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6 Ways That Teens Can Protect Their Mental Health

Adolescence, as we all know, is a rollercoaster. With emotions running high, juggling the responsibilities of school, work, and family, and forging new relationships, every day truly presents new challenges. This is why it’s so critically important for teens (and everyone) to recognize their mental health and take steps towards protecting their emotional wellbeing on a daily basis.

If you believe your teen is experiencing mental health issues, you can help. Speak openly with your teen to understand what they’re going through. If necessary, you may even want to involve a mental health professional or consider teen treatment centers to offer even more support as they develop mechanisms to cope and heal. 

Here, we’re taking a closer look at the importance of mental health and offering suggestions for how you can help your teen work to protect their mental health. When someone is healthy both physically and mentally, there’s truly no limit to their potential. 

What is Mental Health? 

We all know how important it is to maintain and take care of our physical health—but what about your mind, thoughts, and emotions? According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health is a concept that “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” Your mental health affects every aspect of your life on a daily basis. Unlike what some may think, it’s much more complex than simply your mood at the time. Mental health refers to your mental wellbeing in all facets and how you interact with others and the world around you. 

Is Mental Health the Same as a Mental Illness?   

These two concepts are commonly confused for one another, but they are not the same. Mental health is constantly with you, almost as a state of being, while a mental illness signifies a problem with your mental wellbeing. To identify the difference, it helps to make a comparison to physical health, which most of us are more familiar with.

A mental illness is similar to a physical illness, such as the flu or a cold. It negatively impacts your overall mental health, just as the flu might degrade your physical health for a certain time. However, while we have medications for many of our physical ailments (or simply waiting them out like the common cold), mental illnesses are often more difficult to identify and then effectively form a treatment.

Some of the most common mental illnesses for teens include:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Eating disorders.
  • ADHD.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Substance abuse disorders. 

6 Ways That Teens Can Protect Their Mental Health 

While everyone should work to protect their mental health, this should be a particular priority for teens. Navigating the turbulent adolescent years is difficult enough and studies show that a high percentage of teens will suffer from some type of mental illness at some point in their lives. Even if they do not experience a diagnosed mental illness, they can still undergo bouts of poor mental health that affect their confidence, relationships, and overall satisfaction with life.

How can your teen protect their mental health? Read on.

  1. Stay connected: isolation often leads to mental health issues, especially if it’s extended over long periods of time. It’s important for teens to stay connected with their families, friends, and role models. Of course, this doesn’t mean they need free reign to stay out with their friends constantly. But it’s beneficial to make time for friends by joining clubs or playing sports to share similar interests.
  1. Exercise: Studies show that poor physical health often is associated with poor mental health. Engaging in regular exercise not only boosts your physical fitness but can also improve your mood. You don’t necessarily need to bulk up in the gym, either. Light to moderate exercise will do the trick. Activities such as running, jogging, swimming, yoga, or engaging in a sport can do wonders for your teen’s mental health.
  1. Get enough sleep: we all know how important—and valuable—a good night’s sleep is. However, teens may find it difficult to maintain a regular sleep pattern, which over time, can degrade their mental health and even physical health. Work with your teen to ensure everyone in your family is getting adequate sleep to face the day ahead with confidence and energy.
  1. Step away from social media: the ill effects of social media on teens have been well documented, but still, most teenagers couldn’t make it a week without their smartphones. While simply banning social media may not be effective, encourage them to step away from it from time to time.
  1. Getting involved: finding a passion project or helping your community can do wonders for your mental health and self-esteem. It can also provide you with a purpose when you’re feeling lost or unsure of what to do next. Encourage your teen to get involved and become a part of something that’s bigger than themselves. This can be a personal project, school club, community group, volunteer group, and more.
  1. Open the lines of communication: it’s amazing how powerful a simple conversation can be. While your teen may not always feel like talking about their mental wellbeing, simply knowing you’re available and empathetic can do wonders in your relationship. Always come from a place of love, not judgment, and even share your own challenges with mental health. 

Conclusion

Everyone should focus on protecting their mental health—just how we all value our physical health. In tandem, both work together to allow us to live happy and fulfilling lives. Mental health should not be a topic we avoid, especially with your teen, and it’s critical to serve as a positive role for them as they navigate their teen years. You should also work together to protect their mental health by encouraging exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and taking breaks from social media. Making yourself available to talk, while it may seem simple, is also a powerful tool in protecting the mental health of your teen.

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