You think self-care is important for adults? It’s even more critical for teens. 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 Suicide.org, suicide rates for teens and adolescents continue to rise dramatically. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. And about 20 percent of all teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, with female teens developing depression twice as often as male.
The reason for all the doom and gloom for teens? Some experts believe teens now are being raised with unrealistic expectations. Modern media messages also tell 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, enduring family dynamics, etc. 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, 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 the complexities for teenagers is the adolescent brain at that age is still developing, which means a large center of functionality within the brain is 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 non-verbal 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.
9 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 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.
1. Put down your phone
Young people consume so much social media and spend so many hours on their phones that no wonder there are increased levels of anxiety for teens in general. Too much social media has been linked with health issues, including depression and a lack of self-esteem. Taking a break to disconnect and spend time with your best friend or cultivating healthy relationships is necessary for building a quality life, especially in high school. Constantly being on your phone limits that. Leave it in another room or put it in a drawer and see how long it takes you to forget it exists.
2. Try a contemplative practice, like meditation
Having a regular meditation practice, like for 10 minutes per day, can be life-changing. It reduces stress, controls anxiety, and makes you more mindful and self-aware. Even a few deep breaths in the middle of the day can help your teen to regain focus and relieve stress. A short, daily practice can be more effective than long sessions, so start your teen out with a mindfulness app like Headspace or Calm. Or consider a mindfulness subscription like Listen-Color-Relax, a quarterly box that focuses on calming activities that help relieve anxiety and reduce stress. You’ll get a gift set of 12 beautifully drawn coloring pages printed on premium paper, along with a 45-minute CD of soothing piano music and 4 note cards, all designed to help your teen relax and unwind.
3. 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.
4. 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. 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.
5. Saying positive affirmations
Positivity can have a huge effect on overall mindset and self-esteem for teens. Try repeating positive affirmations, like “I am strong. I love myself. I am worthy. I believe in myself,” on a daily basis so that you aren’t so hard on yourself. One Girl Inspired is on a mission to motivate teen girls by delivering a thoughtful mix of products, including journals and personal development books to help create confident girls who know that hard work is the best way to accomplish their dreams and goals. Each box also packs fun gift items, like school supplies, beauty goodies and tech gadgets.
6. Getting 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.
7. Doing regular movement
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.
The In Your Case Stationery Box is stuffed with a mix of beautifully designed stationery products, including pens and pencils, bookmarks, sticky notes and desktop items like staplers and tape dispensers. Curated to be both useful and unique, it’s the perfect accessory for your gratitude journaling practice.