We can probably all agree that the past year or so has been…challenging. For everyone. However, for high schoolers, the challenges of the global pandemic may have acted like a spotlight on already stressed-out teens. In fact, studies show that Gen-Z (that’s you) is more stressed out than previous generations were as teens, and more stressed out than adults right now. It’s not hard to see why.
- Actual school hours
- External Pressures: Parents, Teachers, Friends, Bosses, etc.
- Get good grades
- Excel at sports and other team activities
- Be present for your friends and family
- Internal Pressures: You
- Prepare for college
- Meet deadlines and due dates
- Worries about the world (climate change, civil rights, etc.)
Even the strongest, most intelligent, and energized teen would be overwhelmed by that list. Hopefully, most days you do your best and feel good about it.
But what if you don’t feel good most days, even when you do your best??
We have some good news! Unlike previous generations, you’re lucky enough to be growing up in a time when mental health is taken seriously. We know more about it, including what causes a decline in mental health, how to spot it, and what to do about it. There are also several things you can do to help boost your mental health.
Ready for some young entrepreneur mental self-care?
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it before. But there’s a reason why eating healthy is repeated over and over again by everyone all the time: proper nutrition works! This doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself, but your baseline diet should include plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meat (if you’re a meat-eater), or other sources of protein. Pack in those vitamins and minerals! They can work wonders as natural anti-depressants, energizers, and de-stressors.
Not sure where or how to start? Check out these simple but nutritious meals that are cheap, easy, and quick to make.
Notice we didn’t say “exercise.” That’s because you don’t need a gym membership or fancy at-home equipment to boost your mental health. A short walk will do. Or get up and stretch for 5 minutes between homework assignments. Find an activity buddy who will meet you at the park for a game of catch. YouTube is full of free exercise videos for all fitness levels, physical abilities, and time frames.
Physical activity releases endorphins in your body. Endorphins make you feel good, which is the opposite of stressed and anxious! By taking care of your body through movement you’ll boost your creativity and energy levels. It’s also a great distraction from whatever is causing your stress!
GET GOOD SLEEP
Easier said than done, right?
Here are some quick tips for getting that quality sleep you need:
- Make a to-do list before bed: think of this as a “brain dump” for all the things you want to remember tomorrow. This way you’re not worried or anxious as you try to fall asleep.
- Wind-down: give yourself 15-30 minutes before bedtime to turn off your devices and screens. Turn down the lights and sounds around you. Do something quiet and non-strenuous, like reading or meditating.
- Darken your room: blackout curtains work wonders. Turn off all the lights. Put on a sleep mask if you need one.
- Create soft noise: nothing like your neighbor slamming their car door outside your window to jolt you out of that slumber! White noise machines are a great way to block out ambient noise. Some even let you choose what kind of white noise you want, from a simple “SHHHH” to ocean waves crashing on a beach.
- Sleep in a cool room: even if that means getting a small desk fan. We sleep better when we’re comfy cozy under the covers than when we’re sweating it out on top of the bed.
Set small, doable goals and then reward yourself for accomplishing them. Even something as simple as, “made it to all my classes on time,” can be huge. Go treat yourself to something that makes you feel good!
ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
We know that this one can be tough when you’re way down at the bottom of an emotional hole. But try it. Find a journal or even just a piece of paper. Before you go to bed, write down three things you’re grateful for. They can be general, such as, “I’m grateful for my family,” or specific, like, “I’m grateful my teacher extended that due date.” Try to think of at least three things a day, each day.
Keep in mind that an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your problems seriously. Your problems are very real and need to be addressed. Just because you don’t have it as bad as someone else doesn’t mean you’re without stress and anxiety. However, making a list of things that you’re grateful for will help you stay focused on the bigger picture.
TALK IT OUT
Sometimes you just need to tell someone else what’s going on. Get it off your chest, so to speak. Your close friends may be able to help you remember all the things you love about your life and the things you have to look forward to. School counselors are trained to help students just like you. Or consider starting a mental health awareness group at your school where everyone can feel safe and supported.
There are plenty of professionals out there that can help young entrepreneurs who have become overwhelmed with school and life. Your school counselor may be able to help you find a good therapist. Sometimes it takes a trained outsider to help you see the patterns in your life and figure out how to detoxify your stressors. Groups like the Anxiety & Depression Association of America have a lot of good resources to get you started, too.
Being young comes with responsibilities and expectations. But it should also be a fun and happy time in your life when you get to explore, experiment, and enjoy your youthful spirit!
The Kantner Foundation offers college scholarships to young Florida entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Click here to see if you are eligible!