Self-Care for Teens

Teen self-care through her hobby of yoga

As children and young people transition into adulthood, they inevitably go through varying levels of stress and pressure related to relationships, schooling, social media, appearance, and social standing. When these issues are not tackled effectively, they may lead to emotional, mental, or behavioral disorders. A recent SAMHSA study reveals 13.3% of young people ages 12 to 17 experience major depressive episodes, up from 13% a year later. 

Self-care can be an effective solution to help teens cope with the many stressors they face each day. Taking care of one helps maintain physical, emotional, and mental reserves, thereby preventing and managing stress and anxiety.

What is Self-Care? 

Self-care revolves around meeting basic needs so that a person can remain physically and mentally healthy. It involves doing things that preserve or improve a person’s mental or physical health. This includes hygiene, exercise, nutrition, and seeking medical care when needed. When a teen feels stressed, overwhelmed, or burnout, they can easily neglect the basics of looking after themselves. 

For this reason, it is crucial to practice self-care, especially when one is struggling with mental health issues. Self-care activities empower teens to do all they need and want to accomplish in a day without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Why Is Self-Care Important?

Self-care has several benefits that are interlinked. When teens commit to self-care, they improve their well-being all around. 

The following are some of the benefits of self-care:

  • Improving physical health
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Boosting self-esteem
  • Protecting mental health
  • Leading to better relationships

Self-Care Activities for Teens

The following are practical and effective self-care activities to help teens improve their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Exercise

Any form of physical exercise, whether playing a sport, taking a walk, or going for a jog, can help teens de-stress. During and after exercise, the body releases happy hormones known as endorphins responsible for feelings of relaxation and well-being. This undoubtedly provides an emotional lift while reducing stress. A daily exercise routine, therefore, is a crucial component of self-care practice for teens.

Meditation

Meditation has a lot of benefits, both physical and emotional. Practicing meditation can help one connect to their inner self and promote self-discovery. In teens, meditation can reduce stress, manage anxiety, and minimize feelings of depression. Meditation can involve guided exercises or listen to music that is calming. The benefits of meditation include increased emotional intelligence, self-awareness, gratitude, and improved sleep.

Participate in Hobbies

Practicing a hobby is a beneficial part of a self-care routine in teens. According to research, people who participate in hobbies are less prone to stress, unstable moods, and depression. Activities such as gardening, hiking, baking, and biking can get teens moving and help them have a great time. On the other hand, hobbies that challenge or focus their mind, such as journaling, doing puzzles, or playing piano, can have significant mental and emotional benefits.

Practice Gratitude

Another great self-care habit that teens should develop is practicing gratitude. Studies show gratitude has a strong and consistent relationship with happiness. Appreciating the little things in life and being thankful for them can help teens recognize the blessings they have in life. 

People who practice gratitude enjoy more positive emotions, good experiences, improved health, and strong relationships. When a person acknowledges the things they have, they welcome joy into their lives. Positive affirmations and a healthy relationship can also help teens learn how to practice gratitude. 

Eat Nutritious Foods

Good nutrition and fresh air are crucial for brain and mental health. Nutritious food can also help prevent chronic diseases, thereby improving physical health. A vital part of self-care for teens is providing themselves with a balanced and nourishing meal. 

The following are some of the smart ways one can make self-care part of every meal during their daily routine:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Use herbs and spices such as lemon balm, chamomile, herbal teas, turmeric, and saffron
  • Eating small meals regularly throughout the day 
  • Increase intake of healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Incorporate nuts and seeds into their meals. Seeds can include flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. Nuts can be pistachio, walnuts, almonds, and cashews
  • Limit sugar intake

Create Supportive Friendships

Relationships are vital to a person’s emotional well-being, and prioritizing seeing friends is integral to teen self-care plans. Spending time with friends is not only fun, but it also yields several long-term physical and emotional health benefits. 

Studies show meeting and communicating regularly with friends prevents burnout while promoting well-being. Supportive friends offer an ideal space where teens can let go and relax. Additionally, friends offer a healthy break from non-stop thoughts in a teen’s brain, which helps bring them back into their here-now moment. 

The following are some of the ways good friends help boost a teen’s self-care standing:

  • Friendship promotes a sense of belonging: Feeling included fulfills essential emotional health needs while helping decrease feelings of depression and hopelessness. 
  • Friends can help boost self-esteem: Good friends help teens improve their self-confidence and self-worth. Belonging to a social group can increase self-esteem because people derive meaning from these relationships. 
  • Friendship offers strong social connections: Friendship goes a long way in helping teens buffer stress. Whenever they go through difficult periods, friends can help them unload these burdens, which ultimately relieves some of their stress.
  • Friendship can help protect cognitive health: An extensive social network can protect a person’s cognition. Studies show having a good conversation with a person helps protect one’s brain health. 
  • Friends encourage healthy behaviors: Having positive relationships with persons who make healthy choices can motivate teens to make similar healthy choices.

Get Enough Sleep

Good sleep hygiene can promote a healthy outlook on life, elevate mood and energy levels and boost concentration and productivity. Teens can improve their sleep hygiene by getting off their phones a few hours before bed and intentionally scheduling their sleeping hours. Setting daily routines can help teens stay on a regular sleep schedule. 

Teen Mental Health Help

Self-care is undoubtedly an effective way for teens to cope with difficult situations in their daily lives. Self-care can help reduce stress, prevent burnout, and reduce self-doubt and frustration and increase. When a person takes time to take care of themselves, their physical, mental and emotional energy gets replenished. 

Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness offers practical solutions to help teens and their families tackle various mental issues. Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness is a day treatment and IOP program for teens 13 to 17 struggling with a mental health disorder or substance abuse. Our compassionate and caring healthcare team is ready to help teens practice healthy self-care habits.

Director of Family and Community Relations

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Clinically Reviewed by:

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Melanie Carbonneau is the Clinical Director at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness and is a licensed counselor and certified music therapist with a Ph.D. from Lesley University. She leads MCAW with a focus on holistic care, emphasizing the importance of family and community involvement in the healing process.