Annihilating Modern Adolescent Anxiety

If you are the parent of a teen who over-thinks, over-worries and makes themselves anxious, this is for you! 

Does this describe your adolescent son or daughter? If so, consider what I am offering here both as insights and to directly help.

Anxious adolescents are often difficult to effectively help. Often the most they get is help coping with their anxiety so they can manage living with it. Many are already managing it “on their own” by self-medicating (like with weed or Netflix binges or video games) or just avoiding risks all together. 

Just living with them can be challenging as they drag everyone in the home down with them as they go through their emotional tornadoes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I am having remarkable success now helping teens overcome their anxiety, by attacking it at the source and adding in essential missing pieces. 

NOTE: This is not about those who suffer from severe Clinical Anxiety which 
is a mental illness medical condition that a small percentage of humans 
suffer from. That often needs clinical treatment and medication to help 
them stabilize. 

Rather this is about those who suffer from what I call Modern Adolescent Anxiety™: 

This is the kind of anxiety fundamentally brought on by living in a culture that sends constant fear based messages about how due to scarcity and competition, survival and future success depends on being the best or near the top at everything they do or must do in almost every aspect of life, and teaches very little about how real personal and professional happiness, satisfaction and success is actually obtained. 

Our competitive schooling instills this message.. . Social media makes it look like everyone else has more of it than them… Well intentioned parents inadvertently reinforce this every time they compare their kids to someone else or some ideal standard that is out there… The media contributes every time it talks about how bad things are or how amazing things are but only for those who have status and tons of money… and I can go on. 

These fear and scarcity messages are so pervasive that they have become ubiquitous.

Few people seem to fully appreciate the link between those inhibiting messages, and the magnitude of anxiety it is generating in our youth.

There is little attention paid to the over-stimulated imbalanced impact this has on the sympathetic nervous system, essentially leaving these kids to be living a disproportionate amount of their lives in “fight or flight mode” even when no real danger is present. 

The toll this takes is immense – and it is not sustainable without great consequence. 

 I hope this blog helps change that. 

Every adolescent I’ve worked with who struggles with this Modern Adolescent Anxiety™, shares three things in common:

1: They are “Over Thinkers” – Often their minds are racing so fast with thoughts about what could go wrong, that it is nearly impossible for them to quiet their minds or think rationally.

2: They feel inordinate pressure to get everything right or perfect or successful the first time, thus they are terrified of even partial failure. This is because they often believe there is little to no margin for error in life.

3: They orient from Fear, instead of towards Adventure: i.e. They think their future beyond childhood is something to be scared of versus believing the future is an adventure to look forward to. 

This anxiety can generalize across many areas of their lives or be context specific: e.g. It only happens about test taking in school or it only happens in social settings with new people where they are worried that they won’t be entertaining or interesting enough (as if meeting a new potential friend is an audition or performance where they only get one chance) or where they are so sensitive to failing that they will only do things they know they can be “good” at and “look good” in doing, etc. 

Either way, it is anywhere from annoying to psychologically paralyzing for the teen. 

25 years and over 50,000+ hours of experience helping adolescents grow into thriving adults, has taught me three more things about this current trend:

1: Those who suffer from Modern Adolescent Anxiety, rarely respond well to just rationalizing and logic. 

2: Modern Anxious teens, tend to also become cynical about many things. Cynicism is seductive and a bottomless pit.

3: They often become either frustrated or angry at the world/system for being so messed up, and/or frustrated with themselves for not being able to easily do what seems to come easier to others. 

For some this is motivating. For most though it feeds their stress and makes things worse.

The combination of these things makes it challenging to help them “un-anxious” themselves! 

As I stated earlier, conventional interventions tend to focus at best on offering “coping strategies” so they can at least “manage” it. Something is better than nothing, for sure. 

I have developed a very different way of addressing modern anxiety in youth, and it is working and accomplishing far more than that! 

I am both aggressively attacking the very root causes of it and very subtly, artfully destabilizing the grounds upon which it is built, replacing this with a much richer, more compelling mindset and narrative. 

The results are pretty amazing!

 When hesitation, fear and doubt get replaced with confidence, courage, direction and trust in themselves and life, they come back to life and finally really start living. 

It’s magical to watch and a privilege to be part of their journey.

Earlier today I had a skype call with a 22 year old college senior who, when I met him a year and half ago, was mired in insecurity and anxiety. 

He felt lost. He compared himself constantly to others who seemed better off than him. He was having trouble sleeping. He had broken out in acne and hives. He was calling home multiple times per week, sometimes in tears.

A year later he is thriving. 

He has a fantastic girlfriend, soaring confidence and is completely okay with doing the work to venture into the unknown as he finds his way into a career track that he is fascinated by, even though it is a career he must create, not a job he can secure.

No anxiety whatsoever, just discipline, patience, direction and readiness. 

These results are typical. That’s why I can be so bold as to write this. 

And it never gets old to witness the transformation from Modern Anxious Adolescent to thriving young adult. 

Do you have a teen or young adult in your life who fits the profile I described above? Bright but often over-thinking things… feeling overwhelmed by fear of failing (or of rejection) … hesitant, even fearful, about the future… 

If so, what I offer may be the game-changer you have been searching for.

If you want to discuss this further, contact me. 

I will schedule a no-cost 30 minute phone consultation with you.

As always, I hope you find these insights helpful. 


1: This is NOT treatment for a serious mental illness. There are cases where medication and/or clinical psychological treatment is necessary. What I am referring to as “Modern Adolescent Anxiety” is something very different. We can discuss and determine if this is appropriate for you

2: This is NOT a ‘quick fix” but it is an effective one that works and sustains. It is likely a 6 to 12 month engagement.


The New College Relationship Phenomena & Why You Should Be Paying Attention

Why Are So Many College Freshman Trying To Keep Their High School Relationship Going?

As a parent, you probably knew people who dated in high school back when we came of age in the 70s and 80s,  then tried to make it work when they went off to college. It typically lasted until Thanksgiving Break. By that point, the distance, difficulty and sheer desire to just be somewhere new would intervene and most of these relationships would end. Those that lasted beyond that at most made it to spring time.

After all, how many people do you know who wound up marrying their high school sweetheart? Very very few…!

My wife’s Grandparents met in high school, married and stayed together for 70 years… of course they met in 1920 and back then every one was getting married and settling down by the time they were in the 20s. They met in Chicago, married in Chicago and stayed in Chicago their whole lives. It’s what people did back then.

Not too deep down, we all knew when we were teens that while young love and first love was intense, it was also not going to last forever. 

Something has shifted amongst today’s teens. An astounding number of them are desperately  trying to stay together in long distance relationships when they go off to college. They do this in spite of all the discouragement and advice they are receiving not to do it.

Why then are such as astounding number of today’s high school graduates trying to defy the odds and make their high school relationship work even though it is long distance and even though the odds are stacked against it?

In the last year or two,  this has literally become one of the most common topics of discussion I am having with high school  graduates turned college freshman… I had two more such conversations just this week!

It was always something that might come up in my work with this age group, but not with the frequency and intensity that it does now… nowhere near!

As my mentor and colleague Joseph Riggio said “See it once, you notice it. See it twice, pay attention. See it a third time, it’s a pattern.”  And I would add in now that I am hearing this for more like the 30th time:


And it sucks.

  • It sucks tons of time and attention away from just being able to be in this new place. The daily FaceTime and texting alone can literally take hours a day of their time and attention away from being present in this new place.
  • It sucks tons of emotional energy out as they go on this intense roller coaster of what happens when they are apart and from seeing each other’s Instagram and snapchat stories, wondering who they are with, jealously wondering if other guys or girls are flirting with them, insecurely worried their partner will find someone new or is having so much fun at their new school that they’d rather be free from a relationship.
  • It makes the contrast of the challenge of leaving home even more intense because they go back and forth between the comfort of the familiar and known vs the discomfort of the unfamiliar. Many times now I hear stories of this leading to scheduling weekend trips to leave their school and go see their girlfriend or boyfriend, and even wanting to leave their college all together to go transfer there or be closer.
  • They are typically making the biggest mistake people make: Making the journey of life about staying in the comfortable familiar, rather than stepping fully into the journey of their lives,  even it when it demands they leave behind what is comfortable and known.
Why Are They Holding On Even Though Long Distance Sucks?

I’ve thought a lot about this and have come to several conclusions:

  1. The pervasive ease of staying in contact that modern technology offers, gives a false sense of being together. Back in our day, we waited for the payphone to be available. It made long distance 10000 times harder. Now they can tech each other all day even if they can’t actually touch.
  2. INSTEAD OF HOOKING UP, TO SUDDENLY TRULY CONNECT… In this age of thousands of electronic friend counters (like Instagram and Facebook) and in this era where there is a pervasive casualness even cavalierness about sex, the moment these kids actually experience and feel what it is like to have the REAL THING… REAL INTIMACY… REAL CONNECTION..  they are overwhelmed by how enriching it is and feels compared to the shallow, hollow and falseness of what they had been doing prior.
  3. They work so hard to get the glory of grades and coveted college admissions and all the external markers of success, yet feeling satisfied on the inside in the way they do in a relationship is so overwhelming that everything else pales in comparison…
Such is young love.. always has been, always will be.

And there is a much deeper part to this… one that they are finally able to begin to process… that life is impermanent and there are things that matter and make it worth living, and things that don’t… and yet we live in a society that values far more all that doesn’t and they have been subscribing to it and caught up in it.

When they find this love connection, they also  suddenly come to know the deep loneliness and emptiness they had been living with but had been unaware they were feeling… they know it because what had been so familiar and normal, is now absent. And what is now suddenly – and finally – present, feels so “REAL”…

The pursuit of attention, like the pursuit of material goods, provides at best fleeting satisfaction… it is never what people wish they’d had spent more time pursuing and obsessing about when they look back on their lives, and this offers Wisdom.

People always look back and wish only for these kinds of things: To have had and held meaningful relationships  even more closely. . . to have taken more risks to go after their dreams. . .  and to have had more gratitude for the privilege it was to be alive.

No one ever lays on their death bed and says “My only regret is that I didn’t have more casual meaningless sex with people who didn’t care about me and who I didn’t care for… or I wish that i had spent more time finding ways to give me ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs up’ on my  instatwitterfacechat…. or I wish I’d spent more time watching porn or playing video games…”

It is this deep profound human truth:

That coming-of-age and growing old depends in part on having growingly complex and deepening relationships, developing them, working through conflicts, finding ways to make it work, and yes, moving on from them when it is time. This is work. It is not always easy. And it takes PRACTICE…

In the old days, before a few years ago, boys and girls had crushes, they fell head over heals in love.. then they broke up and moved on… and so by the time they were having a serious girlfriend or boyfriend senior year, it not the first time they had experienced the rush of hormones and shifts in brain chemistry that happens when we deeply connect… They knew by this point that each such relationship enriches our lives and offers us invaluable learning…

They also had experienced what its like for them to end and to realize that they get over it and move on and everything turns out fine! They experienced what its like to have learned from previous relationships and not make the same mistake again.

In other words realizing that not only can they live without this person, but they needed to go through that to learn the invaluable lessons that allows them to grow into the person they want to be and who one day can actually have a healthy life long committed relationship.

Perhaps most importantly they learn that while these early relationships  add to our lives and growth and learning, they are not what makes our lives.

What makes our lives is to have the courage and boldness to fully go on the journey … to find out who we are and what we are capable of in the best ways possible… and when relationships help move that forward, than these are the relationships we keep and invest in and never take for granted…and when one finally comes along that becomes our life journey, then we drop everything and marry that person and do whatever the work is necessary to help one another continue to grow.

But when relationships actually impede us from growing, then we must let go and move on. And most of these long distance ones they cling to impede them – and they either know it or soon find out.

They keep them from being able to be fully present where they are.

As I often describe it to students:

“You are going to be spontaneously hanging out with a group of kids in the dorm, having a great time and someone will suggest you go out to listen to music as their friends band is playing at some local club… You will be all excited to go when all of a sudden RING RING RING you look down and your boyfriend wants to FaceTime… now you have to step out to a quiet place and have whatever talk he wants to have because he misses you and has been thinking about you and wants to tell you about his day…and while you FaceTime away with him, your potential new friends go on their way to the club, without you…

But Friendships are formed in the’10,000 you had to be there moments’ and when you are on that FaceTime call or in that two hour textathon on your phone, you are not There with the people you could be building bonds with… and the hours add up while they bond and build friendships without you… So when you look up and it seems like every one around you seems to have more friends and is happier there than you, to the extent it is true, realize that it is because they did what it took to make this happen, while you have done what it takes to ensure you are stuck in the past.”

Often these relationships drag them down as well  because they are often driven by the fear that “I don’t know that I will be okay without you” or a belief that “this is the best there will ever be so I can’t let go of it”…

And they become a drug that wards off the awful – yet profoundly useful and critically important feeling – of being homesick, disconnected from the comfortable and familiar and forced to venture outwards towards new people and new adventures… the kind that necessarily precedes and feeds a quantum growth in self-confidence and self-reliance.

“But Our Relationship Is Different…”

If it is, then it is the 1 in a 1,000,000.  Again, how many people marry their high school sweetheart and stay together for life?

What I tell my clients is that if you are 100% sure that this is the person you want to marry and spend your life with and you are fully ready to make that commitment and act on it now, then by all means, go for it.

If on the other hand you have any hesitation about either this being the right person or your own readiness (or theirs), then let go and move on.

Thus the reality is, no, most likely yours isn’t the exception.

It is the norm. It won’t be the love of your life. It won’t last forever.

And even if it has the potential to be that relationship, you must let him or her go have the experiences they need to have to grow into that person you can one day marry, just as there is so much more growing up you have to do.

So What Is My Advice To A Student Contemplating “Staying Together”?

It won’t surprise you. As hard as it may be, let it go. End it before you go off to college. Then cut off ALL SOCIAL MEDIA and all contact whatsoever. Treat these next few months like Basic Training… no contact, just being where you are with whomever you are with… go through whatever withdrawal and loneliness and discomfort and homesickness… and go forward BEING WHERE YOU ARE… BEING PRESENT AS BEST YOU CAN.

There will be times – maybe many – that it will royally suck. Go through it anyway.

When everyone else around you is running to the phone to call their safety net who will tell them what they want to hear, BE THE EXCEPTION… only call people who will tell you what you NEED to hear… as I am doing right now.

If you do this, what awaits you on the other side will elevate your self-confidence, your sense of security will soar, you will develop tremendous clarity about who you are, what you want and what matters to you to make your life a success – your own personal definition of success, not anyone else’s…

And you will not wind up alone as you fear. You will instead move to a kind of peace and connectedness that few people ever attain.

If you think you are mature enough to make a long distance relationship last, then you first must be mature enough to let one go.


Learn more about Mentoring For College Students:


Just One Belief Away -” The Self-Sabotager”

de5768527399a1f25df614dd16c28ea823 year old Mark and I sat across from one another at a cool  alternative cafe near his college campus yesterday. When I walked in he was busy chatting with the manager and two girls who were waiting in line to order.

He’s good looking, outgoing and an extrovert, and though he is about to graduate from one of the more prestigious Universities in the US, he’s a pretty legitimate  underachiever.

If there was an award given out for “self-sabotage” Mark would be a finalist.

The number of times he has slept through a critical exam, forgotten a deadline or left his car parked in a no parking zone just long enough to get ticketed and towed is almost laughable. None of this happened because he was just an irresponsible kid or was so “ADD” that he was incapable. It literally happened as he got lost in stress and worry and insecurity that came from feeling so much pressure to survive as an outsider in ways that were real (financial) and imaginary (social) and just plain wrong (that his GPA & status amongst his classmates alone would make the difference for his career, the way it did in high school). 

His story is not so simple.Though he looked like your typical U____ student, he wasn’t. 

Unlike many of his classmates, he is not at this very prestigious and expensive private school because did well in high school and his parents are wealthy and have the money to pay for it. He is here because he was an academic high achiever in high school and money was left for him in a trust designated only to pay for his college education, Otherwise, he was very much on his own.

When others wanted to join Fraternities, their parents wrote the check. He was excluded from this aspect of campus social life, and it really marginalized him.

 When others needed a new laptop, wanted to go out to eat with friends and or just needed new clothes to dress up for an interview, they used the credit card their parents provided. Not so for Mark.

Everything that was easy for most of the kids around him was never easy for him. He had to work, often two jobs, and had to choose between getting enough hours to pay rent or go to class and lose his job. He had to find ways to study and learn material without the help of tutors. He lived in a closet one year because it was all he could afford.

But the worst thing of all to him was the way he never lived up to his potential academically. His grades were often at best average. He so wanted to be a stand-out student like he was in high school so that his professors would write raving letters of recommendation. He wanted to be the guy who impressed all the Alums and was offered that killer job that everyone else in the Business program yearned to get.

Instead he was just a mediocre student who would get his degree, but not stand out and probably not even be remembered by many of his peers, sadly, because he couldn’t afford to party with them or be their Frat bother.

And while he sat there with me berating himself for having just missed another deadline, and looking discouraged and despondent, my only thought was: AND NONE OF THAT MATTERS.


This is a story about Mark, and the millions of other Marks and Margarets out there. It is a story about every Millennial youth who has had their soul get crushed into anxiety by being CONVINCED that their worth and hope for their future is measured by their GPA, Class Rank, the prestige of the name on their college degree AND their place in the social rankings of their peers.

Any potential employer, investor or business partner only cares about One Thing: YOUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE RESULTS that matter to the business. 


Any potential employer, investor or business partner only cares about One Thing: YOUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE RESULTS that matter to the business. 

They don’t give a damn about your grade point average, where you went to school or what you wrote your Senior thesis about. If you can produce results, they want you. If you can’t, they’ll encourage you to wipe your ass with your pretty diploma or at the least, caution you to not let the door hit you on the way out.

Mark’s task is to convince potential employers that he can Produce Results. Period. 

The most valuable skills he can learn now, are how to go from stranger to hot commodity.

The most valuable skills he can learn now, are how to go from stranger to hot commodity.

All this comparing himself to others, not feeling socially accepted by them and feeling insecure about this, is a 100% complete and utter waste of his time.

And I told him this, in an animated way. 

“I REFUSE  to spend even 10 more seconds listening to you mope about how bad you feel because you didn’t get the grades or the praise you wanted here!  If that’s what you want to do, go hire a therapist who’s happy to take your money and listen to you pout about shit you can’t change and that doesn’t matter in the least!”

At one point the young woman at the table next to us, stopped typing on her laptop and began listening in on our conversation.


And it’s not an easy one to give up, but it is the only one to change to get everything he wants.

It is the belief that how he did in college and who he was socially accepted by in his college peer group matters in any way whatsoever.

The moment he can change that, he is liberated. LIBERATED.


He’s LUCKY TOOSt-Patrick-Minimalist-Clover---1.0.0-2400px
Many of the people I meet are about 9 beliefs away from getting everything they want. He is only ONE. 



My work now is to assassinate that one all-encompassing stupid ass belief and liberate him from the bondage of giving a shit about the opinions of the wrong people and of believing that his GPA in school matters in REAL world out here. 

Stay tuned. This story is just about to get interesting. 

I believe it, just as I believe in him. 

Death By Video Game


  • A) Prone to addiction to TV (every time the screen is on he can’t stop himself from staring at it)
  • B) Socially shy or socially struggling

If you do, it is almost 100% guaranteed he will develop a serious addiction to it. He will slowly withdraw from the world and become socially isolated. iStock_000017411376XSmall

These machines are toxic, soul-sucking and utterly destructive for a boy with one or both of those tendencies. They work much like the slow descent into marijuana dependency… it starts slow, stays slow then one day they are on it morning noon and night, no longer wanting to go out with friends (if they ever did at all) and falling far out of sync with their peers in the productive, contributing world…  They will tell you that they have plenty of “friends online” and even will talk about how they want to “be a professional gamer” or how they want to work in the industry. But nothing they will so will progress towards this becoming a reality.

I’ve seen this too many times now. By the time they are this deep in, radicle intervention similar to heroine addiction is needed.

Save him now by not but allowing that shit in your home, in his room and in his life. 

Growing Up Doesn’t Just Happen Between 9 & 5

This blog posting shows real "screen shots" of text messages 
that were sent to me just in the last few days.  I think this 
gives a real glimpse into the world of today's adolescents. 
This is especially for those who are seeking to better understand 
the model and methodology of work I do with Evolution Mentoring. 

Growing Up Doesn’t Just Happen Between 9 and 5.

 Many life challenges can’t wait until a week from Tuesday at 4:00pm before the therapist or consultant is willing to be available. They need resolution now.

We’ve all been there! Something happens and we need to make a decision, pronto.

We need advice before the 5pm deadline.

We find ourselves in a difficult relationship situation and need to figure out what to do about it or what to say to this person – and they are on their way over right now.

We come home from a night out to find our teen decided to throw “a little kickback” that turned into a full-fledged teen party. Now we need to decide how to handle it.

A promotion offer came in just days before we were ready to accept a new job at a different firm. Should we stay or should we go? How do we handle it with everyone this impacts?


Appt schedule3This one to the right is from a college senior. He just learned that the application deadline for a highly selective government job that he is applying for was moved up by two weeks.

He called seeking two things:

  • Advice about how to best rewrite two of his essay questions. He keeps me on his short list of 5 people he turns to for these things (his father, two Professors, one of his close friends and me).
  • Help keeping his attention in the right place so that he stays calm and focused. He knows how to do this and has built an amazing capacity to do so over the years. This is one of the rare times he has reached out for this and it makes sense given the significance of the circumstances – a true “once in a lifetime” opportunity. (can’t say more given the confidential nature of this)



Appt schedule2This one to the left is from a college freshman. He’s been in a real funk. Thinking of changing his major and questioning whether or not he’s at the right school.

When we spoke that night he told me :

“I went to the Counseling center on campus, figuring they must deal with this kind of thing all the time. They gave me a 20 minute “drop in” appointment then told me I could come back for a full appointment on February 20th – a month from now, which was their next available appointment. I said “no thanks” and that’s when I reached out to you!”


How common is that in today’s world? What a difference it makes to have someone who will answer a message and be available that night.

Appt schedule

This one to the right is from a 19 year old who is needing to make a decision about how to handle a complicated relationship situation. I wrote about it in yesterday’s blog entitled Looking To Play Chess In A Candyland Culture.

Sometimes things come up that can feel too awkward to bring up with parents. Sometimes they just need to hear the words from the right source.

Sometimes they need to speak with someone who they know and trust can really “see” them, will not sugar coat it and who knows enough about the complexities of the world they are living in at their age.



Appt schedule9


This one is from a 17 year old High School Junior. A classmate friend of his has been spreading some very unkind rumors that are negatively effecting relationships in their friend group. 

He wanted to discuss ways he could handle this. Rather than just talk about this girl behind her back, he wanted to step up and directly address her. 




Appt schedule6



This is from a 16 year old high school student at a boarding school, who wound up having to switch out of her dorm after her roommate began having all sorts of disturbing issues. She was forced to deal with and confront some very “grown-up” circumstances, including not being able to openly discuss with others what went on and why things changed. 





Appt schedule7This is from a 22 year old who is dealing with some very difficult changes in her friend group. She wanted some advice and perspective on things she’s observing, and how to have appropriate boundaries given the realities of all involved. 

As she lives in New York, it was possible to just meet up in person a few days later. I travel to the east coast once a month to see clients in person. I worked with her extensively when she was younger. Now she just reaches out a few times a year when things like this come up. 


The Easy Daily Habits 24 Executives Say Give Them an Edge

As a teen counselor the relationship I develop with a young person can carry on through time, and I am now seeing more first and second job twenty something clients who are finding that they need additional input to succeed in demanding social and professional contexts.
My work has been published widely and includes this mention in Inc magazine which is a global monthly aimed at the business and entrepreneurial demographic.
Anyway you might be surprised at the routines some of the high achievers swear by in the article.
Maybe you have recently read Tools for Titans by Tim Ferris and are looking for similar mentors in real life, rather than just in print? I can help guide your search. Contact me to find out more.

The Four Traits Teens Need To Be Successful

According to Laura Padilla-Walker, BYU university professor and associate director of the school of Family Life, there are four main strengths that are needed for a teen to grow into a successful adult. These are based around being more intrinsically motivated and yet also aware of ones impact in and connection with the world.

Family figures like grandparents or parents play a part in developing this awareness and inter-related skill-sets, as may other mentors in a young persons life, like a school guidance counselor, track and field coach or other subject specialist or just someone who lives life well.  Here’s a link to the article below.

Feel free to come back to the blog and let me know what you think of it, ok?

Who Are These College-Aged Creatures?

Who Are These College-Aged Creatures?

Best parenting advice: Be an expert in raising your own kids

Pressure to be accepted into elite colleges is crushing our kids