggling with mental illness, the holidays can affect it even more. Know that you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.  

What are the holiday blues?  

NAMI describes the holiday blues as “temporary anxiety or depression during the months of November and December that can associate with extra stress, unrealistic expectations, or even memories that accompany the season.” Even though these feelings are temporary, it’s important to be mindful of their impact on your mental health.  

Understanding your feelings and making a plan to manage your mental health can help you get through this time. If you recognize any of these emotions, here are six ideas to help manage them.  

How to tackle the holiday blues? 

  1. Stick to your routine – You may be dealing with disruptors like travel, social activities, or a long to-do list, so it’s important to preserve you-time. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible – don’t sacrifice all your personal time for holiday chores and activities. Take time to enjoy your favorite morning coffee.  Continue your usual exercise routine. Give priority to your daily self-care ritual, whatever it may be.
  2. Don’t isolate yourself –  Feelings of sadness can sometimes lead us to hide at home, but social isolation can make us feel worse. If you’re not going to be with friends or family for the holidays, it’s harder to feel connected. When you’re feeling alone, seek support from a close friend, a family member, or a community in which you’re involved. Schedule a video call with a family member, talk about your feelings, and tell them how much you appreciate them. Spend a day with a caring friend. You might find it helps to volunteer for a local community event. Talking about your feelings, connecting with others, and avoiding too much isolation will hopefully help to steady and manage your emotions during the season. On the other hand, if you’re a more introverted personality, you might actually need to schedule and protect some alone time, if the presence of additional guests and family is draining your emotional batteries. If you need that time, speak up and take it. Go for a walk, chill out with a book or music, and ask everyone to respect your need for some solo recharging time.
  3. Make a to-do list and keep it simple – And check it twice! Planning and delegation are key. Mark your calendar with all your holiday events. Plan dates for advance cooking, decorating, shopping, and package mailing. If you’re traveling, pack and plan ahead for unexpected issues and delays. Are you hosting a social event? Make sure all your guests know when to arrive, where to park, and what to bring. Set up your space the day before and delegate preparations to family and friends. Above all, try to keep things simple and manageable. Be realistic about what you can get done in the time you have, and remember that the most important things are to look after yourself and to enjoy time with the people around you. 
  4. Set a budget – Money can be a huge source of stress during the holidays, so before you start shopping, set a budget. Try not to overextend yourself financially. Figure out how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and food shopping. Write down the people you want to gift, set individual budgets, and stick to it. You can also find less costly alternatives like making homemade gifts but be sure to set aside enough time to make them. Here are more ideas on alternative gifts.
  5. Set reasonable expectations – High or unrealistic expectations can cause unnecessary pressure and tension. Focus on this year’s holiday season and try not to compare it to memories of other years. It doesn’t have to be perfect or elaborate or even the same. Remember that traditions can change, so think about ways you can make the holidays work for you and your family in your present circumstances.
  6. Honor memories – If you are mourning the loss of someone you loved – and there are many kinds of loss – be gentle with yourself. You may feel painful waves of grief during the holidays, when everything reminds you of a missing loved one. Depending on the nature of your loss, think about what might trigger the sadness, and what might help manage it. Talk to friends and family and enlist their support to plan a holiday season that recognizes your need to continue grieving as part of the healing process. 

This season, too many people are mourning the deaths of loved friends and family members from Covid and many other causes. If you are among them, it may help to think about special ways to honor your loved one. It can be as small as lighting a candle every night, sharing memories, or making your loved one’s favorite food. Honoring the person you lost can serve as a physical reminder that although they are gone, the good memories and the love remain. Find more ways to deal with grief here. 

Need More Help?  

If your holiday blues are overwhelming you, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help to overcome anxiety and depression, and reconnect to the life you want to live, or want for someone you love. Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. In addition, these resources ( ) are also available for you. Please reach out if you or someone in your life needs help.  


Why you should consider pet therapy for your child

Have you ever wondered why just being around our pet makes us feel better, no matter what kind of a day we’re having? The science behind those pet snuggles might actually be helpful for your child, especially if they are feeling uneasy, stressed, sad, nervous, or any number of strong emotions. The presence of a pet can have an amazingly positive effect on your child’s health.

How do animals make your child feel better?

Scientists have observed that interacting with animals increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that induces feelings of love and closeness. It slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. All of these changes help create a sense of calm and comfort.

Why should your child consider Pet Therapy?

As children grow and discover more about themselves and the way they react to different people and situations, some challenges may be hard for them to tackle on their own. Through Pet Therapy, trained animals can be incredibly effective at helping children to overcome obstacles and cope with those difficult feelings and mental health issues.

Studies have shown that human-animal interaction (HAI) positively impacts social behavior, interpersonal communications, and mood. Most importantly, it increases trustworthiness and trust toward other people; reduces aggression; enhances empathy, and improves learning.

Most children love animals, making it easy for them to bond with their special ‘therapist’. Pet therapy offers not only time with a favorite friend, but also valuable emotional support.

Which animal therapy is best?

When choosing a therapy, consider both your child (including comfort levels and potential allergies) and the therapy’s desired outcome. While it is common to use dogs or cats in animal therapy, other types of animals also serve as therapists, including guinea pigs, fish, and horses.

Equine therapy involves activities with horses that enhance physical and emotional healing. During therapy, children learn to be responsible and respectful of the horse and to earn its trust, so that eventually both they and the animal feel comfortable being close enough for petting and hugs. These lessons extend outside of therapy too, as children learn to build trusting relationships with others, just as they do with horses. If your child struggles to find friends or communicate with others, equine therapy can be a natural transition to help them improve those important social interaction skills.

Equine Therapist Maria Glenn says horses can be large and scary, but there is no better animal for helping children build confidence and self-esteem, when they realize that this giant 600-pound creature is listening to them and will do their bidding when asked in an appropriate manner.

What makes Equine Therapy so special?

Equine therapy is especially successful for children with disabilities or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and more. As well as building important social skills, equine therapy can help children improve their motor coordination, balance, concentration, and self-esteem. Children who have a tough time speaking are taught to use their own words to command the horse, which improves their speech skills and confidence. Not only do children learn as they have fun outside instead of in a doctor’s office, they are also enjoying nature and the special joy, and connection that equine therapy offers.

Looking for an animal therapy camp?

Hearts & Hooves healing day camp, a program provided by The Bougainvilla House, promotes growth, healing, relationship-building, and connection through a unique combination of equine and traditional group therapy.

Hearts & Hooves is open to children ages 6-11 and teens ages 12-17 who are struggling with mental health issues. A day spent interacting with horses and rescued farm animals can be a fun, healthy, and meaningful way for young people to bond, build trust, heal, and learn to cope with their feelings.

Hearts & Hooves healing day camp is coming soon, and will take place at Marando Farms & Ranch, Fort Lauderdale. For more details, please email