You think self-care is important for adults? It’s even more critical for teens, especially as they try to balance remote learning with big and small stresses.
If you think of it, the pattern for adults is that they turn to self-care almost as a last resort, when burnout is imminent, and a change is desperately needed. But if teens were to start building self-care habits early on, they may be able to navigate difficulties and challenges more effectively by staying strong and steady through the peaks and valleys.
Being able to maneuver through life’s challenges for some teens is a matter of life and death. According to the Pew Research Center, rates of depression among teens increased 59% from 2007 to 2017. And this is far more common with teenage girls; one in five teenage girls (or 20%) experienced a recent episode of depression, compared to about one in fourteen boys (7%).
The reason for all the doom and gloom for teens? Some experts believe teens now are being raised with unrealistic expectations. Modern media -- and social media -- also tells teens they should always feel good and show the “perfect” aspects of their lives. As a result, parents neglect teaching their teens the kind of coping skills they need to survive during chaotic and pressure-filled times.
All of this points to self-care as a possible solution. In fact, there’s no time when it’s more essential than in adolescence. Here’s why self-care is important for teens and some ways they can incorporate self-care activities into their daily routines.
Why Teens Need Good Self-Care Habits
Adolescents face a number of growing pains, literally and figuratively, during their teen years. They are faced with tremendous pressures from the outside world, such as doing well academically, deciding on a college to attend, what type of career to pursue, sports to try out for, and dealing with changing family dynamics. They’re trying to figure out who they are, who their friends should be, and all the ups and downs that come with growth and development. This includes hormonal changes and mood shifts along with struggles with self-image and self-esteem.
Teens are also trying to forge independence away from their parents and discovering their unique identity in a way that feels okay. It’s an often-confusing process for many adolescents.
Adding to these complexities is that the adolescent brain is still developing, which means a large center of functionality within the brain has not fully matured. The parts of the brain responsible for emotion and reward develop first.
Anna Sidis, a clinical child psychologist, talks about why self-care is critical for adolescents. “The parts of the brain responsible for understanding the consequences of your behavior – like the frontal lobes – develop much later, possibly not until 20 or 25,” she explains. “So what that means for adolescents is they’re struggling with really big emotions they haven’t had before. They might be sensitive to emotional stimuli and to nonverbal communication, and have difficulty making decisions because their frontal lobes aren’t yet developed.”
This results in teenagers making decisions that don’t make sense, or being overly impulsive and not thinking of long-term consequences of their actions. Suffice it to say, this is why making self-care activities a habit or cultivating an actual self-care practice for teenagers is so important to their overall health and well-being.
Ways Teens Can Begin Practicing Self-Care Today
Spending time doing regular, ongoing self-care routines can help with the challenges that teenagers face on a daily basis. It’s not that self-care activities are solutions to problems; rather, they can help provide teens with a healthy foundation for dealing with life’s inevitable challenges and frustrations. Learning how to take care of yourself builds resilience.
Self-care for teens can really be anything that makes them happy and supports their physical, mental, and emotional health. And if you’re struggling to inspire your teen to consider self-care activities, frame it as something they “get” to do, a gift to herself, or a way to honor hard work and effort. Here are some powerful and effective self-care tips for teens and ways you can help your teen get started today.
Indulge in Creative Expression
Creative expression has multiple benefits for emotional health. It gives teens a way to release complicated emotions through music, journaling, visual arts, or hobbies. Extracurricular activities that invoke a sense of peace and calm can be wildly effective for reducing stress during the teen years.
Each month, the Craft in Style Box delivers Pinterest-worthy craft projects and the supplies needed to complete them. Teens can expect a new DIY project, easy-to-follow instructions, tools and supplies. Craft projects include things like terrariums, candle pouring, sun print photography, and more.
Have a DIY Spa Day at Home
Teens with a busy schedule can stop and indulge in self-love by having a DIY spa day at home. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy a spa day, either. All you need are some face masks, bath bombs, bubble bath, your favorite music, diffuser with your favorite oils and voila!
For a little help with your at-home day spa, consider FaceTory, a Korean sheet mask subscription that delivers some of the most innovative K-beauty brands every month. Choose between three subscription options delivering four or seven masks, or a combination of masks and Korean skincare products.
Get Out in Nature
Research has repeatedly shown a link between being outdoors and lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety. Time in nature also helps counteract the mood disturbance caused by too much screen time. Doing regular outdoor activities as a family can help adolescents build this all-important habit.
Move and Exercise Regularly
Whether it’s sports, gym workouts, walks, running, Zumba, or yoga, movement helps both physical and mental health. The activity doesn’t matter as long as it’s consistent. Do a Shot of Yoga can help cultivate a yoga practice. Each box is curated around a new theme and includes 1-2 full-sized yoga or self-care items, 3-4 items like workout gear and accessories, and a yoga lifestyle book or journal.
Focus on Setting Goals
Regular “me time” that focuses on the things that make you happy and healthy are great self-care routines. Before long, the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) will keep your sights set on accomplishing personal goals.
The Dream Girl Box is a quarterly subscription that helps girls between ages 4-16 develop the life skills and leadership they need to reach any goal they set their minds to.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Being thankful may not be a skill that comes naturally to teens. But given that multiple studies show that it increases happiness and positivity, keeping a gratitude journal is a worthy habit to cultivate.
Have you ever thought about what you DO have, rather than focus on what you don’t? Gratitude journaling shifts your mindset from being negative to instantly positive, because at a glance, you can see what you have in your life.