Teens can often feel better by expressing their feelings to a parent, friend, trusted adult or family member. Teens especially need to feel connected to their families. Family connectedness is a protective factor against depression and suicide.
Teens can connect with their parents by expressing their feelings, showing affection or writing notes / letters to them. When communicating thoughts and feelings to their parents or family members, it is important they use “I” statements. In that way, the teen takes responsibility for his or her feelings instead of placing blame. For example, instead of saying, “You make me mad,” say, “I get upset when …” Hugging their parent(s) or caregivers can also help when feeling sad. Just saying, “I need a hug” or “I love you” can be a good start.
Journaling is another technique that many teens find helpful. Many teens express how they are feeling about their daily life events in a journal. It can also be beneficial for teens to journal each day positive things about their lives or something for which they are thankful. When feeling down, teens can review the positive things they have written to help them feel better.
Exercise is something else teens can do to feel better. Exercise can help get their brain chemicals back to normal. Walking, running, jumping rope, doing aerobic exercises, using the treadmill, bicycling and skating are just some of the things teens can do to exercise. Twenty to 30 minutes of exercise a day can make a difference.
Teens also need at least nine hours of sleep a night. Sleep allows brain chemicals to be restored. Relaxation exercises, listening to music or reading may help if a teen has trouble falling asleep. Inspirational books are especially good to read when feeling down.
Being involved in recreational activities is another way to feel better. Many teens are easily overwhelmed with schoolwork, a part-time job and extra-curricular activities. It’s important to balance work with play. Eating a balanced diet is also important.
Laughter can also be good medicine. Some doctors have even made a CD using this concept for depressed people. Reading a joke book, watching comedy shows, listening to comedians and being around those with a good sense of humor can also be helpful.
However, if a teen has several symptoms of depression such as irritability, anger, sadness, hopelessness, constant fatigue, eating pattern changes, sleep disturbances, social withdrawal and / or poor and declining school performance lasting everyday (or most days) for at least two weeks or longer, he or she needs to be evaluated. Seeing a family physician or pediatrician may be the first step. These doctors can decide whether the teen needs a referral to a mental health professional. It’s important to treat depression early so the teen does not end up in crisis.