To help adolescents achieve overall well-being and set the stage for positive mental health in adulthood, it’s important that they have coping tools and general good habits that promote mental health. Sadly, approximately one in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental illness, according to the Office of Adolescent Health with the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Parents and caregivers can teach their teens the following helpful tips to stay calm, avoid overwhelm, and relax when stress is high:
- Doodling – If you’re feeling stressed in class or at home, pick up a pen and start drawing out those nonsense scribbles. Just let your pencil lead the way. Don’t think; draw.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This is a technique where a person first tightens certain muscles in the body and then releases them. The point is that after tightening your muscles in your neck and shoulders, for instance, you can then immediately feel how that part of the body feels when relaxed. The intentional tightening of your muscles at first helps the body then feel the opposite experience of relaxation. To develop a practice of relaxation using this technique, you can do this for various muscles group in your body for a period of at least 10 minutes a day.
- Deep Breathing: Like the above tool, breathing can quickly calm your anxious thoughts down. Because your attention is focused on your breathing and not on your thoughts, your body will begin to calm down. There are many types of deep breathing techniques, such as Square Breathing or Figure 8 breathing. Find one that’s feel right for you.
- List What You Enjoy: Prior to a teen getting upset, anxious, or stressed, parents can help them make a list of all the activities and positive influences in their life. Then, when your teen needs to calm down from a stressful situation, this handy list can point them to what to do next. You might also include the friends, adults, and professionals teens can talk to if needed.
- Exercise: This is a great stress reliever. And if teens are exercising on a regular basis, they are likely to ward off getting sick physically and emotionally.
- Laugh Often: Parents and teens can use humor to shift their reactions to stress. Laughter can help move a person out of anger to absurdity. Search for something that gets the funny bone moving and laugh! You might need to facilitate this for your teen. Or simply remind your teen to find something to laugh about. Laughter can boost the immune system, and create immediate physiological changes that shift perception and a person’s view on the situation.
- Painting: One idea is to give your teen mandalas to paint. Because they need to focus in order to color in the lines, this activity can be very soothing! However, teens don’t have to stick with mandalas. Any kind of painting will help a teen focus on something else other than their stressors.
These are suggestions for coping tools. However, there are many more to choose from. Anything that can help a teen calm down and avoid getting too overwhelmed will work. If you have additional questions about how to support your teen’s psychological well being, contact a mental health provider today.