I’ve sat in dozens of circles of teenage girls in the past few years where they share their frustration at experiencing anxiety, depression, stress, and feeling out of sorts, restless, and empty. They do not understand why they have these emotions or how to deal with them. Many get labelled and medicated, but still lack the awareness and tools for preventing and handling their emotions. These are often bright, powerful, and successful young women, and the frustration leads to a lot of negative self-talk and getting down on themselves.
Lauren, 17, has been a three-sport phenom all the way through high school, but has been finding it hard to get the energy to go to practices. “I don’t know why I’m not into lacrosse any more. Even if I score or we win, I don’t get any joy out of it anymore. Maybe I should quit.”
Ally, 18, has been having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. “I’ve had this constant feeling of sadness in the past few months, and I don’t understand why. I’m getting along with my mom better, my boyfriend has been really supportive, my grades are fine. I get so frustrated because this blah thing is just not me. Then I get down on myself and worry it will never get better, and I just spiral down into despair.”
When we are stuck in a dark place, the solution is not to fight it; what’s required is to shine the light of awareness on it. One common reason behind these girls feeling out of sorts is that they are undergoing a touch point. Touch Points are times in our lives when we are about to undergo a big leap in development; think terrible two’s, middle school girls, high school and college seniors, the months before the wedding, etc. Just before and during the transition people tend to fall apart as they gather the energy needed to grow. Listen to the above linked podcast on touch points for more info on this.
High school girls are undergoing the transformation from being a girl to a woman. Fairy tales illustrate this heroine’s journeyas a time when girls experience solitude, suffering, the need to overcome challenges before the eventual triumph; think of the original versions of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. We need to normalize all of the angst and emotional turmoil adolescent girls experience instead of pathologizing it. This frame of reference allows girls to relax more and to know that this too shall pass.
When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about. Haruki Murakami
Girls also need sacred spaces where they can share with their peers without fear of judgment or criticism. I founded Camp Weloki for Girls28 years ago to provide such a safe place where girls could let their hair down, be real, and be accepted for exactly who they are. Sharing their feelings in a safe circle of peers is incredibly healing for girls, and they become more open to learning tools to prevent and handle all of the feelings that come with their current touch point.
This summer we helped young women connect with their unbreakable inner core; that center space that knows what they are feeling and what’s best for them. They experienced many self-quieting, mindfulness
exercises that allowed them to be in the present moment in order to access this space, as well as practicing ways to express all of their emotions in healthy ways. Our high school campers learned how to use self-compassion when they become frustrated or start getting down on themselves. They also worked on forgiveness, which I will discuss in an upcoming blog.
If you are living with an adolescent daughter who fits the above description, see her through the lens of her going through a normal, important touch point that requires awareness, tools, and support. Encourage her to read the original versions of fairy tales so she understands that she is undergoing an important leg of her heroine’s journey. Finally, provide her safe spaces like my camps to find a tribe of peers who understand, accept, and love her.