Personal Zen: An App Review

It can be tough to find an app that has actually been part of a research study and has been shown to work.

Personal Zen is a fun game-based app that has actually been proven to help decrease anxiety.

It is based on a concept called Attention Bias Modification Treatment. People who are anxious tend to lean toward seeing a situation as scary or negative. The treatment uses different techniques to retrain the brain to be less biased toward negative thinking.

The Personal Zen game helps you practice this skill by focusing on a positive looking face instead of a negative looking one.

It is available for free on Android and iOS so if you check it out, please let us know what you think! It is best used on a regular basis especially when you are actually feeling anxious (versus just in a regular mood). Enjoy!

Being labeled

What words describe your child? If someone did not know them at all – how would you describe them? You could probably make a long list of things. People are not one-dimensional. And even if most of the time if they are one way, in certain situations they might be the opposite. Let’s say most of the time they are a peace maker – but if someone makes fun of their sister, they will pick a fight with them. There may even be things about them that seem to be opposites – but they are both there.

Photo Credit: Tulane Publications via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Tulane Publications via Compfight cc

For example, maybe they have a lot of skill in math and science – but when it comes down to it, they could spend all their days just drawing with a charcoal pencil. People have many sides to them. And in one snapshot of their lives – they are one way – at another stage they might have left certain things behind and now there are new adjectives to describe who they are.

That being said, what does it mean to get a mental health diagnosis? Now is this something else that describes your child? Does it put a damper on their life – what does it mean when someone uses a word to describe them? He’s a depressed guy. She is an anxious girl. Sometimes when people use labels – it feels like a condemnation. Maybe it feels like they are really saying – he’s depressed – that means he is weak, no good, a failure at life, and he’ll never amount to anything. Maybe it feels like they are really saying – she’s anxious – that means she worries too much for no good reason, she takes everything seriously, and cries and complains too much about everything.

Think – are those things true? How could your child have been something else – and now this label makes them a one-sided person. Sometimes labels can make us feel so very small. Or feels like getting one means we are doomed. In medicine, a more humanizing way to talk about any illness is instead of saying: “Sally is a depressed 15 year-old girl” saying “Sally is a 15 year-old girl who has depression.” What’s the difference? The difference is that Sally is a multi-dimensional person and depression is only one part of the story.

Some people do not want to get help because they don’t want to own a label. Well, no one is a label. For the sake of figuring out how to help people, sometimes medical people will use labels so they can make a plan of what can help someone. But in reality, everyone’s illness is unique and different, has a different course, and could have been caused by different things. Using these labels is a simple way to talk to each other so we can communicate and try to help. Remembering each person is unique and not a label is always something to keep in mind.

Have you ever felt ashamed of your child being labeled as being sick? How did you cope with this?

How long to take medications

Before you read this post, remember that what is below might not apply to everyone – it is important for your child to always discuss medication decisions with your doctor. Every situation is unique.

If your child takes medications for depression or anxiety and they are feeling much better, you might want to know if they can stop their medications cold turkey.

Not a good idea, and let me explain why.

Photo Credit: Dogan Kokdemir via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Dogan Kokdemir via Compfight cc

Stopping cold turkey can jolt your body and will likely result in withdrawal symptoms such as flu-like symptoms, headache, and muscle spasms. Continue reading How long to take medications

The Need to Belong


Photo Credit: Mary_on_Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mary_on_Flickr via Compfight cc

Human beings all crave to belong. We want to have friendships that support us and make us feel good. However, when we start to feel no longer wanted by others, we experience the weight of loneliness and isolation. This is especially true with adolescents. A recent article about bullying behaviors connected these negative behaviors to feelings of not belonging.

Continue reading The Need to Belong

Finding the Right Healthcare Professional

In the past, we posted an article that looked into more detailed differences between various healthcare professionals. This article is a spin off from that one by providing some tips on how to decide who the best healthcare professional for your child might be and how to find one nearby.

health professionals

How do I find the right healthcare professional for my child?

This is a tricky question that can have a lot of correct answers. Remember that you and your child are the expert in your family’s needs so listening to your intuition and asking yourself real questions is a great place to start. The steps below are guidelines for navigating the system and may not be the best fit for everyone.

Continue reading Finding the Right Healthcare Professional

What Do All Of These Letters Mean: A more detailed look

photo cred: Tagxedo
photo cred: Tagxedo

Recently one of our team members wrote an article entitled, “What do all of these letters mean?” This article provided a brief overview of the post-nominal letters (those initials after someone’s name) we so often see while navigating the health world. Some of you asked for more information (thank you for your input!), so now we are delivering. This post reviews the details about certain health professionals. Review the image below which highlights some of the main points regrading education, medication, and therapy.

Continue reading What Do All Of These Letters Mean: A more detailed look

Co-rumination with My Child

Photo Credit: Sangudo via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Sangudo via Compfight cc

So first of all, what is co-rumination? Co-rumination is discussing problems with others (in this case, your child) frequently, repeatedly, and excessively while never achieving a solution to fixing the problem.

Although co-rumination can be helpful at times by providing emotional support, it is not a productive form of communication because it does not allow for coping skills to develop which can hinder recovery.

You can think about it almost like a bug bite. The more you scratch, the itchier and redder it becomes. However, if you apply ointment and refrain from touching it, the bug bite begins to disappear.

A recent study found that adolescents with depression get into the habit of co-ruminating with their friends and their parents more than people who do not have depression. But with parents – as opposed to friends – they were more likely to have conversations about solving the problem.

So what does this mean for me? When talking with your child about problems occurring in their life, it is important not only to show your emotional support for them but also to help them to think of ways they might solve the issue. Sometimes when you hear your child talk about something that is upsetting them, it might cause you to feel anxious or worried for them. Before thinking about what you are saying you might blurt out something like, “You’re right! That teacher is no good!” or “You keep getting these headaches all the time – what the heck is going on with you?” This might in turn make your child feel more anxious – which makes you feel more anxious – and you get the picture. Try to instead name their emotion and your emotion. And then move on to asking them if they can think of any possible solutions. Try something like, “Wow that is really frustrating about your teacher. Can we sit down and map out exactly what happened and think about what you might have done differently?” or “Ok these headaches are happening a lot. Let’s make an appointment with your doctor, and before you go try to write down everything you can about your headaches so we are prepared to talk about it.”

By talking with your child about ways to overcome the barriers in their life, your child will begin to develop the necessary problem-solving skills they will need long term so they can pull them out as a skill they have even when you are not around. If this is working, you might start to get less “freak out” texts! Instead of agitating the “bug bite”, help your child find a solution to the problem they are experiencing so they can build the skills they need for future problems.

Have you felt like you have co-ruminated with your child before? What happened and what do you think you could do differently?


How’s it going? Fine…

Photo Credit: Maciej Lemanik via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Maciej Lemanik via Compfight cc

A few of the comments from young people on our adolescent site mention that looking back, some of them wish they would have opened up more with a therapist. Has your child expressed their worries about opening up? This is very common.

Some people may worry about:

  • Feeling judged
  • Feeling embarrassed
  • Being told that something is wrong with them
  • Privacy
  • Being let down
  • Getting hurt
  • Not being able to deal with raw emotions
  • Having a panic attack

Of course these are all valid  concerns. Some things that may help is remembering that a therapist’s job is to listen to people’s thoughts and about intimate details of their lives. This means that probably what you are telling them is a version of something they have heard before or at least something they have training in.

A therapist’s role includes:

  • Making you feel safe and comfortable
  • Listening without judgment
  • Helping you reach the goals of your therapy
  • Keeping what you tell them private
  • Helping you gauge if you need to take a break if your emotions are too strong

If your child is getting therapy and feels they cannot open up enough with their therapist, it is important for them to be honest. Your or your child can let the therapist know they are having a hard time opening up and sharing. This is something the therapist can work on with your child! Also if it’s not a right fit, its ok to tell them that too.

Has your child had trouble opening up to a therapist? Are there ways they overcame this?

Watching Our Family Struggle

If you are told your child may have a mental illness, you might fast forward their lives to pictures of other family members (or even yourself) who have struggled with mental illness. Mental illness is common and many of us have been affected ourselves or have affected family. Especially if family members have not received treatment it can be tough to watch them struggle. Maybe they are someone you enjoy spending time with sometimes, but other times you feel let down because they neglect you or hurt your feelings. Having a mental illness that is not treated often means you are not doing things to be good to yourself – and if you’re not being good to yourself, it is hard to cultivate quality relationships with others.


Because of this, being told your child may have a mental illness can cause anxiety because you are predicting their life will be a struggle and that is not something you want for them.  It’s understandable that you might worry or be upset. But then take some time to think about it a little more. It’s true that mental illness can run in families, yet every person is unique and it affects each person in a different way. Also, we are learning more and more about treating mental illness. Some of our older family members maybe did not receive enough treatment when they were younger, and we know getting treatment when you are younger helps more.

If you feel this way, remember we are like our family and then we are not like our family. Focus on yourself and your child. Sometimes when we do that, others notice and in time, help themselves as well.

Have you experienced worries your child’s life would be similar to a family member’s who struggles with mental illness? How did you cope with these concerns?