The topic of self-care and mental health conditions has grown in interest over the years, especially over the course of the pandemic – more than ever, people report struggling with professional burnout, stress-related illnesses, and social isolation. Yet these issues are not exclusive to adults. Teens, too, have been hit hard in recent times, and teenage rates of anxiety and depression continue to grow – making self care for teens and adults alike a priority.
Learning to manage your thoughts and minimize stress is valuable but difficult. Anxieties and worries can perpetuate themselves through the way they affect motivation, productivity, restlessness, and physical health – the longer you struggle with your mental health, the harder it is to improve it.
Can self-care help? Absolutely. While not a substitute for professional treatment, learning to incorporate different methods of self care for teens at home can help improve their mental health and even help combat symptoms of mental health issues like depression.
What Does Self Care for Teens Look Like?
Self-care does not need to be strictly defined. For some people, it’s a nice warm bath. For others, it’s a jog through the park. In some cases, self-care can be as specific as putting on your favorite song from a childhood movie and dancing around the living room or finger painting.
Self-care does not replace professional care – for teens who need therapy, self-care can be a supplemental regimen used to manage stress at home and avoid mental flare-ups.
For teens who aren’t diagnosed with anything but feel stressed out by exams, studies, relationships, or world events, self-care constitutes emotional awareness and learning to listen to your needs. Let’s go over a few concrete examples of proven and effective methods of self care for teens.
1. Start Journaling
Journaling is a powerful and often underrated tool for productivity, emotional awareness, and mental health.
More than just the ability to recount your dreams or go over your day, journaling prompts teens to be privately introspective, think back on and second-guess impulsive thoughts or negative impulses, and reinforce a healthier mindset – through journaling, a teen can come home from an upsetting day, write about it, calm down, review what they’ve written, and learn to come to a positive conclusion.
2. Create a Healthy and Realistic Schedule
As teens’ responsibilities grow, they quickly find out just how few hours there are in a waking day. Some teens overbook themselves, trying to manage school alongside friends, relationships, and a packed extracurricular program.
Teaching kids to leave time to dabble and experiment and then prioritize the things that interest them or bring them the most joy is important. Plan your day! Set aside the time you need to comfortably do your schoolwork and your chores and create timeslots for hobbies and interests.
Don’t cram for a test at the last minute, do homework an hour before it’s due, or play video games until the early morning hours. A sound, solid, and realistic schedule that leaves plenty of room for fun can help teens achieve their next big self-care goal.
3. Prioritize Good Sleep
Sleep can never be overrated, especially in the context of mental health. Even just an hour of missing sleep can have a significant impact on a person’s cognitive abilities and mental load, reducing their capacity for stress and ability to fulfill the day’s tasks and goals.
4. Using Video Games for Good
Video games have been a part of the mainstream for well over thirty years, ever since Nintendo and SEGA revitalized a dying industry in the 1980s. Yet despite polarizing headlines and worries about gaming addiction, there’s also been a lot of research showing that used sensibly, video games become an excellent tool for stress reduction as well as cognitive improvement.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying video games as a medium, especially if it’s your personal method of winding down after school – and in the modern era, video games have become one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with friends over the summer, or even over a pandemic.
Just don’t let your gaming habit eat into the rest of your schedule!
5. Swap Out Your Snacks
When it comes to self care for teens, it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about what you eat. A healthier diet can have a marked improvement in a person’s mental health and mood regulation.
If you’re not a big fan of eating your greens, for example, find other more appealing ways of getting your daily vitamin and nutrient intake, whether it’s dried fruit, berries, salted nuts, or health-oriented snacks, like edamame and cacao nibs.
6. Get Moving
You don’t need to do laps around school or struggle on a pull-up bar to benefit from the mental health effects of exercise. Any kind of regular movement will do, whether it’s a long walk through the park or a round of Just Dance in front of the TV.
The most important thing about exercising isn’t what kind of program you choose or which equipment to buy – it’s about finding exercises and activities that you can do consistently.
7. Exercise a Creative Muscle!
Creative endeavors can be a wonderful way to release stress and enter a state of psychological flow. Not only is this great for skills development – whether it’s learning to play a musical instrument or learning to sketch – but it helps build a healthy habit that you can use to deal with adult stressors later in life.
8. Spend More Time with Pets
Spending time with your pet can be incredibly cathartic and stress relieving.
Animals like cats and dogs have been our companions for hundreds of generations, long before any of today’s existing civilizations were around – and the bond between humans and companion animals has significant evolutionary benefits for both.
9. Don’t Ignore Your Friends
The worse you feel, the easier it gets to isolate and stay away from others. When you notice that feeling is encroaching, try to spend more time with your friends.
Don’t stay away! Do the opposite. We’re social creatures, and interactions with other people are important for our mental well-being, regardless of whether you thrive in larger crowds or prefer hanging out with just one or two best buddies.
10. Be Outdoors
Whether it’s a longer hike or the occasional walk in the woods, being one with nature – even if that boils down to hanging out near a tree and reading a book – has a marked effect on mental and physical health, to the point that it’s become a researched phenomenon.
11. Go On a Social Media Break
You don’t need to radically delete your profiles or turn off and lock your phone away in a safe, but going through a social media cleanse every now and again can do a lot to reduce your stress levels, recalibrate your self-esteem, and even improve your empathy.
Social media is a wonderful tool – it’s a borderline miracle to be connected with so many people at once. But with it comes a heavy burden, as well. There’s just too much noise and far too much content, and it can become wildly distracting, especially when you’re in the middle of trying to build good habits and healthy schedules. Take a break every now and again, especially if you feel overwhelmed.
12. Volunteer (In Any Way!)
Doing good for others is a surefire way to feel better yourself, ironically. While it might not seem like we’re the most altruistically inclined species, there are genuine selfish benefits to doing something without asking for anything in return. Join the fire brigade for a summer or two! Help a homeless shelter. Work with rescue animals. Choose any cause that interests you, and give it a try.
Start Practicing Self Care Today
Taking care of your own mental health is difficult but important. Prioritize the things you need to function well – three meals, good sleep, enough water, and a nature break every now and again, for example, as well as less basic needs, like the occasional outing with some friends or a little alone time with a good book.
But when tough situations get tougher, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it from time to time.
For more tips on self care for teens and mental health treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.