Self-Care For Teens | Counseling | Therapy

Self-Care For Teens

Farhana , MA, ATRP — Associate therapist

Self-Care For Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean CIty)

Self-care is a phrase that is thrown around a lot, what does it really mean? Self-care for teens can be especially confusing, because so much of what is talked about regarding self-care is geared toward older, working adults. Caring for yourself goes way further than a bubble bath, watching a movie, or any singular moment of relaxation, even though sometimes those things feel really great. Instead, try to think of self-care as an on-going and conscious investment in your own physical and mental well-being. Self-care for teens is taking care of yourself with your own needs/schedule/life in mind.

Of course, the bubble baths and the movies help, so no shade to those activities. Sometimes, it seems like there’s not enough time in the day for anything else, and in those cases, doing whatever you can to relax is only a positive. Beyond those one time activities, it can be important to widen your perspectives on self-care so that it can be implemented in many areas of your life. It’s also an ongoing process to find balance and feel relief in the face of different stressors in your life. So, how can you do this?

Start by tuning into when you feel your best. Reflect back on this week and try to remember when you felt really good this week—was it after playing FIFA with friends? While you were at lunch talking to close friends? Or at the end of the night laying in bed? Pay attention to what it feels like to feel good. This is the feeling we’re after, that feeling of refresh, energy, content, at ease. Feeling at your best feels a little different for different people and the things we do to feel good are different too. Self-care is all about the self, and no one else is like you! It’s important to find what works for you, as not everyone finds a bubble bath relaxing.

To help think about ways that you feel at your best from all different angles of your life, it can be helpful to think about self-care in five categories. These categories are: physical, emotional, spiritual, lifestyle, and social. We’ll dive into each.

Physical Self-Care For Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean CIty)

Things like sleep, exercise, stretching, and nutrition are included in physical self-care. Even water intake can be included! Anything that has to do with well-being as it relates to our physical body. Again, we’ll get personal when thinking about what is most effective for you. When do you feel at your best physically? Is it after a run? Did you notice you really liked the way you felt after the yoga class your friend took you to? Do you play sports for your school that you really enjoy? Maybe you notice that you have better days at school when you get a full night’s rest. Or, when you get to eat what you want at lunch rather than whatever they’re serving in the cafeteria.

To invest in your physical self-care, you can start by including something in this category into your weekly routine. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, maybe you set a timer to remind yourself to get into bed by a certain time every weekday night. Or you could make a rule for yourself to hide your phone in your dresser drawer after bedtime so that you don’t spend hours scrolling when you could be sleeping. If you’re not sleepy when bedtime rolls around, try stretching for 10 minutes before bed—easy things, like neck rolls and child’s pose (you can google nighttime stretches!)

If you want to feel connected to your body more frequently, maybe you can see if there is a fitness/sports club you’d be interested in joining at school or ask if a gym/yoga studio near you offers student pricing on their memberships and attend once a week. Pay attention to how much water you’re drinking, is it enough? Get a bottle you really like and commit to drinking 1 bottle by lunch, one by the time you head home, and 1 before you end the day (depending on the size, of course). No matter what route you choose, remember that the idea is to make it on-going, so that you’re taking care of yourself regularly rather than only sometimes.

Emotional Self-Care For Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean City)

As a teen, your emotional well-being is so important. There can be a lot of ups and downs in teenage life! How you support yourself emotionally can have a big impact on how you feel. Some things that fall into the emotional category for self-care are self-compassion, affirmations, journaling, and mindset.

To understand where you are in this category, pay attention to how you talk to yourself. When you make a mistake, is your inner voice mean and hurtful or kind and understanding? For example, when you get a bad grade on a test are you thinking “of course, I’m so stupid” or “ugh, I should have studied more, next time I will”? Try to pinpoint three honest adjectives to describe your inner voice and ask yourself, would you talk to your best friend in those ways? If not, you may be being a bit too harsh on yourself. Over time, being exceptionally critical of yourself can really impact how you see yourself and how you feel. To turn things around, begin to notice when you’re being overly critical or mean and try to edit your tone/language to be more like how you would respond if you were talking to a friend or someone you care about.

Another way to engage in emotional self-care as a teen is to journal, which is essentially using writing to understand and express your own thoughts and feelings. Some people like to journal about things they’re having a hard time with, like when a classmate you have a crush on just started dating someone else, your parents are fighting a lot lately, or your different friend groups aren’t getting along. Others like to journal about things they’re grateful for, like by listing out three moments they appreciate from that day at the end of each day. Others like journals that have prompts in them already. Different people like to use journaling in different ways based on what works for them. Experiment with a few different kinds to find what is best for you.

Spiritual Self-Care For Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean City)

The spiritual realm is one that may just be developing for you as a teen, since many teens are just beginning to understand their own spirituality. In order to connect with your own spirituality some questions you can ask yourself are: In what ways do I feel connected to the world? When do I feel most connected to something bigger than myself? Meditation, finding purpose, prayer, finding greater meaning, and mindfulness are all encompassed in spiritual self-care.

In order to make the spiritual realm part of your regular self-care routine, notice how often and in what ways you engage in prayer, greater purpose/meaning, meditation, or mindfulness. If you adhere to a particular faith that is important to you, maybe you can try to learn more about it and ways to connect, like attending masjid, temple, church, or other faith centers more frequently or consider joining a youth group within them. If you have interest in mindfulness and meditation, there are many apps and videos available online to help you get started (I like Insight Timer or Liberate if you are a POC). There are even groups that meet regularly to practice mindfulness together! Exploring what you think your purpose is in life—not just a job or career, but who you want to be, what is the point of life (to help each other, to be happy, for example)—might help you to find and connect with finding meaning in yours. Once you know, use this to guide you everyday.

Lifestyle Self-Care for Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean CIty)

Moving into the lifestyle domain, relaxation, goal setting, time in nature, fulfilling activities, and routines all fall into this category. Ask yourself, how does my lifestyle now support or hinder my well-being? Are there ways I can make improvements or changes to support me better?

For some, moments of relaxation (bubble bath, hello old friend!) are big anchors in the week. Spend some time figuring out what relaxes you, since it won’t be the same for everyone. Once you know, can you try to incorporate it into your life more regularly? Speaking of regularly…routines! Routines can be a great way to take care of yourself because they help to anchor and offer structure, which we humans need. Routines can make us feel safe and in control, while also taking some pressure off to always make decisions about how to spend each moment of our time. Maybe it’s watching Abbott Elementary every Wednesday night with your sibling or lotioning your body after each shower—either way, our brain reacts well to some patterns that it can learn to expect and find comfort in.

Of course, as a teen not all of your time is totally in your control. You do have to go to school for set hours in the day and generally do what your caregivers ask of you. That being said, is there room for you to advocate for time to do activities that you find fulfilling like creating art, music, or dancing? Often, adults are receptive to supporting their kids' passions when they know how much it means to them. Maybe you can speak up about an activity or hobby you really enjoy and try to make it a regular part of your life.

Social Self-Care For Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean CIty)

I’ve saved my favorite aspect of self-care (the best, of course) for last, social self-care. Social is all things people, meaning friends, family, community, role models, therapists. You may already know the benefits to you when you spend time with people you care about, because it feels so good! Who are the people or relationships in your life that mean the most to you? When/how often do you get to see these people? Is there room for growth in the roles they play in your day-to-day life? For example, if you love hanging out with your cousin but only get to see him over the summer when your families get together, could you start a regular Facetime where you get to catch-up in between seeing each other? Or you had a super close group of friends in middle school but you all ended up at different high schools, can you ask your caregiver if you could make meeting up with them once a month a regular thing? The idea here is to identify the people whose company you enjoy and make an effort to be more connected with them. That way, when you’re going through a hard time (when self-care is most important but often the hardest) you have a built-in support system there to get you through.

Another important way to take care of yourself socially is to reach out to adults when you’re having a hard time. It can definitely be daunting, but at the end of the day, they’re there to support. Is there a teacher who you feel closest to? Or maybe there is a counselor at school who you could make an appointment with. Sharing your struggle with another person might help you to feel like you’re not alone and that you can have help in dealing with whatever is going on. Knowing that you have the option to talk to someone and using that option can be a powerful aspect of taking care of yourself.

Overall Self-Care For Teens (Teen Therapy in Philadelphia, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, Ocean CIty)

Within each of these sections, you can find ways to contribute to your well-being in an intentional way. It’s natural to find that you are drawn to certain domains more than others. Some people know they really appreciate talking to friends and spending time with their family to stay centered, while others find that a combination of many activities in multiple domains works for them. Take some time to explore what is right for you. It is self-care, after all. If you are struggling to find ways to take care of yourself or these strategies aren’t working for you, consider self scheduling with a teen therapist at The Center For Growth where many counselors have specific experience teen therapy. You can also call 215 922 5683 x 100. The Center for Growth has locations in Philadelphia PA, Santa Fe NM, Mechanicsville VA and Ocean City NJ.


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