Adolescents face a variety of challenges during their teen years. They have to navigate through the pressures from the outside world while simultaneously meeting parental expectations. In addition to these pressures, teens are also trying to navigate who they are, who their friends are, and all of the various other complexities that come with growth and development. Today’s teens are also experiencing even more difficulties with the fast expansion of social media and technology. These difficulties and pressures take a toll on an adolescent’s mental health.
Prevalence rates for adolescent depression vary across different countries from 1.3 to 18.2%. In a report of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National, it was reported that at least 1 in 10 adolescents (aged 12 to 17) had experienced a major depressive disorder in the past year in the United States. Adolescents experiencing depression are often at risk of engaging in high-risk behaviors. Furthermore, adolescents experiencing depression are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and even commit an attempt. (Bodden, Stikkelbroek, & Dirksen., 2018).
Although there are many different avenues to help adolescents navigate through pressures and the resulting emotions, an often overlooked method is teaching adolescents about self-care. Spending time doing regular self-care routines can help with the challenges that adolescents face. Although self-care activities are not full solutions to the problems, they can provide youth with healthy skills to help navigate challenges. Self-care also allows adolescents to build a level of resilience while also in some cases improving self-esteem.
There is no right or wrong way to do self-care. It can be anything that makes your teen happy while also supporting their mental, physical, and emotional health. However, if you are struggling to come up with self-care activities here are a few suggestions:
Disconnect: We’re living in a digital age. Too much social media and screen time has been linked to increased levels of anxiety for teens as well as adults. Taking a bit of time to disconnect and spend quality time either alone or with someone you care about can be a great way to reset. (Cain., 2018)
Meditation/Mindfulness: Taking some time to do meditation can be great for reducing stress and helping to control anxiety (Hudizack., 2018). When starting out, short meditation sessions can often be more effective than longer sessions. There are also mindfulness apps (Calm, Headspace, etc.) that can provide you with guided meditations if you prefer. Meditation can even consist of just taking a few minutes to yourself to take a few deep breaths in order to regain focus and release some stress.
DIY Spa Day: There’s nothing more relaxing than taking an afternoon to indulge in some self-love. All you need are some bath bombs (if that’s your preference), face masks, your favorite music, and maybe even some relaxing essential oils. Taking the time to pamper yourself and relax can be the perfect way to get re-energized and refreshed.
Creative Expression: Choose your favorite creative outlet to convey your thoughts and feelings. This could be by journaling, painting, drawing, dancing, or playing music, or anything else that makes you feel inspired. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s perfect. Just take time and allow yourself the space to express yourself!
Bodden, D., Stikkelbroek, Y., & Dirksen, C. (2018). Societal burden of adolescent depression, an overview and cost-of-illness study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 241, 256-262.
Cain, J. (2018). It's Time to Confront Student Mental Health Issues Associated with Smartphones and Social Media. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 82(7), 6862.
Hudziak, J. (2018). 33.4 Meditation and Mental Health. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 57(10), S48-S49.