Establishing Routines for Positive Mental Health Habits in Teens

The impact of COVID-19 is widespread and can be felt across the globe. After over two years of uncertainty, everyone has felt the effects of this global pandemic, particularly when it comes to mental health. This has been especially true for teens as results from the 2021 Monitoring The Future survey found that high school students reported that feelings of anxiety and depression started or increased during the pandemic.

The survey’s findings are in alignment with a series of studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reported that the percentage of mental health–related ER visits for children ages 12-17 rose by 31% between March 2020 and October 2020. There was also more than a 50% increase in ER visits related to suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12-17 in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.

No matter your teen’s age or what their relationship is with their own mental health, it’s crucial to begin or continue conversations around healthy habits and encourage them to be in-tune with their feelings. One major way to combat feelings of stress or anxiety in day-to-day life is to establish healthy routines. From daily rituals to weekly traditions, routines can help combat burnout while simultaneously giving teens a sense of structure and an idea of what to expect.

Here are some ways to establish routines in your household:

  1. DAILY ROUTINES: Consistent daily routines can promote healthy lifestyle habits. Simple changes like waking up and going to bed at the same time each day can promote a healthy sleep schedule, while dedicating time to reading for leisure or watching an episode of your favorite TV show can provide breaks to look forward to during the day. By establishing daily routines, especially starting the day off with a solid morning routine, teens can better know what to expect and depend on, which can contribute to positive mental health outcomes.

  2. WEEKLY TRADITIONS: Keeping in line with having teens know what they can expect and depend on, setting up weekly “traditions” or routines within your family can help to break up the week in a structured way. This could be a dedicated family game night or cooking a special dinner together one night a week, which can create structure for your teen while also establishing family traditions and making memories.

  3. PRIORITIZE EXERCISE: When focusing on mental health, it’s crucial to prioritize physical health as well, as both contribute to overall wellness. Exercise, even if just a morning walk around your neighborhood, can boost your self-esteem, improve your mood, and provide numerous mental health benefits. You can also look for opportunities to exercise with your teen, which can open avenues for conversation.

  4. PRACTICE GRATITUDE: By practicing gratitude each day, your teen can begin to connect with themselves in a more compassionate way. This could be done individually or together, and setting aside time to focus on the good each day as a family can be a great way to combat feelings of anxiety and depression. Being able to focus on small moments of joy each day, and highlight what’s going well, can help to open conversations between you and your teen.

Find more tips about openly talking with your teen about their mental health here. And remember, while establishing a routine can be a great way to combat feelings of depression or anxiety in teens, these suggestions are not a substitute for seeking the guidance of medical professionals if you believe a teen in your life may be struggling with depression or another mental health disorder. Get more information on how to help your teen seek help from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), here.

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