Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Improve Sleep and Focus with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

College-age students are experiencing widespread mental health challenges in our country.  For a top ten list of current concerns, please check out this link to the most recent blog post of Sport Psychologist Dr. Jarrod Spencer.  Dr. Spencer highlights sleep disturbance as a top concern.  It is clear that students suffer both academically and athletically due to a lack of adequate sleep.

Sleep disturbance is a public health concern, and is a common complaint among Bridgton Academy Students.   While sleep disturbance can be secondary to underlying mental health conditions such as Anxiety Disorders, it can eventually lead to other mental health struggles including substance misuse, and can also exacerbate existing mental health conditions.  

Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction (meditation and other mind/body awareness techniques) has been proven to improve sleep and is thought to be more effective in the long term than medication. Check out the link below to find the Abstract for a Clinical Trial that compares Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs. Pharmacotherapy for Chronic Primary Insomnia.

For an overview of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction:What it is, How it Helps, check out the Article by Will Baum, LCSW.

During my recent week-long Wellness Blitz, I sent out a nightly email highlighting a Mindfulness-Based Stress Management exercise for our students and staff to try out.  The suggested activities all included a video tutorial that demonstrated the skill and guided the student through the practice.

I want to highlight five exercises below that will help reduce stress, manage anxiety symptoms, and improve sleep. All of the activities increase mind and body awareness, which leads to an increased ability to relax the nervous system at bedtime.  Mind-body awareness activities can also improve focus and concentration!  Please check out the Penn State Mindfulness Blog for more information.

Try out a sampling of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Methods and other Anxiety Management Techniques (offered below)  to achieve the perfect balance of better rest and improved academic and athletic performance.

Breath-work
Guided Visualization for Sleep
Positive Affirmation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (6 minute) or Instant Relief from Panic Attack
Body Scan

Email or call me anytime with questions about these techniques. I would be happy to support you by designing an individualized practice for you.

Warmly,

Amanda Miller, LCSW
amiller@bridgtonacademy.org,  207-740-4905 (cell)
Bridgton Academy School Counselor

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mental Fitness


Greetings  Class of 2017, 

 

Finals are upon us.  Many of you are experiencing a lot of stress, and feeling the pressure of meeting academic goals, getting recruited, or getting into a college that is the best match for you. You can't get a good night’s sleep. Maybe anger is consuming you, and the stress of your family or girlfriend is driving you crazy.  A lot of you are struggling with homesickness, depression, over-sleeping, and are sick of feeling down. The majority of you have found it difficult to focus in class, or to jump into your studies.  Others experience the mental torture of panic attacks, social anxiety, and an overactive mind. You may have considered quitting dip or another substance. A few of you have lost someone dear to you recently, and even during this year.

 

Ms. Miller, The School Counselor is here to support you, lighten your load of stress, and tighten up your mental game.  You can think of me as an emotional fitness coach.

 

You are here to become physically and academically stronger. You want to be stronger mentally too. Imagine the freedom and power you might feel to shed mental stress. I am invested in strengthening your character, your social confidence, and your motivation to succeed.

 

But what is mental strength?

Is it figuring out everything on your own and never asking for help?

Pretending that you don't have any problems, stuffing your feelings, trying to prove you're the toughest guy on campus, ignoring your fears?

How about avoiding disappointment, or holding yourself back to prevent failure? No!

 

Mental strength is being willing to risk failure by trying to be better, to get back up after falling flat, and to reach higher the next time. It's resilience. 





Mental strength is also about being brave enough to seek help when we need it, and being courageous enough to face your inner demons head on.  Part of being a truly confident and fulfilled man is being willing to ask for support, even if it initially feels uncomfortable.  I am here for those of you who want to remove barriers that stand in the way of your goals and dreams. 
 

 

Our emotions and the neurochemicals that create them are such a huge part of who we are. Let’s work with them, not ignore them.   Are you ready to stop ignoring and avoiding anxiety, sleep problems, depression, grief, self-disappointment, anger, or symptoms of ADHD? Do you want the mental strength to move through barriers in the way of your goals?  If so, I will support you.



I don't judge.  What you share in my office is considered Personal Health Information and is protected by strict rules of confidentiality required by my license. My tools of the trade are evidenced based and scientifically proven to work.

 

I won't just expect you to talk about your problems- I'll support you to find solutions when you hit a bump on the road, or want to jump out of a rut of bad habits that are holding you back.

 

In counseling you can clarify where you want to focus and how you want transform yourself. You can build a stronger mental foundation for dealing with future adversity. This year, you can re-wire yourself to attract success. Just like any type of great achievement, it takes time and perseverance. A deeper sense of self awareness and confidence is the end goal, and it’s worth the work. 

 

If you didn’t know, it’s a free service that has unlimited sessions with no insurance, co-pays, or deductibles. I am flexible with scheduling. You can come only once, or weekly for the rest of the year.

 

Come find me, call, email, or text if you want to get stronger in any area of mental fitness- my office is RM 8 in the HAMLIN STEM CENTER. My cell number is on the door, and right here: 207-740-4905- if you need it. Anytime. 

 

I look forward to getting to know more of you, hearing your stories, and supporting you with a New Mental Game Plan that will serve you in college and beyond

Ms. Miller

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to Prepare Yourself and Your Son for "The Year That Makes The Difference"

Welcome to MindBodyWolverine.blogspot.  
This is a BA Family Wellness Connection Post, written by Amanda Miller, LCSW, who serves as The School Counselor at Bridgton Academy.

As the School Counselor, I am committed to partnering with families to foster wellness and growth in the students of Bridgton Academy. This blog is a resource to families of incoming students as they prepare for a very transformative year. I will continue to post quarterly to keep families informed of wellness initiatives throughout the year. Please feel free to contact me via email or phone to share any concerns you may have. My email is amiller@bridgtonacademy.org. My work number is 207-647-7646, and my cell number for more urgent matters is 207-740-4905. 

The following post contains suggestions for self reflection, information to support your son's rapid developmental growth, and practical tips for nurturing your Wolverine's Mind and Body. There are many meaningful ways for parents to tighten the bond with your son as you prepare him for independence and individuation, which is an important developmental milestone of young adulthood. Healthy individuation occurs when a young adult separates physically from his family while maintaining healthy emotional ties of support that serve his future development. This healthy individuation process represents a dynamic balance between two paradoxical human needs: to be loved (connection) and to be in control (autonomy). 

During the couple weeks before your son starts "The Year That Makes The Difference", he may be preparing for this big transition time and saying goodbye in different ways- by being indifferent, excited, avoidant, anxious, focused, or agitated. He may be hitting the gym or the TV, under or over-sleeping, emotional eating, engaging in "retail therapy", spending most of his time with friends or a special someone other than you. We all resort to different coping skills for big transitions and important challenges. It isn't often that a young man age 17-19 will be willing or able to express all his love and appreciation that he has for his parents and all they have done for him. It is often very difficult to open up and face the vulnerability beneath the surface. Don't lose heart. He still needs your love now and throughout the year --it is all about offering support that is non-intrusive to his sense of self. Your support will be best received as your shore him up for independence. 

 I want to share a few suggestions to make this process a more meaningful journey and strengthen the relationship between you and your son in the process. 

 Start with Self Reflection: 

 Ask yourself is there's anything you haven't said or done with your son that should happen before he leaves? Reflect on your memories and accomplishments as a parent from birth of your son until today- what are you proud of and admire most about your parenting? Give yourself and your co-parent props for making it to semi-retirement from the most difficult and fulfilling job-parenting! 

Address Unfinished Business: 

Are Reparations/Apologies Needed? If applicable, it is not to late to apologize to your son for anything you have done or not done to serve the best interest of your son and your family. Don't expect acknowledgement or forgiveness from them, but try to forgive yourself and lean on another trusted support person in your life if there remains any internal struggle (regrets about the past, etc.). By owning your shortcomings in front of them, you are planting a seed in his heart of what it means to be an imperfect human and modeling how to acknowledge growth areas within yourself . Through this open connection, you can assist them to be patient and forgiving of themselves and others, as all of us are works in progress. This wisdom is the foundation of resilience: not fearing or hiding from failure, but embracing it as a growth opportunity to become our greatest selves. 

What's the Focus?

 Find a relaxing time after a good day to ask your son about their goals for the year. Ask them what they want to get out of this year and then try to just listen with out judgement. Their goals may differ from yours and may or may not include goals around academics/grades, SATs, college aps, recruitment, strength& conditioning. Feel free to remind them of their strengths, instill a sense of self confidence by trusting them to do their best. Tell a personal story and share how you used your strengths to overcome adversity to meet your goals. Share a story when you made mistakes in your youth, and what you learned from it. 

Remember your son's goals and write them down later after the conversation. 

Ask them if they wouldn't mind checking in with you in a month about how everything's going.  

You want to give them a little space so they want to come to you and discuss the progress they are making, challenges they are facing. 

Ask about communication preferences- text, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, letters, phone calls. Ask how often they'd like to hear from you, and be open to hearing that they just don't have much time to connect during pre-season. The first two weeks are extremely demanding on the mind and body. 

The Fun Stuff:

Take them shopping for snacks- buy a tote with a tight fitting lid for storage. Bottled water isn't necessary. Our water is of excellent quality for drinking right from the tap. It has been taste tested by our science classes, and is preferred over bottled spring water. Plan a special family dinner of their choosing, family adventure to a special place, or neighborhood BBQ as a meaningful send off. During the first week or two and throughout the year: Care Packages are highly desired and coveted!!!! Get creative with the contents, but the following items are often celebrated: Protein powders (weight gain/loss shakes), healthy snacks, iTunes or Amazon gift cards. Sneak in a letter of encouragement, or if you are artsy feel free to make a collage of pictures that recall fond memories, accomplishments/goals. 

Caring For Yourself:

 If you are struggling with having your baby bird fly out of the nest, make a self care and wellness plan. Explore what feeds your soul in addition to your parenting role (which is now shifting). Engage in your favorite wellness activities: yoga, golf, nature walks, swimming, nurturing friendships, cooking healthy food and trying new recipes, meditation, tennis, crafting, etc. A vision board is an evidence-based way to set some positive intentions for living a fulfilling life. See the link below for more info: 

 If your anxiety or depression symptoms persist, or affect your day to day functioning, please see: https://therapists.psychologytoday.com to find the best match for a mental health therapist in your area. A licensed professional can assist you to work through any adjustment difficulties that are getting in your way of staying positive and healthy.

Bridgton Academy Cares About Your Son: 

If your son is struggling to sleep, concentrate in school, or get their "head in the game", encourage him to reach out to Amanda Miller, The School Counselor. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is here to listen, help students clarify what's going on, and support them to make a plan around how to best move through what's going on. 

Families can reach out to me directly and give me the heads up about any concerns around their son's mental health. I touch base with every student and can invite them to meet up for a check in. I am here for students and their families throughout the year, and am available for consults prior to the start of the academic year. I look forward to meeting you and your sons on registration day, when I will be handing out my contact information and a Wellness Welcome Package. Stay tuned to the BA webpage for updated links to this quarterly blog where I will share wellness tips and strategies for students and their families. 

Sincerely, Amanda Miller, LCSW