By Kara Witthuhn, School-Based Counselor, Christian Family Solutions Counseling Care & Services
When it comes to mental health and wellness, it can be easy for busy teens to overlook some of the most important and simple routines and habits that contribute to mental health. Self-care is an important priority that prevents burnout, keeps your cup full, and gives you what you need to fulfill day-to-day obligations.
Developing self-care routines and habits will help you establish positive coping strategies when mental health or emotional health challenges arise. Self-care doesn’t have to cost money or include elaborate plans for vacations or massage appointments. Here are some every day ways to prioritize self-care and safeguard your mental health:
Get enough sleep. Good sleep contributes to better emotional well-being, positive mood, ease in decision making, learning, and memory. Neglecting sleep can make is difficult to cope with even minor stressors and poor sleep is often linked to emotional struggles. Teens should aim for 9 hours each night, and most importantly, keep a consistent sleep schedule to help with circadian rhythms that allow quality sleep.
Stay hydrated. The body is composed of mostly water, so hydration is important to keep all systems running smoothly. Research also indicates that water is important for maintaining your mental health. Dehydration may increase your risk of anxiety and depression, among other unhealthy mental states.
Eat right. A variety of nutrient-rich foods gives your body the pick of all the vitamins and minerals needed to function well. Eating quality foods at regular intervals helps to avoid blood sugar drops, which can contribute to irritability, anxiety, and overwhelm. The brain is composed mostly of fat, and needs access to essential fatty acids to build connections for learning, memory, and healthy emotional response.
Be active. Movement and exercise are not only important for body fitness, but also because they cause release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Movement doesn’t have to be extensive–even a 10-minute walk can help with a mood boost.
Go outside. You may not want to play outside like you did as a younger child, but being outdoors does impact your mental health. Exposure to sunshine causes the brain to release serotonin, a chemical associated with boosting mood and helping with calm and focus. Furthermore, research has proven1that the opportunity to marvel in God’s creation improves mental and emotional well-being.
Laugh. “Laughter is the best medicine” is a famous quote for a reason. Laughter is a simple way to usher the release of endorphins to improve mood and decrease stress hormones. It can even aid in pain relief.
Focus on gratitude. Those who dwell on the positives in life find benefit physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Remind yourself daily to count your blessings. Be specific. Write them down.
Spend time with God. Seek comfort and encouragement with God’s Word through daily devotion. Spend time in prayer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Seek to be surrounded with the joy of God’s goodness and unconditional love. You can do this in simple, cumulative ways, such as listening to Christian music throughout the week, and being present in worship at every opportunity.
Want some more tips and guidance to self-care? Click here to view and print a tool kit developed to aid you in establishing some self-care goals.
If you or someone you know needs to speak with a counselor about a mental health concern, please contact us at 800-438-1772, or use our Request an Appointment form here on our website.