Teen depression can be a difficult mental illness to manage. It can easily become pervasive in life, affecting a teen’s functioning at school, at home, and in relationships. Furthermore, even if your child is taking medication and already seeing a mental health professional, there are lifestyle changes that might facilitate a healthier state of mind. Of course, the ten suggestions below can also be used as preventative measures for adolescents and adults alike. Learn more about teen depression treatments here.
1. Find a Routine
Likely your teen already has a schedule that includes the attendance to school. Maintaining that daily routine is essential as well a finding structure for the evenings and weekends. Although having a fixed routine might sound like a contrived way to live, when depression has set in, it’s easy for your teen to get home, find the bedroom, and pull the covers over his or her head. Instead, if there’s a structure in place to watch a movie, prepare for dinner, finish homework, and then go to bed at 9, your child might be less tempted by the bed and attend to the routine that’s been established.
2. Set Goals and Aim to Reach Them
Having goals, whether they are academic or recreational, can give your child a sense of purpose. Often, with depression, it’s easy for your child to feel powerless. Small achievements each day can facilitate his or her sense of well being and empowerment. It is best, however, to start small. Set goals that you and your teen know he or she can accomplish, such as helping with dinner preparation, attending an art class twice per week, or going for a walk in the afternoons.
Physical activity can release endorphins, which alone help to boost positive feelings. However, exercise can also help with long-term mental health, including making new connections in the brain, which alone can facilitate enduring change. Furthermore, to experience these benefits from exercise, your teen doesn’t have to run three miles a day; taking a walk regularly can boost mental health.
4. Eat Healthy
As a caregiver, you can support your teen in his or her diet. It’s easy for your child to come home and grab whatever’s in the cupboard. Yet, often what’s easily accessible may not be best food choice. Preparing meals that are chock full of vegetables can strengthen your teen’s sense of feeling well. For some teens, simply knowing that he or she is eating well can promote feeling better; whereas making poor food choices can lead to guilt that might exacerbate feelings of depression.
5. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Although this might be difficult to establish at first, a teen who goes to bed and rises at the same time every day might feel the difference in his or her mental health. Depression usually inhibits a regular sleep schedule; it will either cause little sleep or oversleeping. Yet, having a regular schedule, and this goes back to the first suggestion above, can help with getting the right amount of rest. If sleeping becomes a challenge, remove the distractions in the bedroom such as a television or computer.
6. Confront Negative Thoughts
What contribute to depression are the thoughts and beliefs that your teen possesses. A form of therapy that has been successful is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which examines the thoughts that lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. However, this doesn’t need to only happen in the therapy room. You can help your child monitor his or her thoughts by taking ten minutes a day to write down any thoughts that led to feelings of depression and unworthiness. For example, once the thought, “I am worthless” is identified, it can be replaced with a more self-affirming thought. Identifying, challenging, and replacing unhealthy thoughts with positive ones can ease the transition towards healing from depression.
There are many health benefits to laughing – both physical and mental. Laughing can lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, increase memory and focus, which are both often impaired during depression, improve creativity, and reduce stress. Perhaps you and your teen can read a joke a day to get the belly rolling and the smiles spreading from one ear to the other.
Although depression can be difficult, particularly during adolescence when so many other psychological and emotional changes are taking place, as a caregiver there are ways to support your teen’s mental health. The above suggestions are meant to accompany the love, compassion, and acceptance that your teen yearns for at this time in life.
Breyer, Melissa. “8 Health Benefits of Laughter.” Care2.com, 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.
R. Morgan Griffin. “10 Natural Depression Treatments.” WebMD. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.