Teen Mental Health: Building Resilience for Healthy Development

Mental health among adolescents does not stand alone; psychological well being is interwoven with physical and emotional health. It is, however, an essential component to the overall health of a teen.


Resilience, in particular, is a psychological quality that can assist teens in saying no to drugs, curbing peer pressure, knowing when to make the right choices, and avoiding risky behavior. For instance, resilient teens are those who have learned to manage stress effectively. They tend to be those who have healthy relationships with adults, easy going dispositions, and inner resources that position them to move easily into adulthood. Building resilience is easy enough with specific activities that each teen can implement into his or her lifestyle. Those are:


Building Friendships and Social Networks – It’s actually important for teens to spend time with friends. He or she is searching for a sense of self during this life stage and being able to be with others is an essential component to this life task. Positive experiences with friends and peers can help build inner strength and resilience.


Physical Activity – 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, adolescents don’t have to run three miles a day; taking a walk regularly can boost teen mental health.


Get Good Sleep – A teen who goes to bed and rises at the same time every day will often feel the difference in his or her mental health. Stress usually inhibits a regular sleep schedule; however, having a regular sleep schedule can help build resilience to that stress. Getting at least 9 hours per day is ideal for adolescents, giving them a balanced internal rhythm of rest.


Media Use – Adolescents tend to stay focused on their individual lives, lost in their smart phones, and having their attention shift from one piece of technology to another. There’s no real connection that might be satisfying and psychologically nourishing. Building resilience includes having in person interactions with others that are fulfilling and engaging. Furthermore, much of the media, including television and movies include a large amount of violence, which can aggravate feelings of depression.


Furthermore, schools and communities across the country are also recognizing the importance of resilience. With this is the ability to be emotionally intelligent – that is, to identify what you are feeling in the moment. In fact, a growing number of courses and community programs focus on adolescents’ social-emotional learning and coping skills.


Emotional awareness is the skill of knowing what you are feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what physical sensations you are having as a result. This is a skill that can be cultivated over time, which allows you to identify and express what you are feeling moment by moment. It’s also the ability to understand the relationship between what you are feeling and how you choose to behave. As you can imagine, this is an important skill in building resilience.


Emotional awareness involves the ability to:

  • Recognize your moment-to-moment emotional experience
  • Handle all of your emotions without becoming overwhelmed
  • Cultivating emotional awareness can support the ability to respond versus react. In other words, becoming more aware of your feelings can help put some distance between the stimulus and your response.
  • Interestingly, emotional awareness has everything to do with anxiety and stress, which are the primary symptoms of PTSD. You won’t be able to manage your emotions unless you know how to manage stress. The two are inherently related. Because emotions are unpredictable, they can come on strongly at times and create a stressful experience. Learning how to manage emotions, similar to the ability to manage stress, depends first on your level of emotional awareness.


Research indicates that adolescents who are emotionally aware and who are generally resilient will be able to avoid drug use and successfully transition into adulthood.



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