Inspiring Teens to Help Others

Instill a heart of service in your teen by encouraging them to serve today! If not today, choose another day!(photo credit:

Instill a heart of service in your teen by encouraging them to serve on Make a Difference Day! If not that day, choose another day!(photo credit:

This year Make a Difference Day will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on October 26th.  Sponsored by USA Weekend Magazine and the Points of Light Organization, Make a Difference Day is the largest national day of community service and involves millions of volunteers all over the world with one mission – improving the lives of others.

One of the best ways to celebrate this day of service is to get your teenagers and their friends involved in a project that helps others in their community.  Today’s teenagers can easily feel disconnected from their families, their communities, and even their friends.  Volunteering and engaging in community service activities is one of the best ways to help teens reconnect with their parents, siblings, extended families, and greater communities.  Encourage your teenager to pick a project that has meaning to them and support their contributions by being an active member of their team.

In addition to helping teens feel connected to the world around them, community service provides a wealth of other benefits to everyone who participates.  Here are some of the other benefits your teen, your family, and your community can get by participating in Make a Difference Day.

1.     Helping Others Feels Good

There is a certain feeling of pride and satisfaction that most people get just from doing something nice for another person.  In our busy world it can be easy to lose sight of how much it feeds our souls to do kind acts for others.

2.     Helping Builds Lasting Bonds

Uniting with others to do something good for your community strengthens existing bonds between family members and friends and creates new bonds throughout the community.  What better way to cure the disconnectedness than by creating new bonds throughout the community.

3.     Helping Builds Better Communities

There was a time in our history where entire communities would gather together to help one member build a new barn, but these times are almost forgotten.  Today, many of us barely know our neighbors and have few connections within our community.  But strong communities are what help keep crime rates low and make the places we live places we want to live.

4.     Helping Instills Responsibility

Picking a project, gathering a team, and following through are all things that help teach teens responsibility.  Making a commitment and then following through are things everyone, including our teens, can benefit from.

5.     Helping Others is Empowering

In our hyperactive world it is hard for many teens to feel that what they do makes a difference.  Participating in community service projects combats that feeling and shows teenagers that one person can make a difference in the lives of many others.  This sense of empowerment can have a lasting impact across all areas of their lives.

Taking part in Make a Difference Day is easy.  Visit the Make a Difference Day website for ideas on how to get involved, to register your project, and for more information about how making a difference in someone else’s life can also make a big difference in yours.


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When Eating Disorders and Anxiety Disorders Co-exist

Do you know how eating disorders and anxiety disorders can go hand in hand? (photo credit:

Do you know how eating disorders and anxiety disorders can go hand in hand? (photo credit:

For many people with eating disorders, the challenge of overcoming their disorder is complicated because of other coexisting mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.  In fact, a University of Pittsburg Medical Center study conducted in 2004 found that two-thirds of those diagnosed with eating disorders also suffered from some form of anxiety disorder over the course of their lives.  In many cases, the anxiety disorder started in childhood, predating the eating disorder.   This underlines how important it is for parents to understand the warning signs of both anxiety disorders and eating disorders and to seek treatment for either condition or both conditions as soon as they see the signs.

When someone suffers from an anxiety disorder, they struggle with excessive, persistent, pervasive worry and fear that is unreasonable to the reality of their situation.  This constant anxiety may center on specific circumstances or activities or it can apply to a broader experience or concern.  There are several different types of anxiety disorders that each manifest differently and can cause different symptoms.  The most common anxiety disorders are:

Signs of Commonly Co-Existing Anxiety Disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is the anxiety disorder that is most frequently seen with eating disorders.  When OCD and an eating disorder co-exist, the two disorders can intertwine causing the person to develop ritualistic behaviors associated with food.  An example of how this would look to parents would be a teenager that obsessively counts calories, weighs their food, or will only eat at specific times of day.  Other anxiety disorders that commonly co-exist with eating disorders are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive and persistent thoughts, behaviors, or impulses that are unwanted, involuntary, and often seem nonsensical, even to the person who is doing them.  People with this disorder generally experience obsessive thoughts that drive compulsive behaviors.  These behaviors are often repetitive and are meant to ease the anxiety resulting from the obsessive thought.  They are compulsions which makes it very difficult not to do them, people with this disorder can feel driven to complete the compulsive acts and distress can quickly amplify if they are unable to do so.  Examples of obsessive thoughts and compulsions include:

  • Fear of germs, dirt, or contamination that results in avoidance and/or compulsive behaviors like frequent hand washing
  • Needing things to be kept orderly and symmetrical or in a specific order or pattern and experiencing pain, stress, or anger when things are out of place
  • Fear of forgetting things like locking the door or turning off the stove that results in checking and rechecking behavior

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms come in three different categories.  The first, intrusive memories include things that are commonly associated with PTSD like flashbacks and nightmares.  The second, avoidance and numbing, includes avoiding thinking about, talking about, or doing anything related to the traumatic event. It can also include avoiding previously enjoyable activities, difficulties with memory and concentration, and “checking out” by retreating to a numb state.  The third, hyper-arousal, includes uncharacteristic irritability and anger, self-destructive behavior, problems sleeping, and being easily startled.

Working Towards Wellness

English: KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea— Airmen ...

Exercise regularly to help maintain physical as well as mental health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This May, join us in celebrating National Mental Health Month by raising awareness about mental health issues and helping everyone understand the benefits of treating mental health conditions.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 out of 4 adults in America suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year.  This means that mental health issues affect us all, either directly and indirectly.  This month, commit to learning more about our country’s mental health challenges and to taking steps in your own life to work towards wellness.

The focus of this year’s campaign is wellness.  Many times, when confronted with mental health conditions, our focus narrows to getting healthy.  While this is an important part of the process, the goal for every American is not only to achieve a healthy mental state, but to maintain that mental health as well.  By shifting the focus from getting better to staying better, the campaign aims to help everyone, even those without mental health issues, understand how important an attitude of wellness is to maintaining both your physical and mental health.

Wellness, like health, can mean different things to different people.  At the core, it is the absence of disease but it is also much more than simply not being sick.  Wellness is about our overall well-being.  It involves more than just our mental health.  It is about achieving a state of health physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.   It is the tools and techniques we develop that help us overcome adversity, manage change, and recover from illnesses of all kinds.  Wellness is about getting healthy and staying that way.

The numbers tell a story that most of us don’t like to hear.  No matter how happy we are, how successful we feel, how much money we make, or how healthy we feel today, we are all at risk of developing a mental health disorder.  While this may be something we think happens to other people, the truth is that is happens to all of us and the best way to safeguard ourselves is to pay attention to our overall well-being.  When we are taking care of ourselves and making sure our most important needs are being met, we are working towards wellness.

The national campaign stresses the following four steps as the key to following your own Pathway to Wellness:

  • Eat a balanced diet filled with healthy food and plenty of water.
  • Exercise regularly to help combat stress and increase resilience.
  • Remember to relax, to laugh, and to let go.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.

In addition to these four steps on the Pathway to Wellness, commit to making your mental health as important as your physical health.  Make regular mental health checkups part of your overall health management plan and make it a habit to monitor your own mental and emotional well-being.

Take time this month to lend your voice to the awareness campaign and encourage everyone in your life to seek their own Pathway to Wellness.