Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Resilience: How Do We Get It?

So what is resilience? We all want it, and we want to teach it to our children. But are there only a lucky few who inherit it?
Resilience is the ability to lead a healthy life, both physically and mentally, despite living through horrific circumstances, says Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A., chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. While there’s a genetic component, he said the thinking is changing around the idea that only some people are born with the ability to stay mentally strong in the face of war, natural disaster, rape, terrorism, chronic poverty and other traumas.
“Humans are far more resilient in general than we think, than we have assumed in the past,” Levounis said. “People who have been subjected to absolutely traumatic situations very frequently come out on other side and do quite well.”
There are some who may suffer more after a traumatic event -- people with depression or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But PTSD is not the opposite of resilience, Levounis explained. “PTSD doesn’t mean you are weak. We now know that developing PTSD is associated with compassion and imagination and creativity.”
“Staying healthy both physically and mentally is paramount. Not only exercise and nutrition, which pretty much everybody knows, but also sleep hygiene. Sleep is the neglected stepchild of physical health. Keeping your mental health intact, your social life, your sexual life, your intellectual life, and for some your spiritual life—these build resilience,” Levounis said.
He added that parents who impart those healthy lifestyle habits to their kids will be helping their children be resilient, too.

By Mary Brophy Marcus, health writer, APA

Helping Your Stressed-out Teen

School demands, sports commitments, body changes, confusing media messages. How can you help your kids manage life’s pressures as they hit the teen years – especially now at the end of the school year when exams and events pile up? Start by making sure the health basics are in place: good nutrition, solid sleep habits, and regular exercise. And don’t underestimate your teenager's need for downtime.By Mary Brophy Marcus, health writer, APA

These resources can help:
Nutrition: The USDA has a site for teens all about healthy eating with snack ideas, info on vitamins, weight and nutrition trackers, and more. There's nutrition advice for vegetarian teens and athletes, too.
Sleep: Teenagers need 8 - 10 hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). However, almost 70% of high school students aren't logging that much, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Inadequate sleep can put them at risk for accidents, mood and behavior issues, and poor school performance. NSF shares tips like cutting out caffeinated sodas and setting a regular sleep routine.

Exercise and Relaxation
: Physical activity helps increase "feel-good" endorphins in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. To relax, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests practicing relaxation breathing and building a supportive circle of friends and family to cut stress, too.
If your tween or teen is still stressed and struggling, reach out to your child's doctor or a mental health professional who specializes in adolescents because a more serious health issue may be going on, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.

By Mary Brophy Marcus, health writer, APA