3 tips for dealing with teenage depression, and 3 for overcoming anxiety
Tips & tricks by Mara Girone
It's easy to see our teenage years through rose-tinted glasses as a time filled with pure joy and freedom. But for many, it is a time fraught with emotional challenges too, often leading to depression and anxiety. Mara Girone provides their 3 top tips for overcoming both.
Sometimes we have this romantic image in our head of our teenage years being full of happiness, more freedom, confidence, and time to do what we want, when we want.
But in reality, it is a period in our lives when things start rapidly changing. Physical, emotional, and social transformations occur at a seemingly break-neck speed, bringing with them a whirlwind of new feelings and emotions.
It is common for teenagers to begin to experience periods of low mood and anxiety. This is perfectly normal and can occur either for no reason at all or as a reaction to something negative happening.
Experiencing these feelings doesn’t automatically mean that we are depressed. But when these negative emotions become the norm, it is within our best interests to find ways to cope with them, manage them, and prevent them from defining our sense of self.
What can I do if I’m feeling down?
Let’s begin with depression. According to the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics (2017 to 2018), nearly one-third of young adults aged 16 to 24 reported some evidence of depression. If you’re reading this because you are one of them, it’s worth me reiterating that there are many other young adults feeling similar emotions to you.
So, what can you do about depression? Here are some tips:
‘Rewrite’ your story
We all have a story of ourselves in our mind. Often when we feel down, that story becomes negative.
Now, it’s easy to simply say ‘rewrite your story’, but with enough effort to change the narrative we tell ourselves, to take a step back and find the positive things that are there, often right under our nose, it is possible.
Ask someone who knows you well and loves you to help elaborate the positive sides of your story. This behaviour can help with the creation of a positive mindset, pushing the negative and often untrue thoughts out of your mind.
Sometimes the voices in our head are our harshest critics. And sometimes it seems that those voices work 24/7 just to bring us negativity.
The good news is that those voices can make mistakes too and can be proven wrong with reality. A great way to do this is to write down a list of the many great attributes we have, our great characteristics and behaviours, and use this as the physical proof we need to prove those voices wrong.
Stop comparing with others
They say that comparison is the death of happiness. When we compare ourselves to others, we often select what we see on the surface, or even what we want to see of them, and manufacture beliefs about them. Beliefs that they are more worthy, more capable, luckier, and more successful than us.
Rather than looking outward and focusing our attention on everyone else, our number one priority should be to look inward and concentrate our mind and energy on bettering ourselves.
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What can I do if I’m feeling anxious?
Anxiety is the partner-in-crime of depression. That ‘one-third’ statistic I mentioned earlier? It actually refers to depression or anxiety, so you can see that, just like depression, anxiety affects a lot of young adults.
At its core, anxiety is based around fear, and as such, it can make seemingly ordinary situations feel daunting and scary. It can make us think something bad is going to happen, or that whatever happens, we won’t be able to cope. It is a self-perpetuating cycle: as we pour all of our energy into trying to avoid a particular experience, we become even more fearful of it, causing us to feel overwhelmed, fearful, and worrisome.
If you are feeling anxious, here are a few tips to help you manage your emotions:
Mindfulness is a method of focusing on the ‘here and now’. It helps the person practicing it to create a greater connection with the present, pulling their attention away from the past and future events that so often fuel anxiety.
Mindfulness can be practiced during several means, including meditation, journaling, and yoga exercises, all of which you can easily find on the web.
Exercise on a regular basis
There are plenty of studies showing the positive effects that physical exercise can have on the body and mind. Regarding anxiety, there is evidence to suggest that simply moving, we release muscular tension which is a big contributor to feeling anxious.
Of course, exercising can be different for everyone. If sweating and panting at the gym is not your thing, a fast 20 mins walk or running up and down the stairs can still be a good alternative.
Learn and practise deep breathing
Breathing is something we do all the time, yet we almost never tap into its usefulness as a method of relaxation (there’s a reason deep breathing features in so many self-care methods after all!). Making deep breathing a habit that we practice regularly, where we deliberately focus our attention on slow, deep breaths and concentrating our attention on the very action of breathing itself, can have beneficial effects on stress hormone levels. It’s so simple, yet so effective!
One of the most effective tools at your disposal: communication
Thanks to years of activism and awareness efforts, mental health is no longer a taboo subject. So, even if none of these tips help you, there are plenty of resources quite literally at our fingertips that we can use to support ourselves.
One very important method to help yourself is to talk about how you’re feeling. Don’t shy away from talking about any challenges you may have with your close friends, loved ones, and other sources of support in your community, including with faculty members at your school. Ultimately, communication and talking about our mental health is key.