Welcome to Teen Wellness


Welcome to the Teen Wellness site.  This has been designed as an educational resource for parents and students regarding teen issues.  It was actually developed by a teen support group on campus.  We hope to continue to expand this site and update it frequently as new information is discovered.   Check out our resource links on the right for information on various topics.  Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns at kparise@brophyprep.org or call me at (602) 264-5291 ext. 6292.

Coping with Holiday Stress

As we await the celebration of the birth of our Savior, the world is alive with the Spirit and the magic of this event. Sometimes, though, the pressure to be joyful can be overwhelming, especially for those who have lost someone special in their lives.

Here are a few ways to make the holidays a bit more manageable…

  • Relax into what is rather how you think things should be.
  • Abandon perfection – it is so overrated.
  • Slow down and take care of yourself.
  • Feel what you are feeling. The pressure to be happy can be overwhelming.
  • Find gratitude for what is right in the world versus what is wrong.
  • Volunteer to help others less fortunate. Nothing makes us feel better.

And always, always remember to see God in all things. He is always with us, even when we feel alone.


Please feel free to peruse the attached articles regarding grief during the holiday season. May you find comfort in the season, joy in your traditions, and love in your families.





Thoughts on Bullying

Bullying is never okay. The truth is there is never a reason to be cruel and there is no such thing as “innocent bystanders.” “Bullying is contempt without feeling bad about it,” says Barbara Coloroso. (Check out her website: kidsareworthit.com.)

It takes courage to stand up to a bully but we need to, both in our homes and on our campus. I attended a lecture a few years ago by Ms. Coloroso, a former Franciscan nun who is now married with three kids. She stated, “I miss the days when comedy wasn’t at the cost of someone else’s pain.”

Here at Brophy we want to create a deeply caring environment and I believe we have. We understand that you may not like everyone, but you do have to honor their humanity. In the book Sway, the author simplifies this concept for us: do good because good is good to do. Research has shown that in MRIs, random acts of kindness light up the frontal lobe of the brain. When we take the “what is in it for me” approach, that positivity in our brain is non-existent.

We must cultivate character and put the Jesuit precepts of the Grad at Grad in motion. There may be things you don’t like about people, but you still must care for them. Deep caring is the antithesis of bullying.

Think about it. We are hard-wired to connect. Even in a nursery, when one baby cries they all cry.  We need to create a circle of caring by speaking up and modeling good behavior. Stand up against injustice. Watch for gossip, rumors, and especially exclusion, and stand against it.

Remember to have internet manners and internet safety. Have the courage to block people or ask them to take you off their list if they are online bullies. Also, remember that before you speak, ask yourself these things: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Our words need to pass through these three gates.

Nothing justifies being mean. What happens if someone you know is bullied? Tell them you believe them, you hear them, and remind them they are not alone. Remind them, also, that this is not their fault. Empower them with strong verbal responses, when necessary, and remind them that not engaging may sometimes be the better choice. Teach them good strong posture, including shoulders back, head high.

Take a look at these videos (links below), and check out the movie, Bullied.

Take a Stand – Anti Bullying Video

2015 Anti-Bullying Video

Practice Gratitude

Writing down three things you are grateful for each day can change your life. Just start with three things. We talk all the time about how important it is to be grateful. You may or may not have known it has physical and emotional benefits as well.

Gratitude boosts your energy levels, makes you healthier, improves your relationships, and makes you an all-around nicer person. Dr. Robert Emmons, the author of Gratitude Works, suggests having a full-on gratitude ritual. In his studies, subjects who wrote just one thing down a day reported being 25% happier for six months after doing this practice for only three weeks. It works! The University of Pennsylvania reported a significant drop in depression after subjects wrote letters of gratitude. Their overall symptoms remained significantly lower for a full month.

Dr. Emmons wrote an article for the Huffington Post, describing simple ways to live a grateful life:

  1. Spend time with loved ones.
  2. Don’t avoid the negative.
  3. Know the value of the little things.
  4. Get moving.
  5. Mindfully use social media.

Below are a number of links you can check out to learn more about focusing on gratitude and making it a part of your daily life.

David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful/Ted Talk

Louis Schwartzberg: Gratitude/Ted Talk

Dr. Robert Emmons: What Good Is Gratitude?

Gratitude Revealed

Gratitude Journals for iPhone or IPad

The Gratitude Jar

Dealing with Anxiety

We all know the expression, “the magic happens outside of your comfort zone.”  Easy to say unless you are stuck in a pattern of avoidance. Anxiety can create a vicious cycle where physical symptoms intensify, with escape or avoidance creating short term relief but ultimately leading to more long term issues such as anxiety, as well as more worry and loss of confidence. It can show up as a panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or social anxiety.
As a counseling department, we have seen an increase in these issues over the years. I don’t recall life being this complicated when I was young (such a long time ago!). Perfectionism takes the lead lately as a manifestation of anxiety. When did we begin to think we had to be perfect?  We all know that is an unattainable goal.
What is anxiety? It is a biological response to fear which triggers the flight or fight response. It can be modified by proper sleep, exercise, and diet. Planning is infinitely helpful, particularly in the evening.
How can you recognize anxiety? Look for thinking mistakes such as using words like nothing, everything, always, and never. You might notice thinking errors such as black-and-white thinking or catastrophizing. Watch for the use of substances as a way to self-medicate. Oftentimes, anxiety shows up at school. Watch for frequent visits to the counselor’s office, missing or incomplete work, or a lack of participation in the classroom.
How can you help? Encourage brave behavior! Diminish or even eliminate avoidance by facing fears. If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. Remember that anxiety is uncomfortable, not dangerous. Learn to tolerate it. It is like anything else, the more you practice, the easier it gets.  Identify the sources of stress and reduce them. Learn to be assertive. Establish realistic short and long term goals.
Sometimes medication is needed but keep in mind that pharmacological treatment is slow.  Results occur over time and are sometimes as difficult as changing the direction of an ocean liner. Keep in mind that results cannot be achieved without behavioral changes.
It’s not about feeling better, it’s about getting better at feeling. I have a group on campus that meets once a week to work on coping skills. Please contact me if help is needed. I can be reached at kparise@brophyprep.org, or at (602) 264-5291, extension 6292.


The Importance of Sleep

It is a proven fact that a sleep deficit has dangerous implications to your brain. Sleeping less than seven hours a night can contribute to cognitive decline and memory issues. According to Safwan Badr, the past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep should be thought of as “one of the components of a three-legged stool of wellness: nutrition, exercise, and sleep.” The three are synergistic: it is hard to lose weight if you are sleep deprived and hard to exercise if you are tired.

It is recommended that teens need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Why? When we are sleeping, our brains are working overtime clearing out toxins via the glymphatic system. Studies have shown that chemicals utilized in REM sleep are critical for repairing the body, especially the brain. Consider all of the stimuli you are exposed to throughout the course of a day. During sleep, that information is categorized much as it would be in a library. Sleep also replenishes the energy in brain cells. New research shows that a significant function of sleep is to weed out less important items learned every day.

Anne Wheaton, a CDC epidemiologist, stresses that people don’t make it a priority. Many people think taking time to get sufficient sleep is being lazy and a waste of time, but they could be performing much better if they were well-rested, she says. A good night’s sleep truly makes each day seem brighter. We all know that we tend to be grumpier and have trouble concentrating when we are not rested. There are also physical problems that can be caused from sleep loss. Sleep deprivation triggers cortisol which affects insulin and contributes to weight gain and insulin resistance. That is why oftentimes we crave sweets and carbohydrates when we are fatigued.

For those attempting to get more sleep, but plagued by insomnia, finding the cause can be challenging. Insomnia can be caused by stress or anxiety, depression, inadequate nutrition, or inactivity. Should you need tips on dealing with insomnia, please contact me.

Here are some strategies to promote healthy sleep:

  • Exercise at least four times a week.
  • Make sure you are eating a well-balanced meal and consider taking a multivitamin.
  • Create a routine before going to bed (music, reading, etc.). Calming foods are nuts, whole grains, and milk products.

I recommend this Ted Talk: “Why Do We Sleep” with Russell Foster.


What Is Stress?

We often hear the word stress and sometimes it is misunderstood. We need a little bit of tension to get out of bed every day to tackle the work ahead of us. That is ‘eustress’ or good stress. The concern is when that eustress or tension turns into distress. When it does, it becomes a biochemical response which mimics a survival instinct. This causes a waterfall of cortisol which can impede learning by impairing memory (brain fog), causing fatigue, future colds, sleep issues, weight problems (either overweight or underweight), and an inability to concentrate.

So what is a mother (or father) to do? The best way to help our son cope with stressful events is to stay calm yourself. Our children pick up on our anxiety, which can make them anxious as well.

The signs and symptoms of stress:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger
  • Restlessness
  • Worry
  • Hyperactivity
  • Physical complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches

Stress management

  • Monitor mood and food. The gut produces two-thirds of the body’s serotonin (the calming brain chemical) which comes from protein-rich foods.
  • Encourage daily exercise.
  • Reassure them that what they are feeling is normal.
  • Don’t forget about the power of prayer!
  • Laugh often.
  • Encourage journaling before bed.

Sometimes stressful times can be an opportunity to build coping strategies. If symptoms of stress persist for several weeks or interfere with your child’s functioning, give me a call. I can be reached at (602) 264-5291, ext. 6292.

For Dyslexics, A Font And A Dictionary That Are Meant To Help : The Two-Way : NPR

A designer who has dyslexia has created a font to help dyslexic readers navigate text, designing letters in a way that avoids confusion and adds clarity. And in England, two researchers are compiling a dictionary that favors meaning over alphabetical order.


How Does the Teenage Brain Work?

Young minds are often portrayed as stews of hormones and impulse; but the decisions they make are often deeply rational and deserving of greater consideration.

Recent studies reveal that teenagers usually have awareness of the risks of potentially dangerous behaviors. As teens, we are often not oblivious to the negative consequences of our actions. Instead, even though the negative consequences are fully known, we place more emphasis on the potential positive aspects of an experience: the thrill, the shared experience, the fun, the excitement of breaking the rules. That emphasis on the positive, we now know, is a result of shifts in the brain’s structure and function during the adolescent period.

The brain is a collection of cells that communicate with one another using chemicals called neurotransmitters. During adolescence there is an increase in the activity of the neural circuits using dopamine, a neurotransmitter central in creating our drive for reward.

Starting in early adolescence and peaking midway through, this enhanced dopamine release causes adolescents to gravitate toward thrilling experiences and exhilarating sensations. Research even suggests that the baseline level of dopamine is lower—but its release in response to experience is higher—which can explain why teens may report a feeling of being “bored” unless they are engaging in some stimulating and novel activities.

Please follow the link below to read the rest of this article on how teenagers come to make decisions, and also to find a link to the book this article is based on.