Caring for one’s self is a practice that eludes many people. And it can be especially difficult when you’re still a teenager. But self-care is not “in fact” impossible. Adequate self-care requires self-understanding: you need to identify what you want and when you want it. Because we all want different things, self-care is unique for everyone.
As a teen, you probably have a lot of stressors in your life—and that’s normal. Adding to the complexity of everyday life as a teen, multiple external stressors may even be happening at the same time, from college prep and peer pressure, to after-school jobs, social media, and maybe even changes in your family. The consequences of this buildup of stressors can include anxiety or depression, among other psychosocial concerns.
According to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey, individuals in Canada ages 15 to 24 years experienced the highest rate of mood and anxiety disorders in 2012.
This article covers practices that may help you improve your mental health and overall well-being. Follow these five self-care tips gradually for great results. Don’t force yourself to follow any of the strategies; rather, simply allow yourself to grow and remind yourself of the importance of good self-care.
To improve your mental health through self-care, consider the following:
1. MAKE YOURSELF THE PRIORITY
There’s nothing greater than putting yourself first, always. No matter what you’re up against, you should always know that you are more important. Maybe it’s school, work, extra-curricular commitments, appointments, routines, and so on. But whatever it is, put yourself first in everything.
Never feeling guilty for taking care of yourself. Remember, you are number one in your life—and that’s not selfish.
Look in the mirror and assure yourself that you are the most important person you know. Tell yourself, “I believe in you. You are made for greatness. I love you.” This may seem simple, but positive affirmations, even when spoken to yourself, are a powerful tool.
2. GO OUT (TO MEET PEOPLE)
Seclusion contributes to mood and anxiety disorders. Finding some time to get outside and into a different environment is important to your mental health.
The outdoors are also full of freshness, serenity, and peace. Even on days when you want to stay indoors and rest, remember that even a 10-minute walk in the neighborhood can be a positive act of self-care.
And while you’re out, don’t shy away from meeting new people. Talking to others will help you understand that, although not everyone will like you, others are friendly and make great company.
3. DEVELOP A NEW HOBBY
Learning new hobbies can help you fight stress. Following the same daily routine can be tiresome at times. So mix things up by finding fun in new activities.
Don’t put it off: The time to learn those activities you’ve always considered is now. Maybe you want to try taking photos, testing out recipes, learning a new sport, joining a gym, or something else.
Developing new hobbies will help you “get out of your rut” or “change up your routine”. Plus, there’s a chance you may find your passion.
Thousands of online resources are available to help you discover your new hobby. Try devoting 15 or 20 minutes a day to researching things you might like to do.
4. SET SIMPLE AND EASY-TO-ACHIEVE GOALS
When you make your to-do list, be sure to include actions that you can easily perform. For instance, consider listing the following: making your bed, brushing your teeth, keeping dirty clothes in the laundry, showering, and other small, everyday actions.
These little targets will help you stay in control of your day. You’ll feel a sense of pride having checked off most of the items on your to-do list. And having done so, you’ll feel more motivated to keep achieving.
5. LEARN TO SAY NO
Never let social commitments overburden you. Learn to say no to certain activities. You don’t need to give a flimsy excuse; just decline in a polite way.
Saying no to social commitments can be tough, and you may feel guilty doing so. But self-care is about admitting what you don’t want to do. Avoid saying yes simply to please someone, only to eat yourself up later because you’re pressed for time or wish you’d said no. Know and respect your limits.
These tips can help you combat stress and anxiety through self-care. If you devote yourself to the strategies listed, you’re almost sure to see an improvement in your mental health.
Remember, don’t feel like you need to implement all the suggested steps at once. Just start with the simplest step for you, and you’ll eventually work your way toward better mental health.
About the Author
Michael Assiamah, MSW, RSW
Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist
When he is not helping people sort out personal problems, he is a self development and lifestyle enthusiast. Michael Assiamah is the founder and CEO of Support & Growth, a mental health and wellness service that specializes in supporting diverse individuals, children, youth, families, seniors, groups and vulnerable populations throughout Ontario. Michael holds a Masters of Social Worker Degree and an Honors Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology both from the University of Windsor.