Unmasking Confidence: How Social Skills Camps Empower Girls with Autism

For young girls on the autism spectrum, the world can feel like a kaleidoscope of confusion and contradiction. They possess incredible brilliance, a vibrant tapestry of unique interests and perspectives. Yet, navigating the intricate dance of social interaction often demands a painful sacrifice – masking. They contort their natural expressions, suppress their passions, and mimic neurotypical behaviors, all in an attempt to blend in, to be accepted. This article delves into the intricate world of masking in girls with ASD and shines a light on social skills camps specifically designed for them, spaces where masks fall away and authentic connections bloom.

Beyond the Facade: Understanding the Complexities of Masking

Imagine a young girl whose eyes light up at the mention of constellations, her mind brimming with facts about distant galaxies. But in the schoolyard, she whispers her passion, fearing the teasing gazes of her peers. This is the reality of masking for many girls with ASD. They master the art of camouflaging their autistic traits – stimming behaviors, intense interests, and sensory sensitivities – in an effort to conform to societal expectations.

Why do girls on the autism spectrum mask?

  • Social Survival: They perceive masking as a necessary tool for social survival, a shield against potential rejection and isolation.
  • Internalized Norms: Societal messages that equate “different” with “wrong” fuel their desire to fit in, leading them to internalize neurotypical norms.
  • Emotional Regulation: Masking can be a coping mechanism for managing anxiety and overwhelm in social situations.

But the cost of masking is high. It stifles their authentic selves, fuels anxiety and depression, and hinders their ability to build genuine connections.

A Sanctuary of Acceptance: Where Social Skills Camps Make a Difference

Imagine a space where a girl can openly discuss her fascinations without fear of judgment. Where sensory sensitivities are understood and accommodated, and where friendships blossom based on shared experiences and genuine connection. This is the transformative power of social skills camps designed specifically for teens with ASD.

These camps offer a unique haven:

  • Belonging & Acceptance: Surrounded by peers who share similar experiences and supportive staff, girls shed their masks and embrace their authentic selves. They feel accepted and celebrated for their unique strengths and quirks.
  • Building Bridges of Friendship: The opportunity to connect with other girls who “get it” is invaluable. Camp fosters a sense of belonging and empowers them to navigate the social world with confidence.
  • Tailored Skill Development: Through engaging activities and workshops, girls learn and practice social skills in a safe, supportive environment. They gain confidence in initiating conversations, advocating for their needs, and managing social anxieties.
  • Unlocking Passions & Understanding Sensitivities: Camp activities cater to the unique interests of each girl, providing a platform for exploration and self-discovery. Sensory sensitivities are acknowledged and accommodated, creating a comfortable and inclusive environment.

Check ou this study that helps validate the power of these camps:

These findings underscore the potential of social skills camps to empower young girls with ASD, equipping them with the tools and confidence to navigate social interactions authentically and build fulfilling relationships.

Building a Ripple Effect of Acceptance

Creating a world where girls with ASD can thrive requires a ripple effect of acceptance. Beyond the transformative experiences of camp, their journey needs continued support:

  • Empowering Families: Equipping families with an understanding of masking and its impact empowers them to advocate for their daughters and create supportive home environments.
  • Inclusive Schools: Collaborative efforts between families, educators, and mental health professionals can create inclusive and supportive school environments that celebrate neurodiversity.
  • Community Awareness: Raising awareness about masking in girls with ASD within communities combats stigma, fosters acceptance, and creates opportunities for understanding and inclusion.

Beyond Akeela Camp Empowers Girls to Shine

Imagine a future where young girls with autism, free from the constraints of masking, confidently share their brilliance with the world. You can be part of making this vision a reality. Social Skills and College Transition Camps for Girls with Autism provide transformative experiences that empower these incredible young women to shed their masks and embrace their authentic selves.

Beyond Akeela is more than just a camp; it’s a catalyst for change. With our unique blend of social skills development, college transition preparation, and celebration of individual strengths, we create a ripple effect of empowerment that extends far beyond the campgrounds.

Understanding Non-Verbal Learning Disorder and its Similarities with Autism Spectrum Disorder

At Beyond Akeela, we welcome a neurodivergent population of teens that typically have diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Level 1, ADHD inattentive type, and Non-Verbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). NVLD is not as well-known as some other learning disorders, and its similarities with ASD can sometimes lead to confusion. This page aims to shed light on what NVLD is and how it shares certain characteristics with ASD.

What is NVLD?

Non-Verbal Learning Disorder is a neurological condition that affects cognitive and social skills, with individuals typically struggling in areas related to non-verbal communication, visual-spatial awareness, and motor coordination. Unlike other learning disorders, individuals with NVLD often excel in verbal abilities, displaying strong language skills and a propensity for rote memorization.

Common Traits in Teens with NVLD:

Verbal Abilities: Despite challenges in non-verbal areas, individuals with NVLD often are verbally fluid in conversation. They may possess a rich vocabulary, good verbal memory, and advanced reading abilities.

  • Non-Verbal Communication: Individuals with NVLD may struggle to understand and interpret non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. This can lead to difficulties in social situations and hinder the development of relationships.
  • Spatial and Motor Coordination: NVLD can impact spatial reasoning and fine motor skills. Tasks like organizing a backpack, tying shoelaces, or understanding spatial relationships can be challenging for individuals with NVLD.
  • Executive Functioning: Executive functions, such as planning, organizing, and managing time, may be impaired in individuals with NVLD. This can affect academic performance and daily life tasks.

NVLD and ASD: A Closer Look at Similarities

While NVLD and ASD are distinct neurological conditions, they share certain characteristics that we often see in Beyond Akeela teens.

  • Difficulty with Non-Verbal Communication: Both NVLD and ASD can manifest in challenges related to non-verbal communication. Difficulty interpreting body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice is a shared characteristic.
  • Social Challenges: Both NVLD and ASD can involve difficulties in social interactions. Individuals may struggle to understand social cues, leading to challenges in forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Routine Oriented: Individuals with both NVLD and ASD may exhibit a preference for routine and take time to adapt to unexpected changes to that routine. Typically, previewing changes to routines helps with the transition from one environment to another.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: Teens with ASD & NVLD can both struggle with processing too much sensory stimuli, such as light, sound, or touch. Providing sensory friendly environments can lead to more confident and comfortable teens.

Here are some great resources for teens with NVLD and their families:

Connect with us to discuss whether Beyond Akeela is a good fit for your teen with NVLD!
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Budgeting Tips for Neurodivergent Teens

Budgeting is an independent living skill that is crucial to thrive as a young adult. In addition to building beneficial financial habits, budgeting can help neurodivergent teenagers take responsibility, distinguish between needs and wants, and prepare for emergencies. However, with the constant allure of advertising, we often crave items we do not need or buy things impulsively. Here are some practical tips to help you budget!

Helpful Budgeting Tips

  1. Write Down How Much You Spend
    One of the first steps to successful budgeting is to track your spending. Write down everything you spend your money on. This practice makes you mindful of where your money is going. It’s surprising how small expenses, like vending machines or daily coffee runs, can increase over time. Tracking your expenses helps you identify areas where you can cut back.
  2. Create a Priority List of Expenses
    Start by listing the essential expenses that you need to pay. Rent or housing costs, utility bills, and groceries should be at the top of your list. Prioritizing these necessities ensures that you meet your financial responsibilities.
  3. Do Not Save Your Card Information Online
    To avoid impulsive online purchases, do not save your card information on shopping websites. Having to enter your card details manually can serve as a helpful deterrent and give you extra time to think before making a purchase.
  4. Put Items on a Wishlist for a While
    Similarly, when you want to buy something non-essential, add it to a wishlist and wait for a specific period, like a week or a month. This gives you time to think if the purchase is still appealing. You’ll often find that you no longer want the item as badly as you initially thought.
  5. Give Yourself a “Cushion” for Extra Spending
    Allow yourself some freedom in your budget. Create a set amount extra you can use from your budget each month. For example, you have $50 extra for anything you want each month. This way, you have some room for spontaneity without overspending.
  6. Set Intentional Times to Not Spend Money
    Set specific times when you consciously avoid spending money. For instance, commit to not spending money during certain days of the week except for essential expenses. This can be an excellent way to reset your spending habits and save more.

How we Practice Budgeting at Beyond Akeela

Beyond Akeela recognizes the importance of teaching neurodivergent teens budgeting skills. We have three main ways we support teens in developing these skills.

  1. Curriculum Session on Budgeting
    We offer a structured curriculum session to support teens in understanding the importance of budgeting and providing practical tips on how to create and maintain a budget. This session gamifies budgeting to make it fun and easy to understand. It also provides an overview of basic financial tools (eg. credit & debit cards, bank accounts) teens will encounter as they become more independent managing their money.
  2. Opportunities to Practice Budgeting Independently During Trips
    Trips provide our teens with real-life opportunities to practice budgeting. They will gain hands-on experience making financial decisions and sticking to a budget. Similarly, teens have to make choices about spending on campus, with access to vending machines and other small spending opportunities.
  3. Constant Support and Coaching on Budgeting from Advisors
    Beyond Akeela staff provide continuous support and coaching on budgeting. Whether teens have questions or need guidance, the advisors are ready to assist teens in managing their finances effectively.

Financial literacy and budgeting are undertaught concepts that are important to feel competent in as a young adult. At Beyond Akeela, you can develop essential financial skills while feeling empowered and confident. Connect with us to learn more about how we support neurodivergent teenagers in thriving independently.

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Beyond Akeela Recognized by Spectrum Transition Coaching!

Beyond Akeela was recognized by Beth Felsen of Spectrum Transition Coaching as a top summer program for autistic students transitioning to college. You can read the full article here: “How to Choose a Summer Program for Autistic Students.” The post outlines important considerations for families selecting a summer program for their teen. If you are considering a summer program for your teen, it’s a great article to read!

Mental Health Considerations for Summer Programming

One of our directors, Kevin, was recently quoted in a TeenLife article about summer program considerations for teens with mental health challenges. You can read the full article here: Summer Programs: What Teens with Mental Health Challenges Should Know

Below is the full interview between Kevin and Dr. Eric Endlich, author of the article.

What should teens with anxiety or other mental health challenges keep in mind when selecting a summer program?

The biggest thing we stress to families through our application process is setting their teen up for success by finding the right program fit. It’s important to identify the types of support available to a teen, especially if they are entering a new environment, and assessing if that level of support matches what the teen needs.

For example, do they need a truly “clinical” setting with therapists and licensed counselors on site, or do they need an well-trained adult presence to help guide them to use their coping skills as needed. The last thing any family and program wants is for a teen’s experience at summer program to be cut short. It is an avoidable setback if families and teens have honest conversations about the type of environment a teen needs to be successful away from home.

Additionally, teens must have a sense of agency in the decision making about their summer plans. More than ever, they need to be motivated to be part of the camp community. I find this to be critical to a teen’s success in our programs. Are they excited about the activities, the mission of the program, and the peer group they’ll be with? The more boxes checked, the better outcomes we see from teens at Beyond Akeela.

What should such teens be doing prior to a program to ensure the best outcome?

Preview, preview, preview! I think we all do best when we know what to expect walking into any situation, and this is especially true for neurodivergent teens and those with mental health challenges. We always suggest that teens review the websites on their own so they can get an understanding of what they’ll be doing. Attend any and all orientation or pre-summer gatherings you can! Getting some familiarity with the program leaders and peers a teen will be spending their time makes the transition into camp smoother, and I think that’s often the most challenging part when everything is very new.

It’s also important to create a plan for how teen’s will access mental health support while they’re in a summer program. Is it possible to continue doing sessions with their therapist while they’re away at the program? We’re seeing more families opt for this and find it helpful for those teens. Do they know who they will go to for adult support when they need it?

Lastly, try to gain an understanding of how the days and schedule will flow at camp. Identify times that may be challenging ahead of time so teens can think through self-care plans for those moments. Similarly, identify the times in the schedule where teens have more free time or unstructured time, and come up with plans for how they can use that effectively to manage their mental health.

How can summer programs benefit teens with mental health challenges?

Summer programs represent a great opportunity for teens to continue working toward their readiness for college, in a very different setting than high school. They are a chance to meet and build relationships with new peers who have similar yet different life experiences. I think an often overlooked part of college readiness is how a teen can form a social community for themselves. Whether it’s through clubs, housing, or other groups on campus, social communities and connections give teens a larger network of support to help them navigate the challenges of college. More practice building these communities, especially for neurodivergent teens with mental health challenges, is incredibly valuable.

Summer programs also provide opportunities for teens to practice managing their mental health outside of their typical (and often highly structured) high school environment. Whether it’s an away from home setting or day program, there will be some level of unfamiliarity which is great practice for managing mental health challenges in the VERY new setting of college. Often this results in a confidence boost for teens and their families, as they’ve conquered a stepping stone on their path to college, and have more confidence in their ability to succeed in the college setting after graduation.

Nurturing Growth: Empowering Teenage Girls with Autism through Summer Programs

Navigating adolescence can be a challenging journey for any teenager. For many teenage girls with autism (ASD), the path may be particularly intricate. In this blog we explore the unique challenges faced by teenage girls with ASD. Further, we shed light on the importance of finding suitable summer programs tailored to support their social development.

Late ASD Diagnosis in Teenage Girls

Traditionally, autism has been associated with boys, leading to girls frequently being overlooked or misdiagnosed. One of the striking aspects of autism is the often delayed diagnosis in teenage girls. The reasons behind this phenomenon are multifaceted. They contribute to a lack of understanding of the differences between how autism typically affects males and females.

Autism Diagnosis Criteria

The standard criteria for autism was initially established in a way that matches how boys with autism more commonly present. At a younger age, this includes repetitive and restricted behaviors, in addition to social communication challenges. Studies have shown that girls with autism are less likely to present with noticeable repetitive and restricted behaviors, however this is not accounted for in the diagnosis criteria.

Social Norms and Masking

Social expectations also play a role, as societal norms often impose a set of predefined behaviors and characteristics for girls. Consequently, girls with autism may conform to these expectations. They are often more adept at masking their difficulties in social interactions and communication. The ability to not show their challenges, however, doesn’t diminish how autism affects their social well-being. In fact, this can lead to mental health challenges for girls, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. These mental health disorders may be misdiagnosed in girls, while an ASD diagnosis is missed.

A missed ASD diagnosis can result in fewer opportunities for services that would support social development in teenage girls. Summer camp programs are an effective way to boost the social confidence and self-esteem of teenage girls with autism.

How Summer Programs Support Teenage Girls with Autism

Recognizing the unique needs of teenage girls with autism is the first step towards providing them with the support and opportunities they deserve. Summer programs tailored to the specific challenges faced by girls on the spectrum can be instrumental in fostering their growth and development.

Community Support

Everyone benefits from a sense of belonging and community. For teenage girls with autism this is even more important. They often mask to fit in with peers at school but have not had a “true” community of similarly neurodivergent peers to build meaningful connections with. Finding a true peer community for the first time can be life-changing for teenagers and summer programs present an opportunity to find that without the need to mask. Summer programs create an environment where participants can connect with others who share similar experiences, providing a valuable support network that extends beyond the program itself.

Social Skill Development

Specialized summer camps like Beyond Akeela provide structured and scaffolded programs to develop social skills, providing a supportive environment where participants can practice communication, collaboration, and relationship-building. Having true peers to practice these skills with is critical to their social development.

Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

Adolescence can be a tumultuous time for anyone, and girls with autism may face additional challenges related to self-esteem and confidence. Summer programs that intentionally empower participants and create successful experiences foster a sense of accomplishment and reinforce positive self-perception.

At Beyond Akeela, we’re proud to have a gender-inclusive community that supports teenage boys, girls, and teens who do not identify with the traditional gender binary. Girls at Beyond Akeela form a community with peers similar to themselves, and are empowered to thrive socially without masking. Girls build essential skills and forge connections that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Want to learn more about autism in teenage girls? Here’s a great article: Why Many Autistic Girls Are Overlooked

Beyond Akeela is here here to help your daughter launch toward social success!

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Making the Most of Winter Break: Transitioning from High School to College for Teens on the Autism Spectrum

Embracing Transition During Winter Break

Winter break signifies more than just a hiatus from high school; for teenagers on the autism spectrum preparing for the transition to college, it’s an opportunity to continue working toward college readiness. Parents/guardians play a crucial role in supporting their teens during this change in routine, a major shift from their structured days of school. In this article, we explore winter activities and reading recommendations that not only provide enjoyment but also assist in the preparation for the college journey.

Winter Activities to Foster a Growth Mindset

College Campus Visits: A Peek into the Future
Winter break is an ideal time for parents and teens to explore nearby college campuses. Familiarizing your teen with the layout, facilities, and atmosphere can help alleviate anxiety about the upcoming transition. Scheduled visits and guided tours allow your teen to envision themselves in a college environment.

Resume Building and Skill Development: Winter Volunteer & Job Opportunities
Encourage your teenager to pursue winter volunteer or seasonal job opportunities. Not only do these experiences contribute to resume building, but they also are a great way to start building job skills that will translate to other positions in the future. Seek out organizations or businesses that align with your teen’s interests and aspirations.

Affinity-Based Social Gatherings: College-Ready Communication
Explore social gathering opportunities in your community tailored for young adults on the autism spectrum, or that align with specific interests of your teen. Without academic and the structured school schedule, this is an ideal time to explore new social avenues for your teen to connect with to hopefully continue beyond the winter break.

Reading Recommendations for College Transition

7 Things Students with Disabilities Should Do When Starting College” by Dr. Eric Endlich
This article provides tips for teens with autism and other learning disabilities for making a smooth college transition. Regardless of where your teen is at in their college transition journey, these tips will help them look forward to what will be expected of them in college, and how they can start preparing for college life now.

How to Navigate College as a Neurodivergent Student by Sarah Wood, US News
This article helps break down some of the major differences in academic and social life between high school and college. Similar to the article above, it provides tips to help students prepare for their upcoming transition.

Taking Flight: The Guide to College for Diverse Learners and Non-Traditional Students by Dr. Perry LaRoque
This book explores college topics like roommate relationships, having fun, accessing support in college, and more. It does so through stories, humor, frank advice, and years of expertise, with a relatable tone.

Tips for Parents: Navigating the Transition Together

Open Communication Lines: Foster Honest Discussions
Encourage open conversations with your teen about their expectations and concerns regarding college. Actively listen and validate their feelings, creating a supportive environment where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

Gradual Independence: Encourage Self-Advocacy
Gradually empower your teen to take charge of aspects of their life, from managing their schedule to advocating for their needs. This fosters independence and equips them with the skills necessary for navigating college life.

Talk About Summer: Plan Ahead
Sure, we’re a little biased! Utilizing the summer effectively is a great way to set your teen up for success in college. Summer college readiness programs, jobs, and volunteer opportunities are all great ways to keep your teen engaged over the summer in a meaningful AND fun way.

Form and Connect with a Transition Team: Explore Resources
Build a team around your teen as they plan for their college transition. Utilize school professionals and others in your teen’s life who can support their college transition. Similarly, seek out friends and relatives who may be resourceful. There is a lot to navigate for neurodivergent teens in college. The more people supporting them, the better!

A Winter Break of Preparation and Connection

Winter break serves as a valuable opportunity for parents and teens on the autism spectrum to prepare for the transition to college. Engaging in purposeful activities, exploring reading materials, and maintaining open communication lay the foundation for a successful journey ahead. As you navigate this winter break together, embrace the opportunities for growth, connection, and the exciting transition that awaits your teen.

How Beyond Akeela Empowers Neurodivergent Teens to Boost Self-Advocacy Skills

Self-advocacy is a crucial element of post-secondary success. The ability to express our needs not only boosts confidence but also nurtures independence and effective problem-solving. One prominent framework for understanding self-advocacy is David Test’s model, which divides self-advocacy into three key components: knowledge of rights, knowledge of self, and effective communication. Let’s dive into why each of these facets matters and how we nurture them at camp.

Knowledge of Rights

Accessing learning accommodations requires neurodivergent students to understand what type of accommodations they benefit from. Confidence in understanding academic rights in and out of the classroom makes it easier to advocate for yourself when your requested accommodations are not met appropriately.
How we cultivate this at camp:
We offer sessions with Curry College’s faculty on accessing college accommodations and knowing your rights. These sessions help teens proactively create a structured plan to access accommodations in their post-secondary journeys.

Knowledge of Self

An important part of building and maintaining relationships is understanding physical and emotional boundaries with different people we interact with. Neurodivergent teens are faced with many new relationships to navigate in college, with peers and faculty/staff. Recognizing personal preferences and boundaries, such as requiring a small night lamp to sleep or quiet time in the dormitory during certain hours, empowers teens to advocate proactively.
How we cultivate this at camp:
We provide a form before camp on living preferences so campers can start reflecting on their living preferences. During camp, we offer real-time feedback and check-ins to help campers express their needs. For example, if we notice a camper feeling overwhelmed during a long drive, we’ll ask, “Do you often feel like that on lengthy trips?” This supports our teens in identifying situations that may feel overwhelming for them and planning what they need to feel comfortable.


Communication as it relates to self-advocacy can be broken down into two components. First, teens must identify the right person to approach with their concern or question. Second, they need to clearly and appropriately articulate the solution or accommodation required.
How we cultivate this at camp:
We guide our teens in identifying the people to seek support from and provide opportunities for them to practice communicating their needs. Suppose a teen, who happens to be a vegetarian, notices the dining hall does not have a vegetarian protein option they usually prefer. In such a scenario, we help them brainstorm food alternatives they’d enjoy and identify the dining staff member to approach. We encourage them to take the initiative in communicating their needs with the dining staff, giving them the practice they need to become confident self-advocates.

Hear what our teens from this summer have to say:

“I feel more confident and responsible.”
“I learned what roommate situation I would like to be in.”
“I learned what I needed to prepare for my college classes.”

Self-advocacy is more than just a skill; it’s a confidence builder and a pathway to independence. It also requires a lot of practice to master. At Beyond Akeela we aim to equip neurodivergent teens with the skills they need to thrive in their post-secondary lives.

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Building a Consistent Exercise Routine in College

One of our goals at Beyond Akeela is to help teens develop a comfortable exercise routine into their lives, as it is known to have well documented physical AND mental health benefits for us. While teens at Beyond Akeela are not going through strict weight training or other strenuous exercise, they are practicing routines that they can replicate in college that will support a more successful college transition. Below are some tips for how to implement a consistent routine in your college life.

When I was in college, I recognized all the incredible benefits of staying active, and I knew I’d feel better if I incorporated exercise into my life. Yet, I needed help to prioritize exercise and stick to a routine. There always seemed to be something else demanding my attention, or I simply felt too tired to hit the gym. As I navigated this journey, I discovered how to create and stick to an exercise routine. In this blog, I’ll share seven tips that have not only helped me overcome the obstacles to exercising but have also guided me in staying committed to a regular fitness routine.

1. Find a Workout You Enjoy

Finding a workout you genuinely enjoy is the key to a successful exercise routine. There’s no “best” workout. The best exercise for you is the one you’ll stick with consistently. Choose an activity that brings you joy, whether it’s dancing, outdoor cycling, nature walks, martial arts, or swimming.

2. Start Small and Gradually Increase Intensity

When you’re motivated to begin a new workout routine, diving into intense workouts immediately is tempting. However, this can lead to muscle soreness and overtraining. Start with a routine that’s manageable and easy to follow. As your body adapts, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. This approach ensures long-term sustainability.

3. Plan Your Workouts

Creating a plan helps you build consistency. It also reduces the decisions you must make when working out. You can list the days and times you will work out and put them on your calendar. You can also plan what you will do during your workout by either following a specific program or writing down the exercises you will do before you exercise. There are numerous resources and workouts available online.

4. Create an Energizing Playlist

Music remarkably influences your motivation during workouts. Create a playlist with upbeat, energizing songs that inspire you to move. The right music can boost your enthusiasm and help you power through your exercise sessions.

5. Seek Support and Guidance

Starting your exercise journey with professional guidance can be incredibly effective. Working with a trainer offers valuable insights and a structured plan tailored to your needs. Trainers can also help prevent overtraining and reduce the risk of injuries.

If a personal trainer is not accessible, consider joining group classes. Group workouts provide social interaction, opportunities to learn new skills from trained professionals, and accountability through class schedules and cancellation policies.

6. Have a Clear Intention

Why do you want to exercise and lead a healthier life? Having a strong personal reason and narrative can significantly boost your motivation. Take time to define your “why,” write it down, and refer to it when you need a motivational boost. Connecting with your intention will help you stay committed to your exercise routine.

7. Incorporate Non-Exercise Physical Activity

Research shows that non-exercise physical activities contribute significantly to an active lifestyle. Try to incorporate movement where you can. Simple habits like walking for 5-10 minutes after each meal, taking the stairs, or riding your bike to class can make a significant difference.

These tips can help you build a consistent exercise routine. While working on building your exercise routine, it is essential to be mindful of your self-talk and overall well-being. Please exercise at your own pace and try not to compare where you are with anyone else. We all have our journey, and the purpose of building an exercise routine is to support you in living a happier life. Exercise is not about what you can’t do but a celebration of what your body can do.

Working Through Repeated Negative Thoughts

During our coaching conversations this summer, we had several campers ask us: “How do I stop my cycle of negative thoughts?” We get it – we’ve all been there, feeling trapped in a swirl of negativity. So, in this blog post, let’s dive into some common challenges we’ve talked about at camp and explore some strategies to dial down or even stop negative thoughts.

Challenge 1: Self-Judgment and Meta-Thoughts

Sometimes, we’re way too hard on ourselves when we feel down. We think that we’re not allowed to feel sad or angry. Plus, we even get upset about being upset – stacking emotions on emotions!

What could I do?
Your feelings are 100% valid. Emotions are your mind’s way of altering you to something important. No matter how long you have been working on coping with negative thoughts, there are going to be situations that come up that you cannot control or that makes you feel upset or think a negative thought. While it’s awesome to want to be your best self, it’s just as important to accept where you are right now. To tackle self-judgment, try making a little script to repeat to yourself. I like saying, “I’m feeling [emotion], and that’s completely fine. Everyone feels this way sometimes. Can I be kind to myself?”

Challenge 2: Feeling Fake When Trying to Stay Positive

We’ve all heard the advice to think positive thoughts when we’re feeling low, but sometimes, it feels fake because our emotions and reality don’t match.

What could I do?
Instead of forcing positivity, take a breath and don’t rush yourself. Ask, “What’s one thing that I could do that would make me feel slightly better?” For example: what is something that I could do that would make me feel frustrated instead of angry?

Challenge 3: The Never-Ending Loop of Negative Thoughts

Ever felt like you’re stuck in a never-ending thought loop, feeling like, “I can’t stop this!”?

What could I do?
Engage in a different activity you enjoy. Plan this activity when you’re feeling calm, so it’s ready when you need it. You can have a reminder of what this activity is in your room or with you. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or trusted adult for help – leaning on your community can be immensely helpful when we feel like we cannot stop our cycles of thought.

Working through these patterns takes time. When you’re feeling calm, praise yourself for the efforts you’re making to feel better. Reflect on your wins and notice how you’re dealing with challenging situations differently than before. You’re not alone, and you can absolutely develop the skills to work through big emotions.

***Note: The challenges and solutions explored here are based on conversations with our teens and exploring what strategies worked for them. It is not intended to be therapeutic advice.

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