Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak at a San Marcos Academy chapel service to share with the student body that March 2 was “World Teen Mental Wellness Day.” This awareness day was created by Abercrombie and Fitch as well as Hollister clothing companies. Its main purposes ares to 1) challenge the stigmas behind mental health/illness and 2) promote self care, which can be a key component to maintaining balanced mental health.
I shared with students the importance of recognizing the difference between prevention and reaching crisis mood. So much depends upon us SLOWING down and giving ourselves the opportunity to “charge up our batteries.” This includes setting healthy emotional boundaries with not only others, but with ourselves as well. How do you set a boundary with yourself, you might ask. Well, for me it’s getting myself to bed BEFORE 11:30 p.m. since 5:30 a.m. comes very early in the morning! Also, recognizing what we eat and being able to recognize the emotional eating that increases as stress (or even boredom/anxiety) increases. Ever noticed a sugar craving increases when you’re overwhelmed or on a deadline? Remember, there is sugar not only in foods, but in beverages too.
Students can also learn to identify the “hurdles” that keep them from proper self care. For some it may be doing too much for others. Perfectionists (I’m a recovering perfectionist) really struggle with this one. Another hurdle is prioritizing time on our phones (kids know this one well) and not remembering the value in sitting in silence or maybe even sitting quietly with Jesus! In fact, Jesus had the whole “boundary thing” down pretty well in his life on earth. Sure, He did miracles for people, healed them, and talked with them. But He also knew when to withdraw from the crowds and spend time with His father, in prayer.
One way to keep tabs on yourself and practice self care is to follow the “Please Skills” of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT incorporates skills for Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Core Mindfulness Skills. The “ Please Skills” comes from the Emotion Regulation portion and includes the following guidelines:
PL stands for Physical ILlness/Pain: Take care of your body. See a doctor when necessary. Take and be consistent with prescribed medication.
E stands for Balance Eating: Don’t eat too much or too little. Eat regularly and mindfully throughout the day. Stay away from food that can make you feel overly full or overly emotional . Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
A stands for Avoid Mood Altering Substances: Stay off non-prescribed drugs (illegal/street drugs) and overuse or abuse of alcohol.
S is for Balance Sleep: Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, or at least the amount of sleep that helps you feel good. Keep to a consistent sleep schedule if you are having difficulty sleeping.
E stands for Exercise Regularly: Do some sort of exercise every day. Try to build up to 20 minutes of daily exercise.
Let’s encourage one another, and especially encourage the teens in your family or school, to practice these Please Skills and look after ourselves so we can maintain balanced mental health and avoid the hurdles that can so easily trip us up.