Categories
Mental Health

6 Art Therapy Activities for Teens Dealing with Mental Disorders

Art therapy activities for teens might not be one of the first modalities that come to mind when working to treat and address mental health issues, but it is an often-underrated tool in the management of depressive symptoms, anxiety problems, low self-esteem, and stress.

The therapeutic value of engaging with art in any shape or form – from performance arts like acting and dancing to visual art, such as sketching or sculpting – is immense. Research shows that the use of art in a clinical setting helps improve mental health, including cognitive and sensory functions, improve self-awareness, improve emotional resilience, and enhance critical social skills. Art therapy also helps individuals hone their stress management skills and develop healthier alternatives to maladaptive coping styles.

How Do Art Therapy Activities for Teens Help?

Implementing art therapy is not quite as simple as sitting someone down with a sketch pad and a piece of charcoal. The therapeutic element comes in the form of professional guidance – trained therapists use special prompts and cues to engage with patients and help them utilize art therapy to productively work through specific fears, issues, questions, obsessions, and behavioral issues.

Utilizing art to relate to a patient who might not get the most out of a typical talk therapy session is one of the crucial benefits of art therapy – because it does not rely on a rigid dialectic system and is applicable across hundreds of mediums, it is one of the most versatile modalities in a therapist’s toolkit.

Many teens are young enough to have talents they’ve never tapped into, and art therapy allows them to not only continue to explore their fears and worries in ways they might not previously have been able to, but it may also prove to unlock a lifelong passion for a medium they might never have heard of, or shown any interest in.

A teen with no experience in drawing might find themselves enraptured by the tactile experience of working with coffee stains, stamps, collages, or even decorative food items. The flexibility and total creativity embodied in art therapy mean teens can find ways to express themselves with no filters, restrictions, or worries.

Different Ways to Apply Art Therapy Activities for Teens

While there are dozens of ways to utilize art therapy activities for teens in a therapeutic setting, some are more commonplace and popular than others. Let’s explore a few different art modalities and how they can help teens in treatment.

1. Journaling

Yes, journaling can be considered art therapy and can play an important role as an introductory element to self-reflection and mindfulness in treatment. Therapeutic journaling can mean a lot of things depending on the direction the patient wants to take the activity – some people turn to journaling as a means of authoring a private diary to compile their thoughts and readdress their impulses, intrusive compulsions, or uncontrolled behaviors. Some people take to journaling as a stream-of-consciousness stress relief tool, being able to “let loose” on paper.

Journaling doesn’t need to involve first-person accounts. It can be prose, a third-person narrative, or a pseudo-autobiographical work. Imagine telling a story based on your experiences but with a fantastical element to work towards a narrative realization you might not have had if you simply retold what happened. Life isn’t a narrative, but we can practice learning to draw positive conclusions from our struggles through such an approach.

The ability to write creatively isn’t a prerequisite for successful journaling. In some cases, teens can benefit from journaling simply by using it to create lists – to-do lists, whether daily, short-term or even long-term, can help people prioritize their tasks and bring order into their day-to-day.

2. Photography

The vast majority of art therapy is visual. But it doesn’t always need to come in the form of drawing or painting. Some people prefer to use a frame – such as a photograph – to create their art.

Photography can be an excellent exercise in the importance of perspective, helping teens learn to shape a situation into an image they can be proud of and, in turn, find ways to identify positive aspects in their own life.

Photography as an art can also be something teens can engage in wherever and whenever they want, using tools they might already have at their disposal – while it’s no replacement for a DSLR, most modern-day smartphones are capable of some truly surprisingly high-quality photography and can serve as an entryway to more complicated photoshoots in the future.

3. Drawing and Painting

Over 80 percent of art therapy research focuses on the benefits of visual art mediums like drawing or painting, with various materials, from watercolors to oil or acrylic.

Not only can visual art help teens express themselves in ways they might not be comfortable doing during talk therapy, but it can be a useful stress relief option with no ill side effects while significantly improving mental well-being.

4. Other Forms of Visual Art

Art is free form, and there are many ways your teen might find relief or comfort in creating something of their own, whether it’s through 3D computer graphics programs like Blender or Source Filmmaker or physical sculpting, woodworking, carpentry, and so on.

5. Making or Playing Music

While some of the mechanisms behind how music helps address depression and other mental health issues remain unknown, we do know that music therapy can be a tremendous tool in treating mental health symptoms and improving the well-being of patients with conditions like depression and anxiety.

Most teens will not be surprised to hear that what kind of music you listen to can have an effect on how you feel, both positive and negative. But there’s a special interaction between mental health and playing an instrument, whether that means creating your own music or playing a melody you know or have learned.

6. Drama and Acting

Acting is art, and as a therapeutic method, acting has far more research behind it than you might expect. Acting for therapy – usually in the form of group roleplays, one-on-one roleplaying, or even in the context of preparing for a dramatic play – can help teens and patients express themselves in ways they might not otherwise feel comfortable. By playing a role rather than being yourself, you can inject parts of your own character into the role without feeling compromised.

This allows for a unique form of self-expression where a teen can freely explore their emotions without feeling like they are betraying their innermost secrets.

Get Mental Health Treatment for Teens

Art therapy activities for teens are most useful when treated as a modality – as one part of a greater whole.

For more information about teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers today.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting

Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Look Out For

We’ve heard the jokes and the comparisons before – teenagers are like little aliens, their moods change on a whim, their logic is incomprehensible, they’re incredibly difficult to deal with, and so on. While it’s true that most adults won’t remember what it’s like to think like teens, most teenage behavior still follows some sort of logic – even when it’s purely instinctual or based on very short-term benefits. But what if becomes more than that? What about the red flags in teenage behavior that nobody told you about, you know, the ones that could create a mental health condition later on?

Being a teen means transitioning from childhood into fully matured adulthood – a process that begins with the onset of puberty but lasts well into a person’s early 20s or even later. With that process come a lot of bumps and challenges. Differentiating between these and real mental health issues – which are becoming increasingly common for teens – can be difficult.

Outside of being boneheaded or self-centered, teens will often struggle with emotional maturity, consistency, and long-term planning. Sometimes, “normal” teen behavior can be conflated with a serious behavioral issue, and in other cases, it is a precursor to a serious behavioral or mental health problem.

Even if your teen infuriates you, there’s a line to draw between annoying or troublesome teen behavior and genuine mental health issues. Learning to recognize those is important, whether as a parent, friend, or close relative.

What is Normal Teenage Behavior?

Defining normal behavior is difficult. There’s the societal norm, then there’s the researched average, and the matter of what feels normal from an individual, anecdotal, or cultural perspective.

Most people can agree on a few general things about teens – such as their shortsightedness or lack of emotional maturity – but there are case-by-case differences on where normal ends and where red flags in teenage behavior may begin. There’s no real way to “treat” a teen’s sexual drive, their will towards rebellion, or their curiosity for the taboo.

For example, our laws make it illegal for kids to get drunk or engage in sexual intercourse before a certain age.

Yet despite these laws, we know that the average drinking age in the US (i.e., age of first drink) is 13-14 and that half of the population has their first sexual encounter between the ages of 16 and 20. Teens do things they shouldn’t do all the time, and we need to intervene on a case-by-case basis. But that doesn’t mean we pathologize every teen’s mistakes.

In other words, we just need to draw a line between normal individual expression and signs of pathology. In the case of the latter, your teen might be struggling with something they can’t deal with on their own, and getting help as soon as possible gives them the best chance of fighting it.

It’s the difference between trying out a beer and becoming a heavy drinker by age 17. It’s the difference between trespassing for a “prank” and routinely engaging in dangerous and illegal activities. And it’s the difference between having a teen’s typical short temper and becoming violent towards others on multiple occasions.

Important Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Spot

Let’s start with the red flags. These are signs of a serious problem. In other words, if your teen is exhibiting one or more of these red flags, you should consider speaking with a professional and talking to your teen about counseling or therapy. These red flags include the following:

  • Heavy drinking and other signs of repeated drug use.
  • Knowingly engaging in illegal activities, including speeding or vandalism.
  • Becoming violent towards other teens or people on multiple occasions.
  • Often referencing death and talking about death, especially what it would be like if they died.
  • Frequent signs of physical injury and hiding/lying about cuts and bruises.
  • Burns and other signs of self-harm.
  • Suicide attempts.

Red flags are meant to highlight problems that most teens don’t have. While a large number of teens have had a beer or tried marijuana, most teens are not habitual users of “hard drugs” or struggling with addiction. Most teens aren’t engaged in routine illegal activities, whether it’s vandalism or theft. Most teens aren’t routinely assaulting each other or struggling with suicidal thoughts.

These are serious behavioral issues that warrant a professional opinion. There’s no point trying to diagnose your teen’s behavior yourself – it might look like addiction, but it might be a combination of drug use with a mediating mental health condition, like social anxiety. It might look like depression, but it might, in fact, be a bipolar disorder, which may require a different treatment plan.

If you’ve observed certain red flags in your teen, then seeking professional help is important.

Other Important Signs

However, you don’t need to wait for a teen to show red flags to be concerned for your teen’s mental or physical well-being.

Some of the behaviors listed below might indicate a mental health problem or personal issue, but they may also indicate that your teen needs someone to talk to or that they are finding themselves engaged in unhealthy coping mechanisms for their schoolwork or personal life. These behaviors include:

  • Illicit drug use.
  • Losing interest in old hobbies.
  • Rapid weight loss (or rapid weight gain) at an unhealthy scale.
  • Overexercising (i.e., to the point of repeated injury and/or hospitalization).
  • Social isolation (withdrawing from others).
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time online (never going outside or logging off).
  • Sudden and severe mood swings.
  • Struggling to enjoy things and being gloomy most of the time.
  • Having a very quick temper and becoming easily frustrated at minor things.

Talk About It and Get Help

Some people worry about pathologizing normal instances of negative behavior – for example, it’s normal to act out after a messy breakup or feel terrible after the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, we do things that aren’t in our best interest, and that goes for doubly for teens. We all cope in our own ways, and it isn’t always clean.

But the concern is still valid, even when there’s a “good reason” your teen might be acting a certain way. They may “snap out of it,” or it might start them down a seriously dark road as their symptoms get worse. If these behaviors apply to your loved one, keep an eye on them, and see if things get better. If they don’t – there’s still plenty of time to talk to them about getting real help.

Mental health issues are difficult to deal with, and many of them have their onset in the late teen years. Understanding why your teen is acting the way they are is important – but oftentimes, they might not even have a reason. Things like depression and anxiety can and often do develop without good cause, and their symptoms come and go without a specific trigger. If you’re concerned for yourself or your loved one, be sure to talk to a professional. At Visions Treatment Centers, we are here to help.

Categories
Mental Health Self-Care Stress

Stress Relief for Teens During the Holidays

Did you know that stress relief for teens during the holidays is important for maintaining mental health and/or mental health conditions?

The holiday season is not particularly well-known for being a source of grief and hardship – yet for a surprising number of Americans, teens included, the holidays are often more synonymous with unwanted or excessive stress than just the feelings of cheer and joy.

Whether it’s the deep winter blues, the costs of heating and rising gas prices, general inflation, the pressure to prepare and host a large feast, the logistics of meeting with family, the financial realities of gift-giving, or the fear of loneliness and isolation in a season punctuated by gathering with family and friends, there are countless reasons why adults and teens alike struggle with stress during the holidays and need healthy (and effective!) outlets for their emotions.

Why Do Teens Need Stress Relief?

Teens aren’t children anymore. They’re quickly entering some of the most stressful years of their lives so far, and for many teens this year, the coming winter season is punctuated by the fears of an ongoing global war, non-stop supply chain issues, another historic inflation and financial crisis, and the deaths and grief of a prolonged pandemic. Let’s dive deeper into some of the reasons today’s teens might feel stressed out.

1. Financial Problems

COVID hit Americans hard, but it’s far from the only reason millions of Americans find themselves closer to poverty than in previous years and more likely to struggle with the coming winter as heating costs soar and the cost of living remains catastrophically high.

Most teens are not in a good position to help their families with these costs and can do little but stand by as the holiday season arrives. For many families, there’s doubt about the bounty on the table, let alone the bounty under the tree.

These stressors and financial anxieties are felt by teens every year throughout the country, but they’re at a historic high right now.

2. Changes In Sleep and Diet

It’s universally known that the holiday season usually means plenty of food and plenty of festivities. And while these are usually good things, they can make life harder for some people – especially teens who thrive on consistency and struggle when their schedule starts to fall apart. This means restless nights, oversleeping, an unbalanced sleep schedule, and copious amounts of overeating.

The holidays maximize these issues, leading to many teens struggling to return to a healthy rhythm in the coming weeks and finding themselves “recovering” from the holidays throughout the first portion of the next year.

It’s important to indulge yourself every now and again. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater every time all the end-of-the-year celebrations turn the corner is often a bad idea.

3. Longer Nights

The holiday season means longer nights for the northern half of the world, which can have a marked impact on a person’s mental state. Some people respond more heavily to a lack of sunlight than others, and loss of daylight can be a major contributing factor in the onset and development of seasonal affective disorder or winter depression. More than just a regular bout of sadness, winter depression is a real mental health issue that is often exacerbated by other holiday woes, including financial trouble and isolation.

But even in people who aren’t diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, the longer nights and shorter days can lead to an increase in doom and gloom.

Some teens find themselves headed to school early in the morning and headed back home later in the afternoon, with a net zero amount of sunlight for the day. This can be detrimental both to a teen’s mental health and physical health – we need at least some sunlight to restore our vitamin D supplies for healthy bones and skin, as well as certain brain functions.

4. Reminders of Loss

The holiday season is a time for family – and while that’s often a good thing, it can also be a painful reminder of what we’ve lost, especially recently.

The pandemic took many people’s lives, and their loss can be a very difficult thing for teens to process – if it’s the first holidays without a loved relative, for example, your teens might have a hard time focusing on the holiday cheer.

Feeling down after the loss of a loved one is normal, but a loss in combination with other stressors can lead to so-called complicated grief or unresolved loss. This can become a complicated and traumatic issue for many teens, and professional counseling may be recommended to help your teen find healthier and better ways to cope.

Looking for Holiday Fixes

Stress relief for teens can be hard to come by during the holiday season. Consider implementing the following to help your teen (and your family) combat the winter blues and have a more pleasant holiday.

1. Keep a Consistent Schedule

While the winter break means more time for family and for fun, consider encouraging your teen to stick to certain elements in their schedule, especially if a consistent schedule is important for their overall mental well-being.

This includes continuing to go visit the gym or practice an instrument, for example, or swapping studying for a new skill or hobby over the winter break. While it might be tempting to spend the whole holiday season in front of the PlayStation, an unstructured winter break can make it much, much harder to get out of the holiday blues when January rolls around.

2. Consider Volunteer Work

In the spirit of the holidays, consider taking some time with the rest of your family to volunteer for a local cause, whether it’s caring for shelter animals or delivering warming blankets and food to the homeless.

Volunteer work can be a positive way to highlight the spirit of generosity and giving, and research shows that going out of your way to do something for someone else has an immediate positive impact on your mental health. In other words, giving is a gift in itself!

3. Keep Gifts Simple

Another way to help take some of the pressure off the holiday season is by keeping the gifts simple this time around. If your teens feel inclined to take part in the gift-giving ceremony, then they won’t feel as pressured to spend the remainder of their allowance trying to find the right gift for everyone.

Take a “break” from gift-giving this year, especially if you’re a little more hard-pressed at home due to current circumstances, and instead pool your money together for a “family gift” that everyone can enjoy, like replacing an old and broken appliance, or putting a little fund together for a short family trip.

Take Care This Holiday Season

While the holiday season can be stressful one way or another, there’s a lot you can do to alleviate that stress and try to make this holiday season one to remember fondly.

For more information on teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Mental Health Prevention Self-Harm

Spotting and Stopping Self Harm in Teens

Although not a mental health disorder, self harm in teens is a serious issue – and it is not limited to cutting. An estimated one in four teen girls deliberately harmed themselves in the last year, and up to 30 percent of teen girls in the US say that they’ve intentionally hurt themselves without intending to commit suicide at some point. Among boys, about one in ten engages in self-harm, although suicide rates are higher in boys than girls.

Self-harm should be seen as an issue separate from suicide, although the two are often linked. Self-harm does increase the likelihood of suicidality and future suicide attempts, but the two are not always part and parcel – many teens commit self-harm without intending to take their lives but for other reasons. Understanding these reasons is important for understanding why so many teens – especially girls – hurt themselves and how their self-harm might have started.

What Constitutes Self Harm in Teens?

Clinically, self-harm is intentional physical injury. Self-harm might be ruled when there is sufficient evidence to show that a teen’s injuries were inflicted purposefully, by themselves, and not through coercion or by accident. Self-harm usually also rules out the influence of drugs or alcohol – meaning it is a sober decision.

This also means that all data that revolves around self-harm identifies self-harm as any form of intentional bodily harm, from cutting to burning, hair-pulling, skin-scratching, pricking, and other forms of pain or damage.

But self-harm can also be more abstract than this. It can, given the correct circumstances and context (i.e., seeking out harm intentionally), include non-direct pain and harm, such as unnecessary risk-taking, thrill-seeking, and dangerous activities. These include unprotected sex, driving drunk, speeding, or illicit drug use.

Why Do Some Teens Struggle with Self-Harm?

Self harm in teens is very prevalent. This does not make it less harmful, but it does make it important to understand that it is not out of the ordinary for teenagers to struggle with emotions and thoughts that might lead them to seek self-harm for any number of reasons, including shame, guilt, emotional pain, anger, or even stress-relief.

An argument can be made that pain-seeking behavior is a form of “self-medication” in cases of abuse or stress, where it offers a short-term burst of relief and ensures the release of endorphins for comparatively “little” harm, such as a minor cut or short pinch with a safety pin.

Depression is another common thread between thoughts of suicidality and self-harm. Low mood and lack of joy in depression can be accompanied by feelings of guilt and worthlessness. In these cases, self-harm can be a way to “feel” something or a way to seek out physical punishment without resorting to suicide.

Self-harm can also be a form of attention-seeking. This is not meant in the derogatory sense. Teens that feel neglected or genuinely struggle with a condition or personality disorder that requires them to be attended to might utilize self-harm as an effective way to draw attention to themselves. In other cases, the intention to “use” self-harm is less calculated and an emotional response to feeling invisible.

Identifying Signs of Self Harm in Teens

Because self harm in teens comes in many shapes and forms, there are many signs a parent or friend should watch out for. Some of the behavioral signs are important to keep in mind but not necessarily critical – a teen might self-harm regularly while appearing chipper and “normal.” Some common signs of self-harm include:

  • Hiding away “tools” for self-harm, such as box cutter replacement blades, straight razors, lighters, needles, and pins.
  • Always wear long sleeves and long-necked clothing or one-piece swimsuits to cover up potential fresh cuts and marks.
  • Repeated skin infections, especially from continuously scratching the same areas.

In addition to traditional signs of self-harm, there are also other forms of “self-punishment” that can be a cause for concern. These include:

  • Illicit drug use or binge drinking.
  • Intentional starvation, binge eating, and other harmful eating habits.
  • Spending hours and hours overexercising at the gym, not for a goal, but as “punishment.”
  • Intentionally sabotaging important relationships – making up gossip, pushing away friends, and being mean to partners.
  • Canceling appointments at the doctor’s office or letting an injury get worse without telling anyone.
  • Skipping or throwing out medication.
  • Intentionally looking up depressing or harmful content online.
  • Embracing toxic or dangerous relationships or jumping headfirst into “red flags.”
  • Overspending, binge shopping, and using budgets irresponsibly.
  • Giving in to compulsive behavior that you know is harmful.
  • Intentionally dressing up “against” the weather, such as wearing excessively hot clothing in the summer and excessively light clothing in the winter.

Does Self-Harm Mean Depression?

Self-harm does not always mean depression, although it is a common sign of depression. Self-harm is also associated with anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety, as well as eating disorders and personality disorders.

It is important not to assume a cause for your or your teen’s self-harm. Instead, talk to them about getting professional help. It might not be helpful to try and label what you or your teen are going through before talking to a professional about it and getting a better grasp of the situation.

Being able to conclusively name and identify what it is you are going through can help make sense of the way you feel and give you or your teen the ability to fight back against these thoughts and compulsions.

Can Self Harm in Teens Be Treated?

Yes, there are treatment methods to address the different causes behind a person’s tendencies toward self-harm – even when there isn’t a clear diagnosis. Talking to a therapist about the need to hurt oneself can be a good first step toward getting professional help and experimenting with different forms of treatment.

Therapists often utilize cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients identify and separate the thoughts that cause them to harm themselves from other healthier, normal thinking patterns – and thus learn to isolate and contradict those thoughts with practice through both mental affirmations and exercises, such as journaling and self-care.

What Should I Do to Help My Teen?

Supporting someone going through something so severe that they turn towards self-harm as a solution is immensely difficult. You are watching a person hurt and maybe even destroy themselves intentionally, whether through indirect “bad choices” or active harm, such as cutting.

Your best course of action is to work towards convincing them to get help with you. Do not scold or judge them. Even in treatment, it is never a good idea to shame someone for relapsing towards self-harm or failing to take care of themselves as per their treatment plan. Shame and guilt will always result in worse symptoms and bigger problems. Be empathic and understand that this is often a compulsive issue. It takes time, patience, and a lot of attempts to finally overcome the urge to self-harm.

For more information about self harm in teens and mental health treatment, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health

Can Low Self Esteem in Teens Affect Mental Health?

Did you know that low self esteem in teens can pose many effects on their mental health?

Self-esteem is intrinsically tied to mental health – our self-worth is not just a reflection of how we see ourselves but can reflect on how we see the world, how we perceive opportunities and react to certain circumstances, and how resilient we become to outer stressors.

Greater self-confidence and healthier self-esteem can help a person cope with more hardship, get back up after setbacks, and better stand up to life’s challenges. Conversely, struggling to retain any pride or suffering from insecurity can make it that much harder to contend with life’s more difficult moments and makes it harder to refute or fight back in times of anxiety or depression.

Studies show us that self-esteem and mental health are strongly correlative – when one is down, so is the other. But there’s also evidence to suggest that the reverse can be true: by improving your self-esteem, you can improve your mental health. And by improving your mental health, you may make it easier to work on your self-esteem.

Let’s look at some of the ways low self in teens has an impact.

Which Came First?

When it comes to self-esteem and mental health in teens, it is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

Which is more likely? That low self esteem in teens caused them to be more perceptible to stressors that led to a mental health issue? Or that their self-esteem is a reflection of existing mental health problems, such as a precursor of depressive symptoms in the formative years?

Sadly, it’s very difficult to tell – and it might not matter much in treatment.

For example, depression, like other mental health issues, is a multifactor problem. Inner issues, such as genes and a behavioral predisposition towards negative thinking, as well as outer problems, such as victimization, stress, trauma, or abuse, all contribute to a depressive cycle.

Treatment Modalities for Teen Mental Health

In the same way, treatment for certain mental health issues will require the use of several modalities.

There’s the therapeutic aspect:

  • Talking to a therapist, learning to regulate your mood, identify harmful thinking patterns, and use affirmations and more positive ways of thinking.

Then there’s the pharmacological aspect:

  • Utilizing antidepressants to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

And the use of non-therapeutic methods in long-term depression management:

  • Forest walkingspending time with your petjournaling, long walks with friends, better sleep schedules, a good diet, and taking a break from a stressful habit.

Self-esteem is one important facet of a larger set of factors that might help determine a teen’s mental health. Having healthy self-esteem is important and should not be mistaken for narcissism or grandiose thinking.

For example, someone with narcissistic tendencies – someone who might qualify for narcissistic personality disorder – will usually struggle with major insecurities, and part of their behavior and presented self-image hides a deeper fear that they cannot own up to that image, leading them to lash out when confronted about it.

Healthy self-esteem can be promoted through therapy and non-therapeutic activities alike, including skills-building and social activities.

Improving Low Self Esteem in Teens to Boost Mental Health

There are a million analogies for understanding how your sense of self reflects on your attitudes and behaviors regarding the world around you. In the simplest psychological terms, everything we experience is filtered through our perspective, and the more we struggle to internalize positive qualities within ourselves, the more we struggle to see the good and fortune in everyday circumstances. It can become a dangerous and self-destructive cycle over time.

Addressing self-esteem problems does not have to start in a therapist’s office. Low self esteem in teens can be identified long before serious mental health symptoms, and in many cases, they’re completely normal. Most teens are self-conscious and insecure, and it is part and parcel of growing up and learning to live in your own skin.

Yet certain teens are more confident than others, and a lack of self-confidence can be a strong indicator of future problems, mental health issues, and an even lower quality of life. Here’s how you can change that.

1. Learn a New Skill

One of the quickest ways to improve your self-esteem and work on your self-confidence is to teach yourself something new. It could be a relatively lofty goal, like achieving your first backflip, or something a little simpler, like learning to use an image editing tool to improve your scanned drawings.

With free online resources all over the Internet and YouTube, there are countless things you can learn to do in just a few days of practice. You don’t have to show them off or compete with anyone but yourself. Pick anything you’re interested in and achieve a minor goal – then work up to something bigger!

2. Improve an Old Skill

Let’s say you’ve already spent a few years learning to draw or know how to play a few tabs on the guitar. Hone those skills! Pick a goal for your existing hobbies or skills, and let that goal revitalize your interest.

Simply spending time to improve on something that you like doing can be immensely gratifying and can help cement the crucial concept that no matter how you might feel about yourself today, you’re always capable of greater things than you might expect.

3. Find Healthy Communities

Learning to approach the problem of achieving a new goal will usually lead to questions and the experiences of others. That’s how many communities are shaped and grown.

Entire communities online revolve around teaching parkour skills to one another, sharing drawing techniques, or finding new ways to reduce run times on “speedruns” of retro video games. These communities are full of people sharing their successes and failures, their trials, and their victories. Those experiences can help you, as well, to find other people with similar interests and to push yourself. If you struggle with consistency in a new habit or skill, finding a community can help you maintain that drive toward achieving your goals.

4. Talk To Your Friends

The more a person struggles with low thoughts, the more likely they are to isolate themselves. But this usually leads to even worse symptoms of self-deprecation and lower self-esteem. We need our friends to help us formulate a better and healthier sense of self – no man is an island!

5. Stop Negative Self-Talk

Negative thoughts are a common aspect of depressive thinking and many mental health issues. It becomes part and parcel of the day to blame yourself for everything, but that second nature can be very harmful.

Like positive affirmations, negative ones can reinforce negative thoughts and negative behaviors.

If you’re late with a book report, don’t call yourself lazy or stupid. Don’t get upset about procrastinating or forgetting. Take a deep breath. Focus on the task at hand. Ask for an extension.

Whenever the urge comes to insult yourself – no matter what the context might be – stop it. Not only is it not productive, but it can be actively harmful to your mental health, no matter how much you might feel you “deserve” chastising yourself.

6. Talk to a Therapist

For teens with low self-esteem, it can be hard to remember that how they might see themselves is not necessarily a true reflection of who they are, and compliments or comments from others get brushed aside amidst instances of criticism or negative attention.

You don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to talk to a professional. People can and do seek out a therapist’s help without struggling with major depressive disorder or conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A therapist can help you sort out your emotions, learn to manage irrational thoughts or separate impulses from smarter decision-making, and learn to implement habits and thinking patterns that control some of your worst tendencies, especially if you tend to see the worst in yourself and/or others.

Get Help at Visions Treatment Centers

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, whether it’s a professional, someone at school, or your parents. If you know a friend or have a loved one who consistently struggles with self-confidence, help them build that confidence through some of the activities mentioned above or by talking to someone together.

For more information about low self esteem in teens or how to get help, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Self-Care

12 Ways to Practice Self Care for Teens

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.

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health

Sleep Anxiety in Teens: What Is It?

Is your teen struggling to regulate their sleep schedule? Are they often up at odd hours and can’t get out of bed until late the next day? Has your teen been complaining about a lack of sleep or being unable to concentrate at school? What your child may be experiencing is referred to as sleep anxiety in teens, which can develop from an existing anxiety disorder.

What is Sleep Anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is not insomnia. Rather than being unable to fall asleep for no discernable reason, people with sleep anxiety cannot fall asleep because of a fear of falling asleep.

Unforunately, it’s a common anxiety, ranging from discomfort or worry about falling asleep, to sheer panic or phobia symptoms related to sleep, also known as somniphobia.

In other words, teens who have sleep anxiety are somehow anxious about falling asleep and will try to delay sleeping as much as they can, even if they want to sleep.

Sleep Anxiety Is Complex

Sleep anxiety in teens, and sleep anxiety in general, is a complex issue because sleeping is often inherently tied to mental and physical health, especially anxiety symptoms. A lack of sleep can greatly amplify feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and fear, meaning that trying to avoid sleep can actively make a teen’s anxiety surrounding sleep much worse.

Sleep anxiety has its share of physical and mental symptoms, as well as co-occurring disorders. Common issues that co-occur with sleep anxiety include sleep paralysis and nightmare disorder.

Sleep Paralysis and Nightmare Disorder

Sleep paralysis is a condition wherein a person may wake up from REM (rapid eye movement) sleep while their body is still under the effects of a self-induced paralytic state (called muscle atonia).

This state is triggered by the brain during deeper forms of sleep to avoid excessive thrashing during sleep and keep us from hurting ourselves in our dreams. However, waking up while paralyzed can be massively distressing. Because the body isn’t quite awake yet, and the mind is still in a half-sleeping state, it is also very common to experience vivid hallucinations as a result.

Because of the combination of immobility and hallucinations, sleep paralysis stories often involve “demons” or “monsters” that appear in the corner of the eye or are actively hovering/standing near the sufferer.

Some researchers even believe that old stories of demonic hauntings and possessions – such as the infamous story of the incubus sitting on a victim’s chest – are early examples of sleep paralysis being retold in myth or art form. In these cases, we become the victim of our own imagination and the brain’s capacity to translate fear and distress into nightmarish imagery.

These episodes can greatly affect a teen’s anxiety around falling asleep. Sadly, sleep paralysis is relatively common – as many as one in five people experience an episode of sleep paralysis occasionally, and over three-fourths of these episodes involve some form of hallucination. For many teens who experience sleep paralysis, anxiety surrounding sleep can become a serious long-term issue and make recurring episodes more common.

Sleep Anxiety vs. Other Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the world, including the United States. Conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder affect millions of people every year, and many of them experience symptoms for years and years.

Most anxiety disorders have their onset in adolescence, meaning teens experience a spike in these conditions as they enter adulthood. Dealing with sleep anxiety in teens is particularly important because of the way sleep plays a role in modulating our mental and physical health – without proper sleep, the body becomes more susceptible to illness, less resilient to stress, and struggles with recurring problems.

Unfortunately, one of the more common signs of a lack of sleep is recurring sleep paralysis. This can serve to further deepen a teen’s fear of sleeping, creating a powerful and destructive cycle.

The Onset of an Anxiety Disorder

While the onset of an anxiety disorder may be triggered by a distressing experience or particular event, most cases of anxiety occur randomly, and their cause can often be traced back to family history. However, while genes are a major contributing cause in anxiety disorders, there are other risk factors that make anxiety more common – and protective factors that improve a teen’s resilience against anxiety symptoms and make them less of a problem over time.

Learning to minimize these risk factors and build on your teen’s protective factors is important. Sleep is a big part of it.

Is Sleep Anxiety a Form of Insomnia?

Insomnia is described as a problem with falling asleep or an inability to fall asleep. In a way, sleep anxiety does include insomnia as a symptom, as teens don’t want to fall asleep. But rather than being unable to, it is a teen’s fear that affects their ability to sleep. As such, the answer to treating sleep anxiety in teens is not quite the same as other forms of sleeplessness or insomnia.

Addressing Sleep Anxiety in Teens

Paradoxically, the most direct way to treat sleep anxiety in teens is to help them improve their sleep hygiene and naturally induce a healthier sleeping schedule.

If there are other psychological or physical barriers to good sleep – such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy – medical instruments and several different forms of medication may be necessary.

If a teen’s reluctance to fall asleep is not accompanied by another form of sleep disorder, then a more effective answer would be a comprehensive anxiety treatment plan, including individualized talk therapy and, if needed, an anti-anxiety medication.

Improving a teen’s sleep can help them address their sleep anxiety by bringing them back to a state of calm, deep, fulfilling nightly sleep.

Consider Professional Help

Sleep hygiene and sleep anxiety in teens is not an easy subject to tackle. It can take radical change to help a person truly address their sleep – including physical activity, a change in diet, aromatherapy, and a major rework to the bedroom, from dimmed lighting to better temperature control, a different mattress, and certain bed-related rules, such as limiting the bed to only sleep (meaning, no lying in bed while reading, studying, or playing games) and cutting off screen time after 9 pm.

Consider talking to a professional at Visions Treatment Centers about addressing your teen’s anxiety symptoms and sleep-related problems.

Categories
Mental Health

5 Simple Tips for Managing Impulsivity in Teens

Does your teen have problems with self-control and managing impulsivity? Impulsivity can be a serious obstacle in adulthood and more than a nuisance in adolescence. Helping your teen develop better habits and become more independent may not only provide useful for their future academic and professional goals but may prime them for the stressors of growing up and create a stronger foundation against other behavioral and mental health issues.

To a degree, excessive impulsivity might also be a sign or symptom of a more serious problem. Addressing it now can help your teen develop the necessary toolkit for managing impulsivity symptoms later on and know when to seek professional help and support from friends and family.

Isn’t Impulsivity Normal?

Teens are naturally more impulsive than adults. While we’ve legally set 18 as the age of majority, neither the human body nor the human mind is done developing at this point.

The brain continues to mature well into our 20s and 30s, with some of the most crucial elements of the brain – the regions responsible for cognitive functioning, long-term planning, reasoning, risk assessment, and executive functioning – only fully maturing around the mid-20s for most adults, and certain other elements – such as those related to mood control and emotional regulation – fully maturing in our 30s.

But these facts do not excuse foolhardy or dangerous behavior. Teens might not have the same physical capacity to think things through as thoroughly as their adult counterparts, but it does not make them any less responsible for their actions or any less capable of remorse and understanding, nor learning.

Reflecting on Actions and Mistakes

Teens should learn to accept the consequences of their actions and reflect on their mistakes, to rise to the inevitable challenges of adulthood. We shouldn’t be quick to forgive dangerous impulsivity or explain it away with a biological convenience – but it should be understood that teens still have a lot to learn and improve upon, and room for growth for many, many years to come.

Still, every parent must decide on their own where to draw the line between normal teen behavior and something worse.

We’ve all made mistakes, and oftentimes, we make them more than once. Helping teens in managing impulsivity and recognize the patterns in their mistakes can be one way of nudging them toward greater self-awareness. But when their problems become more severe – such as behavioral addiction, stealing (and other illegal activities), life-threatening thrill-seeking, or substance use – it’s time to call on more than just a little nudging.

Engendering Impulse Control in Your Teen

So, how can you begin managing impulsivity in your teen? First, it’s important to start out with a simple disclaimer: depending on whether your teen’s behavioral issues are a phase to grow out of, or the early onset signs of a behavioral or personality disorder, there may not be much you can do without professional help.

If you’re worried about the direction your teen’s actions and behavior have taken as of late, it might not be a bad idea to talk to them about visiting a therapist together and figuring out what’s driving their change in behavior and personality. The more drastic the change, the more likely it may be more than just some sort of phase.

Otherwise, there are several ways you can start managing impulsivity, impress better judgment and infuse greater levels of self-control in your teen through a few household changes:

1. Model Positive Choices

It is the same advice mirrored a thousand times through the ages: be the change you want to see. But in the context of a parent-child relationship, it is far more relevant than most parents seem to realize.

It’s easy to think that you’re losing touch with your children as they grow older, and it’s easy to assume that peer pressure is an increasingly influential factor in your teen’s behavior.

But believe it or not, until a teen moves out and sets up a household of their own, their parents remain their primary predictor of behavior and mindsets. In other words, your teens’ views and thoughts mirror your own more than either of you might realize and will continue to do so until they leave home.

To that end, reviewing your own actions and self-control is a crucial first step toward introducing major changes in your teen’s behavior. If you want your teen to model certain actions, be sure to be consistent in how you perform those actions yourself. Encouraging your teen to do better than you carry very little weight if you cannot make the same commitment toward self-improvement and managing impulsivity on your own self.

2. Establish Clear Red Lines

Boundaries are important, especially in relationships – and they’re just as important between a child and their parents.

Children are naturally inquisitive and will push boundaries, and teens are no different. Letting your teen explore themselves and ideas around them is important because robbing them of that freedom can elicit a whole line of significant behavioral problems.

But it’s also important to set boundaries for what your teen shouldn’t do, including obvious things such as drug use and criminal activity, and less obvious boundaries such as limiting the amount of private information they post online. On the flip side, it is also important to respect your teen’s boundaries for you. That means not snooping through their phone, letting them keep their browser history and online activity private, and giving them their own private space where you cannot intrude uninvited.

3. Praise Good Behavior

Just because your teen is growing up doesn’t mean they no longer want praise or affirmation. Even if they might not enjoy a hug or cuddle from Mom, they’ll still want to hear that they’ve done a good job or receive acknowledgment for their accomplishments and efforts. Give your approval as freely as you want to whenever your teen does something worth praising.

4. Relate to their Experiences

One of the hallmark traits of growing up as a teen is believing that your situation is unique or that your experiences are one-of-a-kind. While we are unique individuals, we are also connected to each other and live shared lives throughout generations. Having that sense of empathy is important, but it must also be fostered. Start by validating your teen’s experiences, listening to them, and letting them know that they’re not alone. Remind them to think of how others feel, tell them about similar experiences you’ve gone through, and help them realize that they aren’t alone in how they feel or what they’ve experienced without dismissing them.

Work With a Professional in Managing Impulsivity for Teens

However, if your teen’s experiences are something you can’t relate to, such as struggling with severe anxiety or feeling depressed for no reason, don’t try to dismiss these feelings or just smother their vulnerability with “everyone has these thoughts.” Instead, talk to them about what they might need or if they’d like to see someone with you.

Impulsivity can be a sign of a larger problem, whether it’s a conduct disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or a cry for help in cases of depression and anxiety. Your teen isn’t looking for punishment – there’s a reason they’re acting the way they are, and it’s up to their family and community to help them.

For more information about managing impulsivity and teen mental health treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Communication Depression Mental Health

How to Help a Friend That is Depressed

Depression is a difficult condition to live with. It is also difficult when you don’t know how to help a friend that is depressed – or even a family member. Depressive symptoms can often mislead the person struggling with them, making them feel like things are far worse than they are or that they themselves are bad, worthless, unloved, or ignored.

How to Help a Friend that is Depressed

Contending with these feelings is difficult, and sometimes, depression can be a frustrating thing to deal with in a friendship. But if you stay patient, take care of yourself, and heed professional advice, you can continue to provide meaningful support to your loved one.

1. Support Their Treatment

It goes without saying that you should not undermine their treatment. Regardless of your personal beliefs or opinions, and regardless of what they’re doing to get better, don’t mock it or scoff at it. Maybe you are skeptical about talk therapy or don’t think that antidepressants work. Or maybe your friend started on herbal medication, such as St. John’s wort, and finds that it is effective for them.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a placebo or a real therapeutic effect. If it is helping your friend – and if they are feeling better – support them. And if it stops working, don’t rub their noses in it or play “I told you so.” Help them find another way.

2. Don’t Spread the Word

This is another no-brainer, but it needs to be said – don’t gossip. Aside from avoiding nasty rumors, it’s also important to keep quiet about your friend’s feelings, experiences, and well-being. That’s their business, and who they share that information with is their business as well.

If your friend feels ready to talk about their depression with others, it should be up to them who they tell and what they say, and what they leave out. If you’re who they confide in, then it’s doubly important that you don’t break that trust by saying something you shouldn’t have.

3. Offer Distractions

This is an important piece of advice. You should be there to listen to your friend and make sure that they know someone hears them and is there for them, especially outside of the family. But consider how you might be able to pull them out of a moment of rumination or circular thinking.

These are common in depression – negative thought patterns that start with a self-loathing or anxious thought and spiral into worse and worse assumptions and feelings, including things like “it doesn’t matter if I disappear” or “no one cares anyway.”

Providing an apt distraction is a good way to pull your friend away from these thoughts whenever they begin to develop. Stick to the things you used to have fun with – even if your friend struggles to enjoy their old hobbies, revisiting them with you from time to time might help them crack a smile or laugh at an old memory.

4. Learn More About Depression and Other Mood Disorders

There is plenty to learn. Depression comes in many different shapes and forms, and understanding which one your friend is struggling with can tell you a lot about what to expect and what they might feel like. In fact, it’s a great step in learning how to help a friend that is depressed.

Listening to stories or experiences of other people with similar diagnoses can give you the tools to further empathize with how your friend feels, or put yourself in their shoes when thinking about what to say or how to talk to them. In addition to major depressive disorder, other depressive disorders include:

If you have more specific questions, you can always ask your friend to help explain.

5. You Don’t Need to Be There Always

This can be hard to hear for some people, but it’s not healthy for you or for your friend if you try to be there 24/7. This reliance on your help and continued care creates unhealthy expectations and can create a powerful and dangerous interdependent relationship.

Furthermore, while we should take care of those we love, it’s one step too far to try and dedicate yourself to someone’s care without equal consideration for your own well-being and mental health.

This is especially important if your friend is, in fact, your partner, girlfriend, or boyfriend. It’s easy to see yourself as the “provider” of emotional support and mental wellness, but don’t become their emotional crutch or provide them with affirmations at every turn in response to their self-loathing.

The goal of depression treatment is to reduce depressive symptoms and, in turn, help the individual strengthen their resilience against future episodes through stronger self-esteem and better stress management skills. These are difficult tasks that emphasize a person’s ability to take care of their own emotional needs. Your “care” can end up harming them if it goes too far.

6. Don’t Allow Threats

It must be said – if your friend or partner begins to threaten to hurt themselves if you leave or don’t do as they say, it’s time to draw a line and seek help, both for yourself and for them. If need be, distance yourself for your own safety.

Depression does not give anyone the right to threaten one another, and people who are depressed do not suddenly lose empathy for one another or lose sight of the concept of agency. Your friend might be worried about losing their loved ones, and they might doubt your love for them – or anyone else’s – but that does explain nor justify threatening self-harm and suicide.

It’s a very different matter altogether if your friend is talking about self-harm or suicide outside of the context of a threat or without the implication that they might “use” it.

Self-harm and suicidal ideation are common symptoms of depression, often culminating in a suicide attempt. Sometimes, there are no warning signs. If you’re worried about your loved one’s immediate safety, get help as soon as possible.

7. Seek Help

At the end of the day, if you don’t know what else to do, it is perfectly valid and completely encouraged to seek help – whether it’s the help of a teacher, a parent, a counselor, or a therapist.

This is especially important if you feel you aren’t equipped to deal with some of the questions and situations you find yourself in – such as struggling to talk a friend out of suicide, witnessing self-harm, or watching someone you love and care about do something reckless or senseless out of a need to feel.

You are not responsible for your friend, no matter how much you do or how much you care. And more importantly, you can never take their depression away from them. It isn’t in your power, nor is it in anyone else’s. Mental health is complicated, individual, and entirely unfair.

Teen Depression Treatment

Some people go through their entire lives feeling optimistic and ready, with barely a moment of self-doubt. And for some people, life itself feels like a non-starter, and it’s not something you can convince them of otherwise.

Get help. Convince your loved one to go seek help with you. Fight depression alongside them. But never feel responsible for their fight, or feel like it’s a fight you must win for them. Putting that pressure on yourself can backfire, especially if your friend’s mental health worsens over time.

Reach out to Visions Treatment Centers for more information about teen depression and depression treatment for adolescents.

Categories
Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Wellness

Celebrate Emotional Wellness Month

October is Emotional Wellness Month in the United States. This means we should take the time to bring awareness to the importance of emotional wellness in overall physical and mental health.

Emotional wellness can be defined as the sum of our moods – in terms of how appropriate our emotional responses are and in terms of how much our moods may vary. An emotionally healthy person will react in certain ways, such as feeling joy in happy moments, grief in loss, and anger in frustration.

Emotional wellness is not a form of Zen or an encouragement to be happy at all times. It is about being mindful of how we feel and recognizing that, sometimes, our emotions may be misaligned with the world around us.

We might feel deep longing and sadness when we should be content. We might feel nothing even though everything is in disarray. This is not an attempt to try and argue that there is a right way to feel in any given circumstance, but it is an acknowledgment of the fact that, depending on the circumstances around us, some feelings are inappropriate and should be heeded as a warning that something might not be right.

Learning to recognize when our emotional health has taken a major hit is important for addressing mental health issues before they grow.

What Does Emotional Wellness Month Represent?

Emotional wellness is something most of us are aware of, yet few of us truly embrace or cherish. As a whole, mental health awareness has massively improved over time. People understand the difference between depression and anxiety, they know about ADHD, and they may even know what an obsessive-compulsive disorder might look like.

Yet despite growing awareness, there are still many gaps in public knowledge, and a dire lack of access to crucial resources for mental health and treatment. People who are depressed rarely get the help they need, even if they know they might need it. And when they do go looking for help, many might feel rebuffed by the difficulty of getting access to consistent care.

If you are feeling well, then emotional wellness month may be your opportunity to help those who aren’t. On average, we all have a friend or family member struggling with their mental health, whether through diagnosed illness or simply due to excess stress and a tough time.

Assist them in navigating local resources to access mental healthcare, whether it’s through the address of a reputable counselor or psychiatrist, helping them sort through the paperwork for their mental health insurance coverage, or simply convincing them to consider an appointment with a therapist.

Taking Care of Your Emotional Wellness

How do you take care of your emotional wellness? The answer will be a little different for everyone. In general, fulfilling your own personal physical and mental needs can go a long way. This goes beyond running a hot bath or considering a humidifier and some essential oils for your living room – while these can be excellent tools for relieving stress, there are a few foundational needs that must be met first.

Addressing these needs and recognizing if others around you are doing the same is an important part of drawing attention to emotional wellness issues during emotional wellness month.

It’s about looking past short-term gains in mental health or seeing self-care routines as a band-aid for deeper personal health issues. It’s about recognizing the importance and value of seeking professional help and valuing the relationship between physical health and mental health, and how that translates into better mood regulation and emotional wellbeing.

Are You Eating Well?

It all begins with physical needs. The big three are eating wellsleeping well, and moving often.

good diet is important yet difficult, but it does not need to be. Time constraints and financial limits are usually the two reasons people cite most often when it comes to not eating well. Fresh ingredients can be difficult to source or expensive. Depending on where you live, you might not have access to good produce or quality proteins.

If you do get access to something healthy, it might be unaffordable. Then, there are storage concerns. Many people do not have large freezers or refrigerators to facilitate meal prep or bulk buying. Finally, it takes time to prepare meals. And if your emotional health is suffering, it becomes even harder to find the motivation to start cooking.

Finding Better Ways to Cook and Eat

A good way to overcome these challenges is by looking at easier ways to cook and eat. There are budget options for both vegetables and meat products, as well as simple recipes that take no more than fifteen minutes to prepare. Buy frozen vegetables, which are often cheaper, pre-prepared, and just as nutritious as fresh produce. Pick ingredients that are filling and nutritious, then rely on cheap spices to extend your palate. Play around with interesting flavors and learn about new food combinations from different cultures to keep your diet interesting.

Taking an hour out of the weekend to batch-cook refrigerable ingredients can make it easier to cook during the week. A few pieces of toast, some soft-boiled eggs, and slices of cucumber make for a good lunch that takes minutes to whip up. Reduce your coffee consumption to one or two cups a day, and drink more water or tea. Cut your costs by removing all snacks and sugary drinks from your shopping cart, or switch to sugar-free drinks for the same cost. Blend frozen fruits with a bit of milk and ice for a quick vitamin boost.

Eating better might not seem central to emotional wellness, but it is. A good diet is an important first step.

Sleep is Key

Sleep is just as important. While we mostly understand the value of sleeping well, we struggle to do so. Technology and caffeine consumption play important roles here.

Excess coffee might help you stay awake throughout the workday, but you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. Take a few days off to do a caffeine reset or work through it with lower doses of coffee (or a low-caffeine alternative, like black tea), and set a cut-off time for your caffeine needs.

Then, set a hard rule for screentime at night. Try to turn off all screens around 9 pm for the best sleep results. Although many screens try to minimize their blue light exposure in the evenings, they can still mess up and delay your body’s internal clock. The first few weeks are crucial – but once your sleep habits start to improve, it will be easier to maintain them.

Get Your Steps In

Physical exercise is also helpful, but not everyone has the time or the motivation to get up and work out. You don’t have to. If you work at an office, try to take as many opportunities as you can to get up from your desk regularly, whether it’s to refill your tea or water cup, go to the bathroom, or just take a quick break by the window.

If you work from home, set a time to stand up at least every half hour for a few steps. That, alone, can make a serious difference in your body posture, your daily step count, and your overall mental health.

Eating better, sleeping well, and trying to get just a little more movement in your day-to-day can each lead to marked improvements in your stress management and mood regulation. From there, we move on to other needs.

Building Bridges and Mending Bonds

Social health is crucial for emotional wellness. How well do you get along with your friends? Your family? Your loved ones? Do you have the ability to make time for your partner? Are you struggling with intimacy? Are you hanging out less and less with your friends?

These issues have been on the rise since the pandemic, leaving many people feeling socially stunted and increasingly isolated.

For some, it has even led to symptoms of agoraphobia and a reluctance to engage socially. It’s important to slowly wean off these new habits and get back into a social mood, especially for your emotional well-being.

If you feel that your emotional problems are becoming more than you can handle alone, it’s important to seek help.

Take the time during emotional wellness month to address your primary needs and improve your emotional health – and encourage others around you to do the same.

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