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Teen Anxiety--Tips for Staying Calm in a Changing World PDF Print Email

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By Jennifer Naparstek Klein, Psy. D., The Counseling Center


Jan. 30, 2019:  Anxiety is a basic function of survival--humans and other animals depend on this natural warning system to alert them to danger so they can protect themselves from potential harm. Usually, this alarm system becomes activated in legitimately stressful situations. For people living in current-day Westchester County, that might include making a public presentation, going on a first date, being called on in class by an intimidating teacher, receiving a stern warning from a boss, or enduring a parent saying something “totally embarrassing” in front of “all of my friends!” For a mouse, the sight of a snake approaching for a tasty snack would constitute a stressful situation, and, in fact, snakes and other predators can be pretty alarming to humans as well. But most often what we experience as a stressor is not what happens to us in the woods but what occurs in the office, the classroom, and, for teens, at the lunch table or at a party.

The parts of the brain that manage our anxiety responses are the amygdala, often thought of as the emotional center in the brain; two parts of the frontal lobe, cognitive centers that help us decide if the threat is real and manageable; and finally, the hippocampus, our memory center for threatening events and trauma. Whenever we experience a stressful situation, these three areas have little conversations with each other and collaborate to create our response, releasing neurotransmitters to effect a behavioral reaction. For many people--an estimated 40 million or more in the U.S.--the anxiety centers are overactive. Their systems operate on high alert most of the time. As you can imagine, this is not a comfortable way to live, and therefore attention to anxiety disorders is a major part of mental health care in the U.S.

Several kinds of disorders fall within the category of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, social phobia, panic disorders/agoraphobia, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Often teenagers’ symptoms do not rise to the level of these disorders, but many struggle to deal with unease, nervousness, worry, dread, and even fear. As their brains develop, and as they grow from children into young adults, their daily lives can be fraught with very palpable anxiety.

In my seventeen years as a psychotherapist here in Bronxville, during which a good portion of my practice has focused on teens, I’ve noticed some trends in terms of what teens are most worried about. Of course, in treating school-aged teens spanning ages 13 to 18, I see a lot of growth and development and therefore shifts in what my clients worry about and what they prioritize. Their most common concerns are: 

1. Fitting in socially, or, alternatively, feeling left out. This encompasses pressures associated with conforming to a group versus defining their individuality.

2. Relationships at home--how they get along with parents and siblings.

3. Performance--struggles to meet academic and extra-curricular expectations/college goals.

4. Sexuality--worries associated with sexual exploration, expectations, and identity.

5. Independence versus dependence--this concern can overlap with worries about relationships at home, but it’s significant enough to deserve its own category.

6. Other stressors in the home, such as chronic disability or illness, death of loved ones, divorce and marital discord, etc.

How teens handle these stressors while going through puberty, with its hormonal upheavals and continued brain development, are influenced by heredity, learned coping mechanisms, natural and learned resilience, peer influences, substance use, exercise, and the ability to care for oneself.

Of course, what will relieve the anxiety is unique for each person, and special goals must be tailored to the person who is struggling. A good starting place might involve talking with others: sharing one’s stress with loved ones, friends, school counselors, grandparents--any trusted person. Freud coined the term “the talking cure,” and when dealing with anxiety, having conversations, working through problems and finding solutions, can be enormously cathartic. Once an anxious teen gains some perspective, he/she can begin to learn to use “self-talk,” a skill that involves talking oneself down--chipping away at the anxiety to get to a calmer place. When a teen is dealing with deeply distressing moments, feeling even a little bit calmer can bring substantial relief. 

Since anxiety has such a strong impact on our bodies, and our minds work much better when our bodies are calm, it’s always a good idea to try to counter the physiological reactions associated with stress. Taking slow, deep breaths lying down, and even doing some calming yoga poses or stretches until breathing and heart rate return to normal can be soothing. Some people like to listen to music, take long baths, or practice meditation or mindfulness exercises. Physical exercise also contributes to psychological wellbeing by helping us expend excess energy. Perhaps most important, sleep deprivation or unhealthy eating run counter to psychological wellness. When we sleep well and eat well, we prepare ourselves to handle stress more effectively. 

If you’re a parent or other trusted adult who has made these suggestions and your teen has seemed to reject them all, take heart--they might be secretly listening! However, sometimes teens can feel so overwhelmed with anxiety that they don’t believe that anything could possibly help. In such high-stress moments, it can be difficult to put strategies to use. But in my experience, those who try--taking small steps and being persistent--often begin to see positive results at managing stressful moments. Each success builds a teen’s confidence, and one achievement adds to another.      

Finally, don't be afraid to reach out to a professional. Even a short stint in psychotherapy can help an anxious person, especially during the teen years when things change so rapidly and new demands arise regularly. 

Pictured here: Jennifer Naparstek Klein.

Photo courtesy The Counseling Center of Bronxville

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

 
Miabella Rose Rodriguez is First Baby Born at NYP Lawrence Hospital in 2019 PDF Print Email

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By Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital


Jan. 9, 2019:  NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital welcomed the hospital's first baby delivered in 2019.

Miabella Rose Rodriguez was born to Darline Pinto at 10:51 am on January 1, 2019. The baby girl was 4 pounds, 13 ounces and 18 inches long. She was delivered by Dr. Elizabeth Paskowski, an obstetrician/gynecologist who practices at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville

Ms. Pinto, who lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, was 36 weeks pregnant and visiting family in the Bronx when she began having labor pains on New Year's Eve. The next thing she knew, she was in the hospital preparing to deliver her first child.

NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital's maternity center offers 23 private, hotel-like post-partum rooms complete with bathrooms and showers, flat-screen televisions, and free Internet. The rooms are designed for maximum comfort with relaxing colors, soft lighting, carpeted floors, and special reclining chair/beds for partners. The maternity center also features a state-of-the-art nursery for newborns and a new neonatal intensive care nursery for babies with special needs or those who are born prematurely. NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital provides support for breastfeeding mothers with an on-site lactation specialist and follow-up support after discharge. The hospital delivers an average of 1,300 babies annually.

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

 

 
Carolers Serenade Patients at NYP Lawrence Hospital PDF Print Email

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by Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital

Dec. 19, 2018:  This past weekend, Concordia Conservatory Carolers and NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital executives (pictured here) serenaded patients and hospital staff. 

Other Bronxville organizations spreading holiday cheer at Lawrence Hospital this holiday season included the Bronxville Chamber of Commerce and the Bronxville Middle School Orchestra.

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

 
Fifty-five Community Members Attend 'Cocktails & Conversation' at Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center PDF Print Email

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By Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital


Nov. 14, 2018: In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital hosted "Cocktails & Conversation" on October 17 at its Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center.

Hosted by Bronxville residents Lansing MartinelliJennie JacobsWendy Fahy, and Mary Taylor Behrens, the event gathered 55 community members to tour the state-of-the-art center, which received the 2018 Women's Choice Award as one of America's Best Breast Centers and to hear from NYP Lawrence president Michael J. Fosina, MPH, FACHE, and the center's director, Lynn Chinitz, MD. 

The center is named after Carol Hunter Taylor, mother of Mary Taylor Behrens and an active Bronxville resident for 42 years, whose extended family and friends helped contribute the seed money for the facility. 

Pictured here (L to R): Co-host Wendy Fahy; co-host Lansing Martinelli; NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital Carol H. Taylor Breast Health Center director Lynn Chinitz, MD; NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital president Michael Fosina; co-host and NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital board member Mary Taylor Behrens; co-host Jennie Jacobs.

Photo courtesy Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital 

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
Seniors and Their Adult Children Should Talk and Plan PDF Print Email

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By Ellen Edwards, Member, Board of Directors, The Counseling Center


Nov. 14, 2018:  On Tuesday, November 6, The Counseling Center sponsored an insightful, highly relevant lecture and discussion for Bronxville Senior Citizens titled "Seniors: Invisible Conversations™ with Their Adult Children,” held at The Reformed Church of Bronxville. The talk was led by Rev. Shannon White, author of The Invisible Conversations With Your Aging Parents, and Lynn Evansohn, a licensed clinical social worker at The Counseling Center.

Rev. Shannon White’s many encounters with parishioners have impressed upon her how difficult it can be for seniors to discuss with their adult children issues related to aging. These can be sensitive, even painful, conversations about seniors’ changing (often rapidly changing) health needs, questions to do with financing their care, where they will live, and their wishes for handling the end of life, including their funeral arrangements. What remains unsaid, for whatever reason, can lead to financial losses and emotional complications that could have been avoided. Often, too, families want to build strong connections with each other but find that desire thwarted by their inability to venture into sensitive terrain.

According to White, fully 75% of seniors expect their children to carry out their end-of-life wishes, but they have never actually articulated what those wishes are. And when essential documents don’t get written, or can’t be found, children can end up squabbling over their inheritance and estates can remain unsettled for years.

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White suggests that families write things down—not just wills and living wills but also the parents’ medical history, medications with dosages, how care will be paid for (especially if the kids are expected to help out), and what kind of care is needed now. White suggests that parents might need help keeping an eye on their alcohol consumption since alcohol is less well tolerated as we age and can interact with many medications.

She encourages families to confront “unfinished business” while there’s still time and she shared her own experience with her father, with whom she was able to have a brief but deeply meaningful conversation shortly before he died. Having already worked through many of her conflicted feelings for him, she was able to express her love and forgiveness, a gift that gave him greater peace at the end and allowed her greater acceptance—something her siblings, who hadn’t done the work of “unfinished business,” weren’t necessarily able to share.

White recommends the Five Wishes Living Will, readily available online, which requires the answers to five questions related to your end-of-life arrangements and, once completed, is considered a legally viable document. 

Lynn Evansohn began her part of the discussion with a story illustrating the idea that a conversation is often as much about listening as it is about speaking. As a young social worker, she was asked to convince a couple in their 80s who could no longer adequately care for their large menagerie of cats and dogs to arrange to give up their animals. Only when the couple showed no willingness to do so did she begin to pick up on why—they’d been circus performers in their youth and animals were a cherished part of their life together. By listening more closely, Evansohn realized that she needed to shift her focus away from her own agenda to what the couple actually needed, in this case, animal caregivers to come to the home. 

Sometimes, Evansohn said, a third party such as a pastor, friend, or professional therapist can facilitate a conversation that the parents and children are unable to have on their own. She recalled a man she was counseling who stubbornly insisted on acting as sole caregiver for his ill wife, whom he loved dearly. He refused to see how his wife’s overwhelming needs were taking a serious toll on his own health until his children demanded a meeting with their father and Evansohn. With Evansohn as a neutral professional presence, the man was finally able to hear his children’s pleas that they loved him and didn’t want to lose him through worry and overwork, just when they were already losing their mother.

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Sometimes we think we’ve had certain conversations with our family members, but we actually haven’t, Evansohn said. This became clear to her when her mother, 96, suffered a life-threatening incident. She recovered, but when Evansohn contacted her brother in the midst of the crisis, trying to prepare him for their mother’s possible death, she was shocked to hear him say, “I’m not ready.” This, despite their many conversations about their mother’s situation over the years. Subsequent conversations revealed how much her brother, who lived several states away, missed his mother and regretted the infrequency of their visits. Six months later, Evansohn’s family moved their mom to live near her brother. 

White said it’s important to acknowledge the tremendous grief associated with aging—over the loss of friends, loss of abilities. When children refuse to have the conversation parents try to initiate, Evansohn suggested that it can be helpful to ask if they might be ready to hear “one thing.” That one thing is sometimes enough to open up an ongoing conversation that unfolds over time. People experience grief and loss very differently, Evansohn said, and some people get stuck in their grief. In such cases, a professional can often help them get unstuck. 

The Counseling Center offers a warm, safe, and confidential place to get help. It has offices in The Reformed Church of Bronxville, as well as in Scarsdale, Riverdale, and New York City. For more information, visit www.counselingcenter.org or call its clinical director, Dr. Jane Benjamin, at 914-793-3388.

The Bronxville Senior Citizens meets at The Reformed Church of Bronxville on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a wide variety of activities. Anyone age 55 years and up is welcome. For more information, visit www.bronxvilleseniors.org.

Pictured here:  Top (L to R): Shannon White and Lynn Evansohn; second (L to R): Karla Diserens, Shannon White, Lynn Evansohn, and Virgil Roberson; third: Shannon White.

Photos courtesy The Counseling Center

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.



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