Mindfulness for Teens
Having worked with teenagers for 10 years, in my role as a secondary school teacher and more recently as a mindfulness and self-compassion coach. I have a strong desire to learn more and more within this field as I see the positive impact mindfulness has on teenagers mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
During the times we are currently facing, it has been highlighted that teens’ mental health is fast becoming a bigger concern. From my own personal research, knowledge and experiences within both my teaching and mindfulness coaching professions, it feels the right time to share some of my findings and tips with you. You may find these useful if you are currently a teacher working online with teens or a parent with teens at home.
Young Minds carried out a survey with young people with a history of mental health needs in order to establish the impact the pandemic has had on their mental health.
Here are the findings from Young Minds.
When asked what impact the pandemic was having:
32% agreed that it had made their mental health much worse
51% agreed that it had made their mental health a bit worse
Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation can help your teenager with any stresses and anxieties which they may be faced with through this time, as well as in the future. It teaches them how to develop resilience when faced with the uncertainty of life, allowing them to develop a greater sense of awareness, connecting to their thoughts, feelings and emotions. Practicing mindfulness helps to create a positive relationship, with not only themselves but with others too, developing independent coping mechanisms and tools which they can use when experiencing any of these negative feelings and thoughts.
In this time of uncertainty, it can be especially challenging for those who are already very anxious and suffering with mental health issues. The constant bombarding of negative images and stories through social media, the news and other media channels, can add to these already heightened emotions.
It is therefore especially important for our teens to feel safe during this time, for them to be able to get the most out of their home learning. If their minds are thinking about what might happen next, or worrying about what has happened, they will not have the ability to be able to focus on their work. This in turn, creates even more worry and anxiety about the standard of the work they are producing whilst being home schooled.
So the question is how can we support our Teens during this time in a mindful way?
Watch out for the language we are using …. The message we tell teens needs to be clear and factual. Being honest with your teens at this time is very important.
Make time to time to talk with your teen... Ask them how they are feeling? If they can’t put it into words, maybe do a drawing task. Ask them to draw on a piece of paper, how they feel. Or if they like to dance or sing, ask them if they can make up a routine or song to express their feelings? Sometimes, by engage in these kind of activities, it is easier for them to be able to express themselves and for you to understand how they are feeling. It can be hard to put emotions or feelings into actual words, especially for younger people.
Journaling… Ask your Teen if they would like to journal how they are feeling. This can be completed in the morning or the evening and might include the following questions: How does your body feel? What has your day looked like or what would you like to do today to feel a little calmer and more relaxed? Perhaps they could plan something in their day that lifts them up, that they enjoy. This journal could be kept just for themselves or shared if they want to. Sometimes, when we put our thoughts down on paper and read them back they can have less power over us and we suddenly realise that they are just thoughts. Another great additional tip for when your teen is worrying over something specific, is asking them to write it down and read it back to themselves. Then ask them, how do they feel reading this back ? Is this true? Is this a worry about something in the future? Or is this a worry about something that has already happened? Bringing your teen back to the present moment, focusing on the now can be really effective in allowing them to let go of worry and anxious thoughts.
Meditation… There are lots of different meditations online and great apps such as ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’. Your Teen may like to try a meditation each night before bed, especially if they are struggling to get to sleep. This can really help bring the nervous system into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state and away from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) where we hold stress and tension in the body.
Routine… Our body does well with routine. Keeping the body in a rhythm throughout the day helps to calm the nervous system and reduce any feelings of uncertainty or insecurity. By keeping to a daily routine it provides the body and mind with a sense of safety. Scheduling in time for daily movement, or an activity which makes your teen happy is also very important. Routine can also really help with sleep patterns as changing the time teens go to bed and wake up each day makes the body fall out of balance leading to more and more sleep issues.
Acts of kindness… We all know how good it feels to be kind to others. By encouraging your teen to think of something kind to do each day, not only for others, but for themselves too, allows your Teen to feel a sense of connection with themselves and others which is even more important during this time where we can feel like we have lost connection with one another.
Limit screen time… This is a hard one to persuade teens to do as social media and games can be their way of connecting with their friends. It is not about stopping them from using them completely, but limiting their time on them. Screen time can have a profound effect on your teens mental health. Social media and watching the news can bring about more feelings of worry and uncertainty as a lot of the information on the news is very fear driven and negative. Social media can also increase anxiety, as it is very easy to compare others lives to your own, leading to unhelpful and negative thought patterns. Allocating ‘device time’ is really important for their mental and personal health.
Exercise… We all know the amazing and profound effects exercise has, not only on our physical health but also for our mental wellbeing. It is easy when feeling anxious or worried to miss out on daily exercise as worry, anxiety and depression can lead to a lack of motivation. However, when we do exercise the endorphins that are released aid in lifting a dark mood. Your teen may be worried about exercising outside during this time, so help to motivate them by going with them and reassuring them that the government guidelines encourages daily exercises whilst practicing social distancing. It is safe! You can also encourage them to do some movement at home. There are lots of online activities available, in particular Joe Wicks is currently providing some great free online resources for Teens.
Expressing gratitude… When we feel thankful for people and things in our lives, we can let go of what we feel we lack in our lives, bringing us into a more positive frame of mind. Encouraging your teen to think of 3 things they are grateful for every day, can help them to remember the many things and people in their lives they are lucky to have, even through a difficult time. You could express your gratitude together as a family to, using dinner time for everyone to share what they are grateful for today. This could also be another opportunity for your teen to use their journal to keep track of their gratitude list.
I hope you have have found this blog and the tips included, helpful for both you and your teen.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback so please do get in in touch if you have anything you would like to share with me or any information on my offerings.
Stay well and safe