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Mental health tips for COVID-era teens



How teens can tackle their distinctive issues

Mental health tips for COVID-era teens


According to a Penn State video, a whopping 47% of American teenagers are diagnosed with a mental health issue. And that was pre-COVID.

Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated everyone’s mental health, parents and children alike. Teens heading into this unprecedented time with existing issues have an especially hard time of it.

A helpful article New York Times columnist and psychologist Lisa Damour directly addresses teens, instructs families on how to help themselves through these tough days by acknowledging problems and recognizing what Damour calls teens’ “superpowers.”

As all parents of teens know, this particular age group experiences emotions with a notable intensity. This can mean more dramatic anxiety and depression but can also offer higher levels of happiness at little things, like a favorite video game, movie, or music. Damour calls these positive emotions “superpowers,” and suggests emphasizing those small joys as much as possible, even if parents do not understand the level of enthusiasm.

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Damour also advises teens to recognize their innate abilities to rationalize, in a good way: “… you might notice that the anger you feel about your disrupted school days gives way to an appreciation for your growing self-sufficiency. Shifting from exasperation to rationalization maintains your connection to what’s happening while reducing the emotional charge.”

The pep talk goes on with: “Your mind is built to help you through this hard time. Put stock in its ability to keep your emotional current at manageable levels.”

Not surprisingly, Damour points out the importance of sleep and physical activity, especially now, as we are all experiencing more sedentary time than ever.

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Of course, the advice Damour offers to struggling teens is helpful for adults, too. Perhaps her most salient advice is for us all to endeavor to focus on what we can control. Accept that, as Damour writes, much will “go sideways” this year, but we can still be helpful to others, get better at certain things that we choose, and be good friends. Finally, she reminds readers it’s OK to be resentful and angry, but that everyone can, with some effort, use that energy for good.



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