Adolescence is a time of immense transformation and growth. It is also a period that can present numerous challenges to the mental well-being of teenagers. As they navigate the complex terrain of identity formation, peer relationships, academic pressures, search for meaning and hormonal changes, it becomes increasingly crucial to prioritize and nurture teenage mental health. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of promoting positive mental health among teenagers. We will also discuss practical strategies for empowering both adolescents & parents on their journey towards emotional well-being.
Understanding the Challenges of Teenage Mental Health
Teenagers face a multitude of challenges that can impact their mental health.
The pressure to conform, succeed academically, and fit in socially in a partly dissonant world can be overwhelming. The example of overburdened and unhappy parents can also play a demotivating role in relation to the societal model.
Additionally, hormonal fluctuations during adolescence can contribute to mood swings, increased stress levels, and vulnerability to mental health disorders.
Moreover, issues such as bullying, body image concerns, and family dynamics can further complicate the emotional landscape of teenagers.
Discovering our Driving Forces
According to #1 life and business strategist Tony ROBBINS, we are all driven by 6 human needs:
1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others
They are really the forces that drive and shape all of our emotions, actions, quality of life and, ultimately, our destinies (without exaggeration).
Our Needs are Shaped in Childhood
Each of us is unique and shaped by our individual life events and corresponding emotions. Many of our deepest needs are developed in childhood, when our minds are taking in all the information they can. This information, whether positive or negative, creates our beliefs and values – and those create our entire world. It’s even been proven that stress in childhood has lasting effects on brain chemistry and development.
Each of us prioritizes our needs differently, and our decisions are based on which needs we put first. You can choose to fulfill your needs in a healthy way, as well as bring balance to your life by developing your ability to fulfill all of your needs equally.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Ways of Meeting the Human Needs
When these needs are unmet appropriately, unpleasant emotions are expressed. They are respectively stress/anxiety, boredom, low self-esteem and self-confidence, loneliness, frustration and emptiness/uselessness.
Consequently, we always find ways to meet them, even though unhealthy on the long run such as overeating, drinking, smoking, abusing drugs or even belittling, bullying, etc.
By the way, any behavior that meets at least 3 of the 6 needs simultaneously becomes an addiction. For example, smoking meets certainty as the sensation is always the same, variety as it helps changing state and breathe deeper (at very short term), sometimes significance (smokers are badasses) and connection, first with oneself and usually with others (smokers meet each others in smokers area).
Importantly, helping teens to meet their needs in healthy ways frequently start by helping parents to do so. Unfortunately, most of us are not equipped for that.
The Triad of Emotional Psychology for Teenage Mental Health
Emotions have the ability to control everything in our lives – our mood, our decisions and our actions. This comes down to understanding Tony ROBBINS’ triad of emotional psychology. This involves mastering the three forces that control your emotions – your physiology, your focus and your language.
Physiology refers to your body and all its systems, and by extension, elements that directly impact those systems. How you use your body affects how you feel mentally and emotionally. If you want to master your feelings, you must be aware of how your feelings and your body are interconnected. Stand up straight, and you’ll feel more proud and alert. Slump over and neglect your body, and you’re more likely to feel negatively. The next time you find yourself in a bad mood, stand up and breathe deeply.
It also includes taking care of yourself. You know intuitively that you feel your best when you get enough sleep and nourish your body with quality food and nutrients. Even though it can be tempting to skimp on these basic things, don’t take that shortcut. Give yourself enough sleep to keep your mind clean and clear. Take the time to eat foods that make you feel full, nurtured and healthy.
This should be a 24/7 goal as many factors influences our physiology, hence our health, well-being as well as our mental & physical performance. A sedentary lifestyle has a detrimental effect on both physical and mental health.
Check out my blog post on priming to get more options to easily influence your physiology.
As Tony ROBBINS says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” What you put your focus on is where you set your intention. Focus on the things you want and are working toward, instead of the things holding you back. Setting your focus on the positives is one of the most essential steps toward achieving your peak state.
If you feel your focus wavering or needing a little refreshment, consider clearing your mind. Exercise can help you release stress and center your focus. If you don’t have time to hit the gym or go for a run, consider doing a short meditation to refresh your focus.
The third component of the triad is language. How you talk to yourself determines how you operate in the world. If you ask questions like “Why do bad things always happen to me?” instead of “What can I do to better my situation?”, you are more likely to feel powerless in your own life. How you use language determines what emotions you feel, so choose wise words when you speak to yourself.
In order to keep yourself thinking positively and focused on the future and possibilities, keep track of your positive and negative words. Every time you find yourself saying a word that takes your focus in a negative direction, replace that word with a new, positive one. If you’re struggling to catch your own negative words, enlist the help of friends, family and even coworkers. Once you begin to alter your spoken word patterns and funnel them to a more positive frame, you’ll more easily be able to alter your internal speech to yourself. By changing your language, you can change your focus and reach your peak state.
Conflicting Expectations & Teenage Mental Health
In the intricate tapestry of human communication and relationships, a phenomenon known as the “double bind” can arise.
Coined by anthropologist Gregory BATESON in the mid-20th century, the double bind refers to a situation where a person receives contradictory messages or expectations that are impossible to fulfill simultaneously.
This perplexing predicament can lead to feelings of frustration, confusion, and a sense of being trapped.
A Lose-Lose Scenario
At its core, the double bind manifests when someone is caught between conflicting demands or expectations, often from authority figures such as parents or within significant relationships.
These conflicting messages create a lose-lose scenario, leaving individuals feeling as though they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The double bind can occur in various contexts, such as family dynamics, workplace environments, or even within one’s own internal dialogue.
For example, imagine a teenager who is repeatedly told by their parents to express their opinions and assert their independence, but is met with criticism and punishment whenever they do so. In this situation, the teenager faces a double bind where they are torn between the expectation of speaking up and being true to themselves, and the fear of negative consequences. No matter which path they choose, they encounter a contradictory response that leaves them feeling trapped and unable to meet both expectations simultaneously.
Psychological Impact of a Double-Bind
The psychological impact of the double bind can be profound. It can give rise to feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and a diminished sense of self-worth. Individuals may experience a heightened sense of powerlessness, as they struggle to find a way out of the conflicting expectations placed upon them. Over time, this can erode their confidence, impair their decision-making abilities, and contribute to emotional distress.
Overcoming a Double-Bind
So, how can one navigate the complexities of the double bind?
- Recognize the double bind: Awareness is the first step in addressing any challenge. By recognizing when you find yourself in a double bind situation, you can begin to understand the conflicting expectations at play and acknowledge the impact it has on your well-being.
- Seek support and perspective: Reach out to trusted individuals, such as friends, family, or mentors, who can provide a listening ear and offer objective insights. Sometimes, an external perspective can shed light on potential solutions or coping strategies that might not be immediately apparent.
- Explore alternatives: While it may seem that there are only two options within a double bind, creative thinking can help identify alternative paths. Consider engaging in open and honest communication with the parties involved, expressing your feelings and concerns in an attempt to find a resolution or a middle ground.
- Establish boundaries: Recognize and assert your personal boundaries. Clearly communicate your needs and limitations to those involved in the double bind situation. Setting boundaries can help protect your well-being and provide a framework for navigating conflicting expectations.
- Prioritize self-care: Engage in self-care practices that promote emotional well-being and resilience. This can include activities such as exercise, mindfulness, journaling, or seeking professional support through therapy or counseling. By prioritizing self-care, you can better equip yourself to manage the challenges posed by the double bind.
It is important to note that resolving a double bind may not always be within your control. In cases where the conflicting expectations originate from external sources, focusing on personal growth, resilience, and developing a strong sense of self can help mitigate the negative impact of the double bind.
When Too Much is Too Much
Trigger Warning: This text discusses sensitive topics related to teenage suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a helpline or mental health professional.
Teenage suicide is a deeply concerning and heartbreaking issue that demands our attention. Tragically, many young lives are lost to suicide each year, leaving families, friends, and communities devastated. Youth suicide rates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as recently published.
Understanding the Scope and Complexity
Teenage suicide is a multifaceted issue influenced by a combination of factors. Adolescence is a period of significant change and challenges. Many young individuals may experience emotional distress, depression, anxiety, bullying, substance abuse, or other mental health issues. These factors, when left unaddressed, can contribute to a sense of hopelessness and despair, ultimately leading to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
It is vital to recognize that mental health struggles are not a sign of weakness or something that can simply be brushed aside. Adolescents facing mental health issues may feel isolated, misunderstood, or ashamed, which can further exacerbate their distress. By fostering an environment that encourages open conversations about mental health, we can break the silence and promote early intervention and support.
The Power of Awareness, Education & Support
Raising awareness about teenage suicide is instrumental in dispelling myths, reducing stigma, and encouraging individuals to seek help. Schools, communities, and families have a responsibility to provide comprehensive education on mental health. This includes recognizing warning signs, accessing resources, and promoting coping mechanisms. By equipping young people with knowledge and understanding, we empower them to identify signs of distress in themselves and their peers, potentially saving lives.
Support is a fundamental component of suicide prevention. It is crucial to create a safe and supportive environment where teenagers feel comfortable expressing their emotions and seeking help. Parents, educators, and peers can play a pivotal role in this process by listening non-judgmentally, validating feelings, and connecting struggling individuals with appropriate professional resources.
Schools, healthcare systems, and community organizations should strive to make mental health services accessible, affordable, and destigmatized. This can include providing counseling services, establishing helplines, organizing support groups, and offering educational programs on mental health awareness. Ensuring that young people have access to professional assistance can be a lifeline in times of crisis.
Suicide Prevention: Everyone’s Responsibility
Breaking the silence around teenage suicide requires open and honest conversations. It is essential to foster an environment where individuals feel safe discussing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or dismissal. By actively listening, showing empathy, and responding with compassion, we can create space for healing, connection, and the potential for early intervention.
Preventing teenage suicide is a collective responsibility that requires collaboration and commitment from individuals, families, schools, communities, and policymakers. By working together, we can implement evidence-based strategies, advocate for mental health awareness and support, and create a safety net for vulnerable young individuals.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a helpline or mental health professional in your country. Remember, there is help available, and you are not alone.
Investing in the mental health of teenagers is essential for their overall well-being and long-term success. This is also the responsibility of society in general and parents in particular.
By understanding the challenges they face and implementing strategies that promote positive mental health, we can empower adolescents to navigate their teenage years with resilience and confidence. Through open dialogue, self-care practices, fostering healthy relationships, developing coping skills, and reducing stigma, we can create an environment that supports their emotional growth and helps them
Furthermore, it is crucial for parents, educators, and society as a whole to recognize that teenage mental health is not a temporary phase or something to be dismissed as mere “moodiness.” It is a legitimate and significant aspect of their overall health and well-being.
By acknowledging and addressing teenage mental health concerns, we can foster a generation of emotionally resilient individuals who are better equipped to handle the challenges of adulthood.
Parents and caregivers should prioritize their own mental health as well, as their well-being greatly influences the family environment. Engaging in self-care practices and seeking support when needed sets a positive example for teenagers. It also reinforces the importance of mental health in their lives.
It is worth emphasizing that the path to mental well-being is not linear. Setbacks or challenges may occur along the way. Teenagers should be encouraged to be patient and compassionate with themselves as they navigate the ups and downs of their emotional journey.
Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and no one should have to face such difficulties alone.