library teen photo

Are you a teen or young adult lost in your work?

I feel you.

I think I may have ADD, however I have always compensated by completing my work AHEAD OF TIME so as to minimize anxiety.  This works for me.  It could work for you too!  I am so ahead of schedule that I often buy birthday presents months in advance and then lose them!

Still.  I talk with teens and young adults all the time who say they are so stuck, so paralyzed, so depressed, so behind, that they have simply given up.  As I always say, avoidance leads to more avoidance.  So what do you do?

  1. Fake it til you make it.  That means phone it in, do a crappy paper, do half, I don’t care, just get something going to start the effort.  Teachers and bosses will appreciate it if you at least TRY.
  2. Do it anyway.  This means even though I’m a therapist, trained to understand feelings and their profound importance in our lives, I still have to do things I don’t want to do, including denying feelings.  Sometimes you don’t want to work because you feel bad.  Do it anyway.  By the way, this is DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy).  It’s called tolerating frustration and distress.  You have to keep your emotions at bay sometimes in order to get things done.
    1. The “acceptance” strategies have to do with the ability to accept non-judgmentally yourself and the current situation. The assumption behind these skills is that pain and distress are a part of life and that avoiding and denying this fact leads to increased pain and suffering. The “crisis survival” strategies focus on finding ways to survive and tolerate the moment without engaging in problem behaviors.
  3. Go to a place of no distractions.  You are at college for one reason and one reason only.  Your parents are paying a fortune for you to be there. VISIT THE LIBRARY.  I have a patient who refuses to go out of her room.  She wont go to the library or cafe or study room because of social anxiety.  I understand.  But libraries can be SO NICE…  Try it.
  4. It doesn’t matter what you look like.  If you are trying to do work, who cares if you are dressed up or down or in-between.  No one is judging you for getting your work done or how you look.  Save that for later.  Work first, then play.  Always do your work first.  Get it over with.  Then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.  80% of college is just showing up.  The other 20% is learning the bureaucracy!
  5. You don’t have to be PERFECT – you are there to learn.  Making mistakes is part of learning.  This is CBT by the way.  Perfectionism is a real time suck.  If you don’t make mistakes in college you are not learning.  This is the only time in your life when mistakes are good.  Enjoy the process!
    1. Extend kindness to yourself: If your perfectionism is the result of a harsh internal critic, practice balancing the critic with a kinder, gentler voice. Give yourself permission to be “good enough.” Be warm toward yourself when you falter. If you learn to make mistakes less unpleasant by sparing yourself all of the negative self-talk, you may find they’re easier to handle. 

So, if you’re reading this correctly it’s true: you have to just do it – like the Nike commercial.  Think and visualize how happy you will feel after.  Reward yourself.  The game of life requires time, patience and effort.  There’s no way around it.