October is Mental Health Awareness Month and it’s an opportunity for us all to break down the stigmas around mental health and check in with our friends and teammates to make sure they are doing ok.
We know that anxiety among teenagers is very common, so we caught up with Alyssa Beaufoy who is a Health & Physical Education Teacher and a huge advocate for promoting mental health among teens.
After going through her own struggles as a teenager, Alyssa knows that recognising the symptoms of mental health and anxiety can be difficult and reaching out for help is challenging. She chats with Indie who is a middle-distance runner and shares her own story about suffering from body dysmorphia in the past and how she was able to seek help.
Join us in an open conversation with Alyssa and Indie, as they help us to understand mental health in teenagers and how you can manage it effectively.
What is anxiety and is it normal for teenagers?
Anxiety is a state of excessive worry and restlessness. While it can manifest differently for individuals, some common symptoms include sweaty palms, a racing heart, and a constant cognitive load of worrying about various things.
In a recent survey by Mission Australia, they identified that 30% of adolescents have experienced anxiety, so it’s entirely normal, and many teenagers experience it to varying degrees.
How can I manage anxiety?
If you are feeling anxious, there are many different strategies you can try to help manage the symptoms. Everyone is different, so try a few different strategies out and see what works best for you.
Here are some methods that can help:
- Simple Steps: Sometimes small acts can help ward off anxiety before it becomes a major problem. Try going for a walk with a friend, taking the dog out for a run or setting a goal to run a local park run.
- Positive Relationships: Having friends and family who support you can make a significant difference in managing anxiety. Reach out to people who advocate for your well-being, like your parents, good friends and teammates.
- Self-Care: Self-care involves taking care of your physical and mental well-being. It includes getting regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Apps like Smiling Minds, Headspace, and Balance offer free meditation and mindfulness exercises that can help reduce anxiety and stress.
- Positive Self-Talk: Use affirmations and positive self-talk to combat negative thoughts and build self-esteem. Remind yourself that you are worthy, beautiful, and strong.
- Recognising Triggers: Identifying situations or circumstances that trigger your anxiety, such as public speaking or competitive events, can help you prepare and manage anxiety more effectively.
How do you recognise a mental health issue?
Recognising a mental health concern is important and there are several symptoms which can signal an issue. Having a low mood, not enjoying activities you used to enjoy, not being engaged in activities, feeling worried for no reason, feeling isolated or wishing to withdraw, are some of the symptoms you might experience.
Looking back to when she struggled with mental health, Indie says she recognised something wasn’t right “Suffering from body dysmorphia - meal times weren’t fun. My mood dropped, I was so low in energy and I just knew I didn’t feel like me.”
What is body dysmorphia?
Particularly as an athlete, another aspect of mental health within teens is body dysmorphia which is an obsessive focus on the perceived flaws in your physical appearance. With the rise of social media and seeing the “ideal body type”, this can be really challenging. It becomes difficult when body image ties itself to your own sense of self worth.
Indie acknowledges that many teens struggle with the images portrayed on social media. “I think everyone experiences this but it's important to give yourself a break from these social medias and remind yourself that you are healthy and everyone is different. If you are struggling, reach out to people who can help you. It was really daunting at first but then I felt so much better and became a much stronger person because of it.”
How can you start a conversation with someone who might be struggling?
If you’re concerned about a friend, the most important thing to do is listen. Ask them “Are you ok” and then listen with understanding and compassion. Showing that you care and that you are there for them can mean the world to someone who is going through a tough time.
There are plenty of online resources which are designed to help you have these conversations and can offer support for a friend in need. Encourage your friend to seek support through a helpline, an online source or even one of the great apps which are now available. We’ve included links to several resources at the bottom of this blog.
Reducing the stigma around teen mental health
Having supportive and open conversations about teen mental health is essential to help reduce the stigma around these issues. In the same survey by Mission Australia, it was found that 54% of adolescents sought help for mental health disorders, but many still feel uncomfortable seeking support.
For teenagers, having positive relationships with friends and family can be a tremendous source of support. Open conversations about anxiety and mental health can break down the stigma surrounding it, making a significant difference in encouraging people to seek help when needed.
Indie says that when she recognises she needs support, she likes to reach out to other people. “I tend to seek help from other people because when I'm in an anxiety cycle and feel like I’m spiraling, I need the support of my mum or friends to help me snap out of it”.
The importance of a balanced diet and exercise
Diet and exercise play crucial roles in teen mental health. With an increase in technology there’s a lot more sedentary behaviour with kids using apps and not being active. A balanced diet and regular physical activity can really help to improve your mood and overall well-being. It's important not to overly restrict your diet but instead focus on moderation and making healthy choices.
What is self care?
Self-care is when you take time to promote your own physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can encompass a wide range of activities, from simple daily rituals like getting enough sleep and eating nutritious meals to more leisurely activities like reading, taking baths, or practicing mindfulness.
For teenagers dealing with mental health challenges, a valuable framework called PERMA+ can be particularly beneficial for self-care. PERMA+ is an acronym representing Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. This framework suggests that nurturing each of these aspects in your life contributes to happiness and overall well-being.
What are healthy ways to manage pressure from school and sport?
Navigating high school can be challenging, especially in Year 12 when you have conflicting priorities pulling you in different directions. It's important to allocate time for activities that bring you joy outside of school and sport, such as those highlighted in PERMA+.
These could include engaging in meaningful activities such as meditation, taking leisurely walks and fostering positive relationships that contribute to your happiness. Establishing a consistent routine that incorporates self-care can really help with the pressure of school and sport.
Taking the first step
Recognising that you may be struggling with anxiety or another mental health issue is the first step toward seeking help and managing your mental well-being. It's okay to ask for support from friends, family, or professionals, and there are many resources available to help you on your journey to better mental health.
Navigating teen anxiety can be challenging, but with the right support and strategies, it's entirely manageable. Remember that you're not alone, and there are people and resources available to help you through difficult times.
Mental Health Resources For Teenagers
Whether you're in need of a helpline or seeking online support, mobile apps can prove incredibly valuable. Here are some noteworthy resources to consider: