Healthy Living YMCA Youth Programs

Teens and mental health: 3 strategies for self-care

Sangeetha Ram is a 17-year-old high school student, and a Y volunteer and staff member. Sangeetha joined the YPALS mentorship program, and soon became a leader and mentor to newcomer youth. She is passionate about helping other young people realize their potential and reach their goals.

How do you take care of your health? Maybe you exercise, try to have a balanced diet, make sure to take your vitamins, and a get a good night’s sleep. But what about your mental health? As busy teens, mental health is often trivialized in favour of getting homework done or honouring commitments. But without good mental health, it is difficult to carry out even the simplest tasks in our lives.

Mental health has been something I struggled with due to the huge demands of high school. Piles upon piles of homework were handed to me every day, and major tests seemed to be exponentially increasing. The stress and anxiety I felt really affected the quality of my life. I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t eat breakfast in the morning because I was anxious about school that day. I would push away friends and lash out at my parents.

But after visiting my school counsellor for some guidance, I felt a lot better. I finally had a plan to reduce the stress and anxiety I was feeling every day. Here are some simple strategies that worked for me.

Meditate: Meditating is a great way to unwind after a long day at school or work. Putting some time aside before bed to unwind and reflect on your day can really help put your mind at ease. Personally, it helped me sleep better — which ultimately made me more refreshed and productive in the morning.

Do something you love: Youth often get caught up in schoolwork and extracurriculars to the point that they don’t take time to rest and relax. By partaking in activities you love, you can reduce anxiety and stress. Whether it be watching a movie, skating, or spending time with your friends, doing something fun is a great way to improve your mental health.

Be good to yourself: Positive talk can help you bring up your self-worth, which is crucial for a positive lifestyle. It might sound silly, but try looking into the mirror every morning and saying three things you love about yourself. For example: “I’m an amazing dancer. I’m a caring friend. My hair looks awesome today.” By reinforcing positive ideas, teens can increase their self-esteem, feel loved, and feel worthy.

After diligently following my self-care plan, my anxiety slowly decreased. By setting some time aside to improve my mental health, my quality of life skyrocketed. In my case, my guidance counsellor at school really helped me out with my stress and anxiety issues. But you can also talk to a teacher, a trusted friend, your family doctor, Kids Help Phone, or a professional at a community mental health clinic in your area.

By caring for ourselves and taking time out of our busy schedules we are fully taking care of our health. Physical health is important but mental health should be given just as much of a priority. Only by paying attention to all aspects of our health, can we truly be happy and healthy individuals.