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The Emotional Lives of Teenagers

The Emotional Lives of Teenagers

Lisa's latest New York Times best seller is an urgently needed guide to help parents understand their teenagers’ intense and often fraught emotional lives—and how to support them through this critical developmental stage.

Under Pressure

Under Pressure

Lisa’s second New York Times best seller is a celebrated, urgently needed guide to addressing the alarming increase in anxiety and stress in girls from elementary school through college.

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Untangled

Lisa’s award-winning New York Times best seller–now available in nineteen languages–is a sane, informed, and engaging guide for parents of teenage girls.

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January 3, 2023

Ask Lisa Podcast - Episode 100

How Can Parents Find Joy and Energy in the New Year?

Episode 100

We all want to start the New Year feeling our best, but that’s a tall order for the many parents who feel mentally and physically exhausted. In response to a question from a parent asking how she can feel less stressed, anxious, and harried, Dr. Lisa and Reena consider what makes for effective self-care, how to hit the reset button, the science behind maintaining a sense of equilibrium, and why parenting can feel so hard – even when things are going well.

January 3, 2023 | 33 min

Transcript | How Can Parents Find Joy and Energy in the New Year?

Ask Lisa Podcast, Ep. 100: How Can Parents Find Joy and Energy in the New Year?

The Ask Lisa Podcast does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

The following transcript has been automatically generated by an AI system and should be used for informational purposes only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of the information provided.

——

Reena Ninan
So Happy New Year,

Lisa Damour
Happy New Year Reena, I’m glad to bring it in with you.

Reena Ninan
Oh, I am too and I’m really excited about your brand new book coming out.

Lisa Damour
I know we’re in the year when the book will come. It’s arriving on February 21 is when it publishes it’s called the emotional lives of teenagers raising connected, capable and compassionate adolescents. And I’m really excited for it to be out in the world. Go preorder

Reena Ninan
now Lisa has worked so immensely hard on this book. I’m so freaking proud of you as your friend. I’ve just seen how Thank you hard you’ve worked on it and the the research and everything that’s gone into it. Tell us a little bit about it.

Lisa Damour
Well, this book really aims to give parents what I hope is a very useful reframing of what mental health is in teenagers and how we support it. So it’s really about normal adolescent development, all of the ups and downs that come with it when it’s time to worry about your kid. And your offers an approach to adolescent emotionality, which is rich and busy, that I think will make life easier at home.

Reena Ninan
And you give us tips on how to deal with issues.

Lisa Damour
very concrete. I think everybody knows my work. I am very practical. At the end of the day, like I really want families to feel like they have tools they can use. And I will say I think on this book, it’s very much a teaching people how to fish book Teaching people sort of a broad way of thinking about adolescent emotionality as opposed to giving them fish. So I hope it’s useful.

Reena Ninan
I know it’s going to be useful. And there’s a special gift actually, if you preorder now tell me about that. I love gifts.

Lisa Damour
Yeah, no, we have a good package. So if people go to my website, they will see all of the information about this. But here’s what we’re giving away with preorders. One is access to a webinar with me, I’m going to do something through Random House a special webinar for people who preorder Wow, a signed bookplate. I have beautiful booklets that I will sign and have mailed to you to put in your book. And then a how to manage a meltdown bookmark, which you can download for free from my website. But this is like the real thing. It’s got two sides. It’s printed. It’s on nice paper. And so that’s the package that comes with pre orders. And I hope it I hope it’s appealing.

Reena Ninan
I love this. And I think this is so great, especially that webinar. So I am preordering mind because I can never get enough of your advice. But I’m so excited. Congratulations, my friend, you have worked tirelessly on this book, and it’s filled with great little gems, so I can’t wait. And we’re gonna be unpacking it too on the podcast. So you want you want to get the book. So we’re the supplementary.

Lisa Damour
Thank you, Reena.

Reena Ninan
So in this new year you and I were talking about, we always love to have one kickoff episode that helps us sort of rethink the year. And one of the letters that stood out to us was about how do you when you don’t feel charged anymore and you feel exhausted and drained and pulled in 1000 directions? How do you pick yourself up? So I want to read you this letter that we got about about caring for yourself. It says Dear Dr. Lisa, Marina, I really appreciate your guidance on how we can best support our kids. But I feel like where I really need help is figuring out how to take better care of myself. What can I do is quote, self care that can truly make a tangible difference for my own mental health. As a mother of three kids ages 710 and 12. The pandemic was absolutely brutal. But if I’m honest, things continue to really feel challenging even though life is mostly back to normal. I feel pulled in a million different directions tired all the time and find myself constantly falling down rabbit holes of worry. I’m sure that there must be something I can do to feel better, but I just don’t know what exactly that might be. Eat? What do I need to do to get my life back where I don’t feel exhausted all the time? How do I find that joy again? And why do I feel like it’s still so hard even though we’re coming out of the pandemic? Thank you in advance for your help. Oh my gosh, where do you even begin with this letter? But can I just say, this mom has really hit it out of the park in the way that so I identify with this. Do you identify with this?

Lisa Damour
Absolutely. I mean, there’s so much in the letter about feeling pulled in so many directions and feeling tired and going down worry rabbit holes, I think that she’s really speaking to very universal experiences of being a parent, and then honestly, being a parent now. I mean, this is a very hard time to be raising kids. There’s a lot going on around us. That is quite distressing.

Reena Ninan
Yeah. So where do you think she should began? Well, Reena,

Lisa Damour
here’s something I’ve been thinking about a huge amount, which is to set realistic bars for what our aspirations are in terms of how we feel and how good we feel. And, you know, I’ve always had my questions about the wellness industry and the commercialization of wellness. And I have the concern at times that this idea that like, there’s some Zen, we can get to some good place out there where you feel good and calm and relaxed. i That’s not realistic. And it’s actually not a very helpful idea.

Reena Ninan
I think about my own mom like, I She was always go, go, go go working nights as a nurse. And we think that there’s this like, you can have it all, and then you can just be sitting down. And so how do we manage that expectation, because you need a break, and you want to recharge, but you’ve got so much to do,

Lisa Damour
you do so one of the things I think that is very helpful is if we replace this idea of feeling good or high levels of wellness, with this idea of having a sense of equilibrium. That’s the term I’ve been using a lot for myself, which is like having a sense of like, balance, not like thrill. I mean, yeah, it’s wonderful when nice things happen, and you feel really good, I mean, enjoy us to be had, but really aiming for a sense of equilibrium. And what equilibrium really assumes is that things are going to knock us off balance, they’re going to do it almost every day, if not multiple times a day. And our job is to have counter balancing forces that can help us regain a sense of equilibrium. But when I say lowering the bar, that would be one of my recommendations for 2023 is we’re not going for feeling great all the time that was never on the menu, we’re going for generally having a sense of equilibrium.

Reena Ninan
So tell me what that looks like. When you say a general sense of equilibrium, like what am I doing now that I can do differently in the expectation department, like I have a to do list, I’ve got a bunch of things, I’ve got to do laundry, I’ve got to figure out groceries, I’ve got to do my day job. So how do I how do I change my thinking,

Lisa Damour
there’s a few things we can do. So one is that giant to do list and think about how we think about that. And something I have tried to do. And I’m not sure I’m winning on this, but I want to share what I’m trying is I also have the giant to do list. And I often feel like I can’t relax until the to do list is done. Yeah, until it’s all crossed off. And I have seen it as something that has an end. And you and I both know, there is no end to that. Like it never ends. There’s always new things coming. And so what I’ve tried to think about it being a bit more, and we’ll see if this is helpful to anyone else. And it’s working well enough for me, but it’s not perfect, is to see the to do list as a flowing river. It’s always flowing, there’s always water adding coming along, you know, sometimes big surges of it, and seeing myself as moving in and out of that river. So sometimes I’m in the river working on the to do list. And sometimes I step away, and I go do other things. And I there’s some ideas I have about the kinds of things we might do to actually get some equilibrium when we’re not standing in the river of our to do list. But really treating it as there’s no end to it. And so I get to walk away and take breaks. And then I come back to it and I work on it again. That reframing has helped me a little bit as opposed to thinking one day I will get to the riverbed, and then the to do list will be done.

Reena Ninan
Oh, that’s interesting, because I’m like, I can never relax the end of the day because I’m like, I didn’t get eight of 20 out of the 20 to do lists things done, which I’m setting myself up for failure, because who can do like 25 things in one day?

Lisa Damour
Well, then, of course, and of course you started with those things and 10 new things landed on the list yesterday, right? So like, even if your ambition was reasonable at 9am, you know, by 4pm Like all this other stuff has popped up and now you’re behind. Yeah. So if we instead treat it as like it’s an ongoing thing, and what are those things really had to happen in a given day and one of those 10 things can get pushed to your visit to the river tomorrow. You know, I mean, I think that that way of approaching it, Ken has for me at least taken some of the pressure threw out of having so many things that I know need to be done. Okay? Okay, but let’s talk about when you’re not standing in that river or getting out of that river, because I think there is really useful research that has actually changed my life and how I live. Hmm, that I came across in the pandemic. And that I think might be useful here. So we don’t take enough control of how we spend our attention. And this is something we all know, right? We feel like our attention is fractured, we feel like it’s pulled like, as this wonderful writer says, pulled in a million directions. And one thing I would love for people to do or to play with in 2023, is taking more charge of how they distribute their attention. And I’m going to give us two easy categories for how we might go about doing this. One category is what psychologists call hard fascination, which is an interesting term. And basically, the way to think about it is if we picture that our attention is like, bandwidth, right, like, and there’s this wide bandwidth of attention. Hard fascination, is anything that fills the bandwidth hasn’t totally occupied. So it might be like a book that we get lost in or a TV show that we love or movie that we love, or totally engaging conversation. For kids that can be things like video games, or also all the media that you know, they love and you know, can be very absorbing, but things that totally occupy our minds. Hard fascination is a mental vacation. And what I mean by that, and I’m thinking about this writer who says that sometimes she falls down worry rabbit holes, yeah. If you find yourself when I find myself falling down a worry rabbit hole, and the more I think about something, the worse I feel, I now very deliberately engage in a hard fascination activity, to take a mental vacation to change my mental channel, from the thing that was bothering me to something that totally engages my mind, and pulls me away from something that is psychologically painful to focus on.

Reena Ninan
So how do you do it? Let’s say you’re worried about your kid, and just deeply, deeply worried, you can’t think straight? You’re saying change the channel house? What would you start thinking about?

Lisa Damour
So I would find something that I find incredibly compelling to go do instead. So for me, it would probably be watching reruns of 10 like Ted lasso, or I will honestly confess, like internet shopping, like looking at beautiful items online, like I you know, by very little compared to how much I look. But for me, looking at pretty things, looking at beautiful clothes is hugely compelling. Like I love looking at design, I love thinking about it. So finding things that take your mind and push it down a new road. works. And here’s the kind of amazing thing. It doesn’t solve the problem at all right? I mean, the problem, whatever it is that you’ve we’re worried about has gotten completely unaddressed. But what we know is it when we change our mental channel, especially when we have been spinning on something that we can’t do anything about two things happen. One is we stop dumping stress hormones into our bloodstream, that when we’re spending on something and worrying and worrying and worrying, we’re actually there’s a physiological component of that. And it eventually feels really bad for your body. So you basically just stop that process. The other thing that happens all the time, is, if there’s something we’ve been focused on really hard, and we’re upset about it, and then we think about something else. When we come back to that thing, it is often the case that it just doesn’t seem as bad. The time away the distance, the perspective. We’re like, okay, like, we usually have some new purchase on it. And so, hard fascination is one of our best friends, especially when we are stuck in a mental rut.

Reena Ninan
We’re talking about how do you recharge yourself when you feel worn out? Lisa, what do you do when you feel like you’ve been pulled in a million directions?

Lisa Damour
Okay, right now, this is where her soft fascination comes in. So that’s the contrast with hard fascination that the research scientists who do this work make. So if heart fascination is something that pulls all of our mental bandwidth, like, completely occupies our mind, soft fascination is when we do things that are routine, or even boring, that demand very, very little cognitive energy. So it might be things like, you know, folding laundry, or washing tissues or working in the yard. And what we discover under soft fascination conditions is that all of that available mental power, right, that’s not being used, because the work is not that hard, or compelling or interesting. goes in and the way I think about it is starts to close mental tabs. And one of the ways I can experience like that pulled in a million directions phenomenon is this sense of like I have 50 tabs open, like there’s so much going on at once. And when we allow ourselves surplus, mental power, right, by just not turning on the radio in the car or not, you know, putting on a podcast while we go for exercise, when we just allow surplus mental power, that mental power goes in and starts to close tabs. And the most universal experience of this is having one’s best ideas in the shower. You know, that happens all the time. Oh, my

Reena Ninan
gosh, I totally understand that. But you’re saying this is because of the soft fascination that flows easily, or easily like

Lisa Damour
that. Showers are like the all time soft fascination activity, because you know, you know how to shower, you don’t have to practice at it, you know what you’re doing. And the other thing about showers is we usually don’t have our tech. And so I have found personally, I tend to ruin what could be a soft fascination activity, because like, I’ll go for an exercise walk, and then I’ll take my phone, and then you know, within three blocks, I’m playing on my phone or talking to somebody or calling you or whatever. And so one thing I have done, when I try to step out of that river, right, get myself some equilibrium is if I have the sense that I have way too many tabs open, I will go do something for me, it’s I have a route that I walk in my neighborhood, and it’s very beautiful. And I don’t have to think about it. And I will leave my phone at home, which is hard to do, but I do it. And within a couple of blocks, I’ll be like, I know how to respond to that email, or I almost forgot someone’s whose birthday is coming like all of these things that have been draining mental power. Suddenly, my mind finds them solves them. And then I have more energy when I come back to the river. So if we think in that way that we can be deliberate, like do I need a hard fascination? Because I’m stuck in a mental rut? Do I need soft fascination because I have, you know so much on my mind, and I just don’t even know where to start. We can start to take more control of how we feel overall, we can regain a sense of equilibrium. And I’ll tell you, you know, my favorite thing about soft fascination is that you don’t have to change or add anything. Well, you don’t have to add anything to your life. So for me, when I get in the car, I’m always going somewhere familiar, I don’t go very many new places. I will make a decision. Should I turn on the radio? Should I listen to a podcast? Or should I drive in silence. And if I have too many tabs open, I will deliberately drive in silence and let soft fascination take over and start to close those tabs. And that’s what I love about it. It’s not another self care practice that we need to add to our days, right? It really is easily workable into the day to day, but it makes a huge difference in terms of equilibrium.

Reena Ninan
So when you feel like you need to use hard fascination versus soft fascination.

Lisa Damour
So hard fascination is your best friend. If you’re stuck in a mental rut, if there’s one thing you’re thinking about, and you can’t stop thinking about it, and it’s making you upset. And I think a lot of people do intuitively like go binge watch something or they do intuitively you know, like, go online shopping or whatever they find super engaging. And so I just want you to know if you’ve been doing it intuitively, you’ve been doing it right like you have found for yourself the mental break that you know you need. So that’s what hard fascination is good for.

Reena Ninan
But can I tell you when I do this sometimes with clothes, for instance, and I don’t realize that I’m doing it, I’ll take a break and start looking at clothes and put them in my cart to look at. But then what happens is I go so far down, I can’t bring myself back to doing the task. I had initially started and so then I get so sidetracked.

Lisa Damour
That can really happen right? And it’s interesting because what I’m making the case for is deliberate distraction. And we have not generally spoken very well about distraction. Like it’s usually you know, focus was good distraction is bad. And here I am making the case that actually there are times when we really want to distract ourselves and it’s important to do it but you Just like nailed eggs named exactly the limit of that, unless we then binge watch for three hours and, you know, put ourselves behind on all sorts of other things we’re supposed to be doing. Here’s what I would say. There may be benefit in really understanding why one is doing what one is doing. So Reena, I do wonder if the next time when you’re feeling like super frustrated or stuck on something, and you’re like, I am going to go internet shopping, and I’m going to do it for 20 minutes, I’m going all in on the hard fascination of it, I’m going to enjoy it, I’m going to do it guiltlessly. But I’m only going to do it for 20 minutes or 30 minutes, I actually wonder if it might not be more satisfying, and easier to then move back into the work you need to do or whatever else you need to get back to. If you have said to yourself, I know exactly what I’m doing. And I know why I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do it for this long.

Reena Ninan
Wow, that’s good. You set a time limit, you know, and then probably enjoy it more because I’m feeling horrible that I’m not doing my thing. But you’re saying take the time to do that

Lisa Damour
don’t feel horrible. It’s a great idea. And I think that sometimes that feeling horrible, actually, it’s gonna undermine how, how restorative it is. So let’s get the horrible out of there. Let’s just say go do it. Enjoy it, you’re using hard fascination, you’re taking a mental break, you’re going on vacation, enjoy that vacation, then come on back. I think that may make it easier to come back to what needs to be done.

Reena Ninan
And then sell fascination. When do you find that’s appropriate? Or helps best?

Lisa Damour
I think that is our best friend, when we have that sense of feeling psychologically cluttered. You know, when there’s that strong sense of like, I don’t even know where to start my mind feels like just absolutely like, you know, a teenager’s bedroom, a messy teenager’s bedroom. That’s when soft fascination can help actually sort of sort through things, pick things up, put things away, get rid of them. It’s really, really powerful.

Reena Ninan
Is there anything else Lisa that you find helps in sort of getting more restored and not feeling pulled and drained?

Lisa Damour
Well, I was really interested in this letter in her comments about just feeling so tired. Yeah, and, and I know that we talk about it a lot, but I’m not ever going to let it go. We have to be militant about protecting our sleep. And I will tell you, clinically, Reena, and this is something I actually write about in the book. I cannot evaluate someone psychologically, if they are exhausted. So when I have cared for clients in my practice, who come in, in the wake of a crisis, and that happens, you know, which is often now we meet people in our practices. My I will hear about the crisis, I will be very curious about what’s going on. And then I will say, are you sleeping? And if they say no, I will start there start with the question of what can we do to be helping you get more sleep, what’s getting in the way of your sleep, and we’ll start to pull all the levers I know that we can pull to improve their sleep. Because I cannot actually assess whether there is depression, whether there is pathological anxiety. I can’t assess any of that in somebody who was sleep deprived, because sleep deprivation looks like all of those things. So sleep is so critical for our mental equilibrium, that anyone who feels like they are tired or their sleep is disrupted, I would want them to make that priority number one for managing.

Reena Ninan
What if you’re and I find this during the pandemic, that there were moments where like, it really helped when I got up really, really early before everyone, then there were phases where actually I did my best work from eight to 1030 at night when I’m alone in my room. And so how do you work through that, like for adults, you tell us about children the amount of sleep they need, right? But what about adults? How much how an uninterrupted, like, walk us through what we need?

Lisa Damour
So what adults need adults need somewhere? I mean, there’s a wider range, but usually somewhere between seven and a half and nine hours, you know, is what adults need. And I think the way to assess how much one really needs is what do you wake up from without an alarm? Right? So that gives you a good sense is you know, when does your body naturally wake, without having something come along and wake you up will give you a sense of how much sleep you need. Of course, a lot of us are operating with sleep debts, which is that we haven’t gotten enough sleep. And so then we go to sleep if no alarm comes, we actually stay asleep for a decent amount of time.

Reena Ninan
So let me ask another question here. Can you bank sleep? Like let’s say you go on vacation for a week? Can I then just sleep for 12 hours and is that in my reservoir?

Lisa Damour
If you’re able to sleep for 12 hours, you’re probably making up a sleep debt. So you’re actually behind in catching up, you’re not getting ahead. And I think that once people have paid off their sleep debts, which is basically the accrued amount of sleep that we should have been getting and haven’t been getting, then they start to get a sense of how much sleep they really need because they go to bed and then they wake up, you know, without an alarm and that gives them an indicator of that. But other things that really matter. And this is again stuff that people have heard but I just want to say it again, getting away From tech, right before bed, you know, if you’re on your technology just like a teenager, right? If they’re on their technology before bed, it’s going to interfere with their ability to sleep. Having a room that’s cold enough and quiet enough and dark enough, is really worth making time and space for watching your caffeine, right? And how long late into the day we enjoy it, right? I really try to cut myself off by one o’clock, you know. And then the last thing I would say, is to really use that hard fascination idea at night. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, because you have so many worries on your mind, then you should do what? Well, so what I would do is I would have something that you read or maybe listen to, but I would rather not have technology in the picture if possible. But something really engaging, that is very far away from whatever your worries might be. So I will tell you Reena in the pandemic, I was having a hard time falling asleep. And I got into historical novels, and like demanding ones like ones I really had to concentrate on. Because those provided enough heart fascination that I could change my mental channel from all the worries about the pandemic and the psychological concerns that were rampant at that time, especially. And then I could fall asleep. So using heart fascination as a very deliberate tactic. If your mind is spinning, spinning, spinning at night, and it’s hard to just change your channel and let it all go.

Reena Ninan
So as we wrap up nearly so what do you think we really need to if you were to give us sort of like a top three list hit reset in 2023. What can parents do for themselves, top three lists that can really be transformative, and they could really feel a difference in their lives.

Lisa Damour
I would say number one, set a realistic bar for what you’re going for here, you are not going for his and joy, every five minutes you are going for equilibrium where there’s some good times and some bad times. And when things do not feel good, you have some strategies for balancing it out those strategies being hard fascination, soft fascination and sleep being like, top three of those. I think the second would be to really, really embrace the idea that caring for ourselves as part of how we care for our kids, right? Everyone who listens to this podcast is listening because they have children in their lives they care about. And I think we always have that experience as parents of having to feeling like we have to choose between caring for ourselves and caring for our kids. And what I would say is you caring for yourself is you caring for your kid, when you have cared for yourself, you are funnier, more relaxed, more easygoing, you take things in stride our patients is better. That’s good for kids. So this is like blanket 2023 permission, go care for yourselves, it’s an important way to care for your children. And then the last thing I would say is put fun things on the calendar. This is really important having things to look forward to having things that are going to be joyful, no matter what you know, like whether it’s like a massage, or, you know, lunch with a girlfriend that you love, things like that are so effective, because we look forward to them. We enjoy them when they’re happening. And then we look back on them happily. So they go a long, long way to building joy into our lives.

Reena Ninan
This is good. And I feel better. Because you know what I love about what you do is you just like with this new book coming out, you look at the research and you extrapolate. And you explain to us, here is the research on this. And here’s how you can shift your thinking and this can help. So thank you very much for that. I’m so excited about this new year, I think so many people need to hit the reset button, and I just see some great opportunity and positivity. So thank you, Lisa for helping because I know these strategies are gonna help me personally and hopefully our listeners as well.

Lisa Damour
You’re welcome. It’s such a pleasure for me to get to think with you about these things. And I do hope that they’re helpful, because I want people to have a wonderful year,

Reena Ninan
we really do somebody have for us for parenting to go.

Lisa Damour
So for parenting to go, I would like for us to bring distraction back into the fold of things that we think are okay. I think we want to do this for ourselves and for our kids. That it is absolutely useful at times to go do a little internet shopping when feeling frustrated, or to go watch a TV show to get past something that’s annoying. And to also appreciate that our kids do this to that sometimes when they’re feeling frustrated with their homework, they might go watch a couple of YouTube videos. This is not all bad. As long as it can be kept to a couple videos, a couple short things. It can be a very, very powerful way to maintain our mental equilibrium.

Reena Ninan
never realized that you can give yourself an excuse to get distracted and it’s actually a healthy thing.

Lisa Damour
It is a good thing. It can definitely have an important part of our sort of mental economy and the maintenance of all of it.

Reena Ninan
Lisa, I am so excited for your new book, The emotional lives of teenagers. It’s available now to pre order. You’ll want to read this one. It’s really good.

Lisa Damour
No thank you. I’m excited about it too. And I’m excited about this new year. I’m happy 2023 Here we go.

Reena Ninan
Happy New Year, Lisa. And next week we’re going to talk Lisa about how do you get your teams to open up when they don’t want to talk. We’ll see you next week.

Lisa Damour
See you next week.

The advice provided by Dr. Damour here will not and does not constitute - or serve as a substitute for - professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice or intervention. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

My new book is now available!

The Emotional Lives of Teenagers Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents