If you experience long-lasting periods of stress, you may be interested in learning more about the connection between stress and mental health issues.
Teens today are more stressed and struggle more with their mental health than in years prior. This steady climb can be attributed to a number of things: the information age and data flood, social media and its effects on self-esteem, the 24-hour news cycle, economic downturn, climate change, a historic pandemic, worsened access to treatment, and much more.
Finding things to blame doesn’t help affect a teen’s anxieties and unwanted thoughts, but it can help friends and family learn how to help promote a teen’s wellbeing.
Positive psychology, engaging negative thoughts constructively, developing individualized coping mechanisms, and promoting physical health are some of the ways we can help teens with their stress and mental health issues. Below are a few more useful tips.
End Screen Use Early
Limiting screen time is not the end all be all of the mental health tips. In fact, it might do more harm than good in terms of affecting your relationship with your child, and their relationship with friends. But an important habit that you should focus on implementing throughout the household – and across generations – is eliminating screens an hour or so before bed.
It isn’t so much about defeating electronic dependence (which is not feasible in an age where computer literacy and interconnectivity are social requirements) as it is about helping teens develop healthier habits for winding down mentally and physically at night. There’s a lot of mental stimulation on the smartphone and computer, and that can heavily disturb natural sleep hygiene. This brings us to the next tip:
Get More Quality Sleep
Sleep is critically underrated for both physical and mental health. Missing an hour can be massively detrimental to both mood and cognition, and even just a few minutes lost or gained per day can make a difference in the long term.
But getting good sleep can be notoriously difficult. It doesn’t help that the natural circadian rhythm is altered during adolescence so that the brain releases sleep-inducing chemicals later at night than both children and even adults. Yes, teens normally stay up a little later, without the help of a screen.
Helping your teen develop better sleep hygiene by creating a consistent sleep ritual with them can ensure that they’re still managing to take care of their daily obligations while getting enough sleep – at least eight hours. Elements of good sleep rituals include:
- Calming ambient noise.
- A relaxing night-time tea (herbal infusions, no green tea content).
- Keeping the room dim or completely dark.
- Keeping the room cool for sleep.
Remind Yourself of Positive Personal Qualities
Positive reinforcement, affirmations, or self-care – whatever you’d like to call it, it’s important to take the time to remind yourself of what you’re good at, or what you’re proud of. The same goes for your teen.
Negative thoughts are self-fulfilling and cyclical, feeding into each other to create a spiral that feels impossible to escape. Positive thinking can help a teen get out of that spiral, but sometimes, they need help.
Giving your teen important affirmations can help remind them that they’re not all bad, even on days when it feels that way.
It can also help encourage them to focus and strengthen those positive qualities, especially if they’re self-conscious or anxious. Build your teen’s self-esteem by helping them hone their skills, develop new ones, and explore their potential in a number of different activities and fields of interest.
Do What Makes You Happy
It doesn’t necessarily come as much of a surprise but doing something you enjoy doing can help with stress and low mood, to the point that therapists may recommend picking up hobbies that used to be enjoyable to patients with depression, because sometimes that can help trigger fond memories and release dopamine.
We all need something that makes us happy, whether it’s exercise, cross-stitching, drawing, or a number of different activities. Just help your teen balance the pros and cons of their hobbies by ensuring they get enough sleep, movement, and time to fulfill their obligations.
Exercise has a positive impact on mental health and it’s a habit teens should develop early.
That doesn’t necessarily mean convincing teens to jog, get into the track, hit the gym, or take up another sport. Lead by example and take your teen on more physical activities whenever you can – such as hiking, climbing, swimming, or just a few afternoon walks.
Encourage your teen to try out for things they haven’t tried before, from dancing to badminton. While plenty of people dislike exercising, there’s usually at least one thing people like doing that involves movement. Help your teen find it.
Talk to an Adult
Being a teenager is always difficult. Being a teenager and struggling with your mental health is something else entirely. It’s important to take some time to give yourself credit and remember the things you get right – especially on the days when it feels like you’re doing everything wrong.
And when that fails, it’s especially important to seek the ear of someone willing to listen. Talk to a parent, a teacher, a counselor, or a therapist. You may be surprised how much they can relate to how you feel, or the advice they might be able to offer.
Taking the time to learn more about local resources is important, too. Find groups with a mutual interest in mental health and wellness and find others in your age group who talk about their experiences with anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
When the time is right, call a professional. Not only can therapy help you learn ways to cope with how you feel right now, but it can prove invaluable as a way to seek help when nothing else works. Mental health treatment isn’t always about pills and schedules – it’s a long-term process, filled with learning, asking questions, practicing things, and reaching out to others, both to help and be helped.