Depression, anxiety, and stress: the cost of adolescent negative self-talk

          Discouraged teen girls

Most adolescent girls are at war with their thoughts, creating constant tension, frustration, anxiety, depression, and stress. What they need to learn to do is stop engaging their negative self-talk and accept it.

One failed strategy girls use to combat stinking thinking is to try to avoid them or get rid of them. Any time you attempt to not think about something you tend to think about it more. This causes girls to get discouraged and frustrated, and this in turn triggers them to talk badly about themselves, and a loop ensues.

Teens I work with are experts at avoidance, busyness, and distractions when it comes to dealing with worried, negative thoughts. Technologies seem like a refuge from the storm of anxious, discouraging thoughts, but in reality, it just compounds them. Spending an inordinate amount of time texting and posting on social media keeps your mind off of your problems, but when the lights go out the thoughts come bubbling up and girls get overwhelmed by them. The same goes for alcohol, weed, juuling, and sex: the short-term thrills can distract you from feelings, but as soon as it wears off, you’re right back with your troubles, and they’re usually bigger.

I teach girls to allow thoughts to come up and to just notice them. Observe what the thoughts are saying, without judgment or angst, regardless of whether they are pleasant or painful; just notice. Most disturbing thoughts are familiar; old stories we have told ourselves 1000’s of times. This makes it easier to let them go because you can recall past times and how they always passed on.We cannot control the parade of negative thoughts marching thru our minds. But we can choose which ones we will give attention to. Picture your thoughts as people passing by the front of your home. Just because they’re walking by doesn’t mean you have to invite them in.  Gladys Edmunds

Gladys Edmund’s quote reminds us that we don’t have control over which thoughts pop into our heads, but we DO have control over what we do with them. We can decide to not believe them, struggle with them, or feel compelled to act on them. Like clouds passing through the sky, thoughts come and go as long as we don’t give them energy. The more girls become absorbed in their stinking thinking, the less time and energy they have to engage the world. They get cut off from reality, ruminate worst case scenarios, and become overwhelmed with feelings of depression and anxiety.

Encourage your daughters to take charge of their self-talk. Any thoughts that arise that aren’t useful nor help them to be who they want to be aren’t a good use of their time or energy. Girls can learn to step back and observe their thinking and to see thoughts for what they are: words, opinions, judgments, and assumptions. They can learn to recognize when the story is helpful and when it’s not, and to drop the struggle, make peace with them, and to let them come and go naturally.

Look for Dr. Jordan’s new E-book for young adults entitled:

Letters From My Grandfather: Timeless Wisdom For a Life Worth Living 

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