In case you didn’t already know, being a teenager is stressful. There was once a time when the threat of being bullied only occurred between the hours of 7:45am and 3:30pm when the last bell rang and it was time to go home. Kids and teens could leave and safely disengage from the stresses of being a young person out in the world. With social media our teens are not afforded that luxury. The switch never. turns. off. More than 1 in 3 young people have been threatened online and 25% of teens report they are regularly cyberbullied. Beyond the possibility (likelihood?) of being bullied online there is the constant pressure to stay connected, get good grades, make friends, take the perfect selfie, get the most likes, comments, friends, followers… and the list goes on and on. Let me say it again, being a teenager is stressful.
Helping teens understand and deal with stress is a big part of my job as a therapist. Unfortunately, I think at some point we all got it in our heads that to take care of ourselves (or to even understand what that means) is somehow ‘uncool’ or only for sensitive snowflakes. The cultural narrative is that it’s better to just keep going, keep pushing. Feelings are scary so try to avoid them. Keep it inside and move forward. It's been my experience both personally and professionally that that just doesn't work. Try as you might, you can't outrun stress -- it always catches up.
Helping teens understand how they feel and what they do (or can do) when stressed (or angry, sad, mad, worried) is at the heart of my work with young people. There aren’t many spaces in a young person’s life that encourage them to slow down, check in, and reflect on what they're feeling. It's go go go 24/7. In counseling, I've found that just asking the question, "how do you handle stress/take care of yourself/relax?" breathes life into the possibility that this is something worth doing. Counseling can create a much needed space in the life of an over-scheduled, hyper-connected, and stressed out teenager -- allowing them to start building self-care strategies that can last a lifetime. It is truly an honor to work alongside teens as they discover what it means to care of themselves in healthy, lasting ways.
Learning to love ourselves is hard, important work and the sooner we get started the better. How are you taking care of yourself today?