Most of us can remember when we were teenagers, right?! It can be an extremely difficult time of life. Hormones may be raging, and moods can match that! Each person has their own unique story to tell. Anxiety and depression often run rampant during the teen years.
Did you know that over 260 million people across the globe have anxiety disorders? And it is a fact that nearly every person, no matter where they live, come from, across the globe, experiences depression at some point in their lives. When levels and types of anxiety rise to a certain level, it becomes a diagnosable mental health disorder. You are at this time at a much higher risk of experiencing physiological problems, too. In general, improving your nutrition while decreasing junk foods and drinks, as well as overly processed foods, getting more and better-quality sleep, exercising, and making attempts to better manage your stress all help.
In teens anxiety and depression may look a little different than how adults experience it. Teens often do not tell us how they are feeling. Some things you can look for, especially if your teen cannot or will not identify what is bothering him/her, are changes in eating, sleeping, levels of energy, and physical complaints such as having a headache and/or a stomachache.
. If your teen is getting more irritable than usual and defiant over a period of time, perhaps it is a good idea to speak with your health care professional. You might want to reach out to teachers as well. At times, our teens may be a little more willing to talk to a trusted non-family member than a parent.
As touched upon briefly above, some helpful ways teens can try to manage or decrease the amounts of stress they are experiencing are:
1) exercising regularly
2) eating regularly
3) eating a more healthful diet while decreasing junk foods
4) getting enough sleep (try for 7-10 hours at least of uninterrupted sleep)
5) getting good quality sleep
6) establishing a sleep routine that does not change much
7) limiting or avoiding caffeine which is a stimulant and can increase anxiety and irritability
8) avoiding illegal drugs, inclusive of alcohol and tobacco
9) learning and practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises…any mindfulness technique that relaxes
10) learning to state feelings in polite yet firm ways which are not very passive or aggressive (there are trainings for this)
11) learning practical coping skills, such as breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable parts
12) learning to decrease negative self-talk (things will never get better, etc.); 13) learning to recognize good things about oneself and admitting it out loud
14) taking breaks from stressful situations (one can listen to music, talk to a friend, draw, write, etc.)
15) establishing a group of positive, supportive friends who can help one cope in a positive manner.
While this may be a great list, implementing certain things can take time and patience. For example, in teens, melatonin (the sleep hormone) starts to be released in the body later in the evening than in younger kids, and many teens have trouble establishing a healthy sleep pattern. It may be helpful to have curtains which block out light, and to have all electronic gadgets turned off (this decreases the chance of interruptions and even light which can have a decreasing effect on melatonin production). At times use of mindfulness techniques at night can help a teen quiet down and may fall asleep earlier. It is also good to avoid caffeine containing products, like coffee and chocolate late at night, as it is a stimulant.
Does your teen have anybody he/she feels safe enough to talk to? It is not unusual for a parent to be treated by a teen as the “enemy,” and it is important that your teen be talking to positive, caring, and supportive people, if he/she is talking at all. If your teen does not respond to sharing by talking, you might want to look into one of the effective and proven energy therapies, such as reiki, Emotion Code, hypnosis, guided imagery, Tapping (EFT – Emotional Freedom Techniques), etc. Another great option is the use of Music Therapy. Music can be an incredibly strong tool which can sometimes help those who do not respond well to talk therapy. Art Therapy is yet another manner of positive, non-verbal expression of feelings. Homeopathy has also dealt effectively with stress, anxiety, and other issues. Others benefit by the use of aromatherapy (using essential oils) and binaural beats (sound waves). Massage can also increase relaxation while easing muscle tension.
Let’s not forget that you, the parents, the caretakers, are still the singularly most important element in your teen’s life, in spite of the way he/she may be acting. So, your role model is important! It is likely that you are also dealing with stress – who doesn’t? So how you handle it, or how much emotional intelligence you display, can make a difference in how your teen learns to cope. It can be that your role modeling is great, yet your teen may still have issues. Nevertheless, it is important to take good care of yourselves as well as your kids.
While at times things may seem hopeless, reflect on the fact that you and other adults survived the teen years! Some of us may need ongoing help, while others seem to find their footing in life a bit easier. Just remember that we start where we are in life – no judgments – no blame – just focus on forward progress.
And as always, have a holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.