From Anxiety to Adventure: Kevin Majeres on Reframing Challenges

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November 9-11 • The Heights School, Potomac, MD

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Adorning our school’s main hallway is a sort of charter for the Heights graduate which designates him as a man who is “optimistic toward life’s challenges,” as one who “sees freedom as an opportunity to choose the good.” Fostering these ideals in each student is a central aspect of the school’s mission. But, in a world that is increasingly filled with children suffering from anxiety, how—in very practical terms—can we help our students develop such an outlook on life?

Last month, we heard from Mr. Alex Berthé on how parents can find peace in an anxiety ridden world. This week on HeightsCast, we begin a series of discussions with Dr. Kevin Majeres, lecturer at Harvard Medical School and Founder of OptimalWork.  

In this three-part series, we take a deep dive into three sets of challenges which are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s youth, and three mindsets or skills that can help us as parents and teachers to help our boys help themselves:

  1. Anxiety 
  2. Attention
  3. Addiction 

Our first discussion with Dr. Majeres focuses on anxiety. Combining years of experience as a psychiatrist and drawing on research in cognitive behavioral therapy, Dr. Majeres teaches us both what anxiety is and what we can do about it.  

In the episode, we learn: 

  1. The Foundation of Growth 
    • The importance of having a growth mindset—seeing yourself as capable of real improvement. 
    • Learning to reframe out of a fixed mindset
  2. Anxiety 
    • Anxiety is adrenaline with a negative frame
    • Adrenaline is a performance-enhancing hormone, which is meant to improve one’s capacities, whether physical or cognitive. 
    • All anxiety disorders come from seeing anxiety as a disorder; they are the fruit of seeing the effects of adrenaline as a problem. 
    • Children’s preferences are often manifestations of anxiety coupled with avoidance; it is crucial to help people from a young age to stay with a challenge and not flee from anxiety. 
  3. Reframing 
    • Reframing is deliberately finding the opportunity for growth in a challenge that one had previously viewed negatively. 
    • The way the body utilizes hormones depends on how we frame them; reframing is not mere wishful thinking. 
    • Start small; don’t tackle the biggest challenge first. 
  4. Cheerfulness 
    • Cheerfulness is often synonymous with courage. 
    • The family is where we first learn to see challenges as opportunities.
    • If parents foster a smiling approach to challenges, then even a quick thought of them can become a reframe for their children. 

An essential component of The Heights School’s mission is to help students discover the adventure hidden in every challenge they face. Having spoken with Dr. Majeres, we might phrase this skill as the ability to turn the adrenaline of anxiety into the adventure of everyday life.

Chapters

  • 2:35 Introduction to Possible Solutions 
  • 3:55 A Snapshot of Mindfulness
  • 5:08 A Snapshot of Addictions
  • 6:45 A Quick Biography of Dr. Majeres
  • 9:55 What is Anxiety? 
  • 13:34 Helping Young People with Anxiety
    • 16:58 Parents as Savvy Exposure Therapy Coaches
  • 19:12 The “A” Word: Should We Name It? 
    • 20:06 Safety Training
  • 23:23 Reframing from a Parent’s Perspective
    • 25:21 What is Reframing? 
    • 26:28 Game Theory
  • 28:13 Double Exposure, Double Mastery
  • 30:01 Breaking a Fixed Mindset
  • 34:18 The Importance of Being Cheerful
  • 36:50 Why Not to Complain
    • 38:23 Learning to See Challenges as Opportunities
    • 39:10 The Importance of Role Models 
  • 42: 55 Reframing Parental Anxiety

Additional Resources

The Golden Hour with Dr. Kevin Majeres 

Turning the Knots in Your Stomach into Bows by Jeremy Jamieson, et al. 

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck 

Also on The Forum 

“Learn to Turn”: Tom Royals on Parental Prudence

 Parenting: Patience or Optimism with Andrew Reed

The Stressed Son: The Causes of Adolescent Anxiety with Alvaro de Vicente 

Be the Rock: Fatherhood During Times of Crisis by Kyle Blackmer

Toughness for the Adolescent Boy by Kyle Blackmer

Kevin Majeres

About the guest:

Kevin Majeres


Dr. Kevin Majeres is the co-founder of OptimalWork. Born and raised in Minnesota, Dr. Majeres attended college at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, and then stayed in Dallas for medical school and residency training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After graduation he completed a fellowship with the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy and Research in Philadelphia, and became a certified affiliate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He is also a member of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists. Dr. Majeres is currently on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, where he teaches a weekly class on cognitive-behavioral therapy to psychiatrists-in-training at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center.