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Looking after your mental health during a low key Christmas

Since Covid 19 entered our lives, our way of life has had to change. We can’t see friends and family members face to face and we have just been through a lockdown to stop the virus spreading. As much of the country enters Tier 3 lockdown restrictions, what does this mean for a family Christmas and how will it impact our teens mental health?

Back in November, Professor Catherine Noakes, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said to the Guardian:

“We really have to be careful that we don’t just focus on what is going to happen in six weeks’ time..we will be better off planning.. and thinking of, actually, can we have a more low-key Christmas and new year this year?.”

Professor Gabriel Scally also added that a well ventilated, outdoor Christmas would be the best thing to stop the spread of the virus. The rules for this Christmas are as follows, from 23 December to 27 December we’ll all able be able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’. This bubble allows you to join up to two other households during this period. However, once you’ve decided which two households you want to spend time with you can’t change them. Your bubble remains the same throughout this period. (Age UK)

But what does this mean for our teens whose lives have changed immeasurably and who want be able to see much loved family members of friends?

Many teens want to go out to see friends, socialise, go to parties, but their freedom at what should be the most carefree time of their lives is being curtailed. Many have had to break up early from school to stop the spread of Covid 19.

Mind say on their website, ‘Christmas can be a tricky time, even without the pandemic. The news tends to assume we all want to have this big Christmas with family. We are all different. For some, a small Christmas might be a blessing.”

Christmas can be a time that many people, including teens will struggle with their mental health. They won’t be at school and even if they have been, classmates may have been off due to positive Covid cases. There is an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

Mind list the following reasons people may struggle with their mental health,

-Feel alone or left out because everyone else seems happy when you’re not
-Wish you didn’t have to deal with Christmas because of other events in your life or the pandemic
-Feel frustrated by other people’s views of a ‘perfect’ Christmas, if these feel different to your experiences
-Want to celebrate with someone who’s struggling, but can’t

Yet, there are ways to help make Christmas wonderful- such as making and posting Christmas cards to loved ones, doing relaxing activities like watching Christmas movies or drinking hot chocolate and video calling loved ones if you feel able.

However, the restrictions this Christmas may exacerbate mental health problems, with difficult and stressful experiences making it worse. It may also be harder to access much needed services this time of year.

What can help?

  • Be kind and gentle with yourself- the pandemic and your mental health issues are not your fault, don’t beat yourself up.
  • Talk to a trusted parent, friend, guardian or loved one about how you are feeling and what you need to cope – create a toolbox of coping methods together.
  • Communicate what you need to boost your mental health and get through Christmas this year.
  • If needed, speak to your GP and crisis services and get support or call Samaritans or text the Shout line (numbers below)
  • Plan nice activities such as using your Teen Calm box and things to do so you don’t feel lonely or isolated and make sure you are spending time with others for some of the time.
  • Take time out if you do need alone time, to rest and recuperate and explain this to your family.
  • If your mental health worsens and you feel suicidal or want to harm yourself, please reach out to your GP, psychiatrist, therapist or local CAMHS service crisis team.

If you are struggling this Christmas, call Samaritans on 116 123 or text Shout to 85258

Remember that with the roll out of the vaccine, we hope the pandemic will soon be a distant memory and that Christmas next year will be brighter. We at Teen Calm wish you a happy and healthy one.

Could your teen with anxiety also have autism or SEN? Here’s what you need to know.

Sometimes, when we’re focussed on the anxiety we may find that we’ve overlooked something else. The teenage years are undoubtedly testing times but is there something more at play?

What are special needs?

Each teenager and child will have different physical, social and emotional needs. They may also struggle with mental health conditions such as anxiety. But, as a parent or carer, what do you do if you suspect your child may have a special educational need (potentially including autism, other neurological differences like ADHD or emotional difficulties)? What if the anxiety is created by a wider need?

The charity Family Lives note that ‘’The term ‘Special Educational Needs’ is used to describe learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for children to learn than most children of the same age. Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are likely to need extra or different help from that given to other children their age. This help is known as special educational provision.’’

Children including teens can have different difficulties that can be classified as SEN by an accredited practitioner such as a psychiatrist, educational psychologist, occupational or speech therapist or a SENDCO inclusion leader in the school. Difficulties can include emotional and behavioural, such as low self esteem and lack of confidence, an inability to follow class instructions and ‘acting out’ at school/ aggression. In some cases, there may be anxiety and panic attacks or depression. Or, as we experienced, very few obvious difficulties until mental health issues arose, due to autistic ‘masking’. We’ll explain a bit more about that in a moment.

Children & teens may struggle with the academic side of school, struggling with reading, spelling, maths or grasping abstract concepts. Class activities can be difficult for a variety of reasons, especially if your child has a learning need. Some children also have speech and language or communication needs, and may have delays in this area, finding it hard to communicate with their peers or teacher and relate to other people. Others have a physical disability which makes life trickier for them to be in class or study at the same level. 

However, help is at hand!

In this blog, we will look at what to do if you think your teen has emotional difficulties and what to do if you suspect their level of anxiety could be related to autism.

Firstly it is important to note that in the UK education system, each child has the right to access learning at their own level. They must receive a balanced and wide curriculum, which can be differentiated, from Early Years to the later key stages at age 16-18. Most children with SEN will be educated in a mainstream school (some are home schooled or in specialist schools as it depends on each child). 

If you are concerned about your child/ teen:

1) Speak to the class teacher and school SENDCO to express your concerns

It is vital to have a good dialogue with the class teacher, who sees your child every day. It is important to express concerns about your child’s behaviour or mental health if it comes up and if they are struggling academically or with their peers. The teacher can set up a meeting with the school SEN Coordinator and this may give you greater clarity, especially if your child is falling behind other children. 

They can put into place plans of action, known as Individualised Education Plans (IEPs) to help your child in class. The teacher may recommend that your child needs one to one support from a teaching assistant, who will carry out the action points of the IEP.

If they are really struggling, in consultation with you, the SENCO may apply for an EHCP (formerly known as a statement of needs), where the school receives funding to best support the person, for example by hiring their own teaching assistant or equipment to help in class.

If your teen is under a psychiatrist, it is important to involve them separately to assess what is going on and note their symptoms. 

2)  See their GP and specialist: What if their anxiety is because of autism? How do I realise?

Raisingchildren.net.au  says that ‘Anxiety is a normal part of children’s development, but children and teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety more intensely and more often than other children.’

They also comment, ‘Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) feel many of the same worries and fears as other children. But when children and teenagers with ASD get worried or anxious, the way they show their anxiety can look a lot like common characteristics of ASD.

If you are concerned your child may be on the autism spectrum, it is best to speak to your GP and get a referral to a specialist.

Symptoms of anxiety (and other conditions) can also be very similar to autism. These include:

  • Insisting on routine
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tantrums and meltdowns
  • Social withdrawal
  • Obsessions and rituals   
  • Stimming (self stimulation) by rocking, spinning or flapping hands
  • Self harm eg biting, scratching, headbanging

You can get your teen assessed and it is best to rely on the advice of professionals such as GP doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, SENCOs and any therapists involved in your child’s care. It is also important to trust your gut feeling too as a parent.

There are a number of ways to assist with anxiety including exposure therapy, CBT, social stories to prepare for social situations. An occupational therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist can assist with this after an assessment.

Not all teenagers with anxiety will have autism. If your teen is struggling badly with anxiety, they can access medication and counselling through their GP or psychiatrist.

As a parent or carer, it is important to note your teens behaviour patterns and if you have a strong feeling that more support is needed or your teen is distressed and asking for further help , reach out for it. 

Some helpful charities;

YoungMinds
Stem 4
Mind
The Princes Trust
Heads Together

Other useful organisations;

Time to Change
Place 2 Be
SAMH

Teen Calm is a new subscription box for teens struggling with anxiety. Find out more here.

University tips: How to stay alive

University survival tips your parents may have forgotten to tell you

So you’re going to university, congratulations! You’ve probably been given endless advice from others who are keen to share their own experiences of uni life. You may also be feeling a little overwhelmed.

You survived the stress of results week (did all of that really happen in one week?!) and now it’s a whirl of student bank accounts, accommodation, packing and preparing to move away from home.

Take a breath. You’re going to have the time of your life but there are some things you need to know. We’ve put together a list of all the tips your parents may forget to tell you.

From how to survive freshers week and budget for student life to avoiding food poisoning, we’ve got you covered!

Download our tips HERE.

Dealing with exam result disappointment

Exam results day can be stressful at the best of times, especially if you didn’t do as well as you expected but this year has been exceptionally difficult for many students in the midst of the covid pandemic. 

Here is some advice on how to manage exam disappointment:

Don’t compare your results unfavourably to others

There are bound to be people posting their results on social media and it’s easy to feel with all of the celebratory posts that you’re the only one who didn’t do as well as you hoped but remember – people tend to post the highlights and there will be many other people who don’t feel like sharing their results. 

Be kind to yourself

Firstly, let’s not forget that you didn’t sit those exams. Your grade was determined by prediction during a global pandemic in unprecedented circumstances.

These grades don’t define you or your potential. You are far more than a number on a sheet of paper (or a computer screen). Success is rarely a flat line, you’ll experience plenty of highs and countless more setbacks on your journey. It’s how you deal with them that counts. 

Take some time to relax and gather your thoughts, breathing exercises can also help to reduce stress levels.

Find out your options

There are lots (hundreds of thousands) of others in the same boat. This is a unique situation and it is expected that colleges and universities may be more flexible than usual. Due to uncertainty around covid and a lack of gap year travel options, some 80k students are expected to be looking for uni places via clearing so it’s worth investigating what UCAS advise and checking with places you’ve applied for to see if they are willing to accept you.

If you don’t have the A level grades for University, consider sitting the exam in the Autumn. Otherwise is there a more vocational alternative? There are non-academic qualifications which are equal to A-levels and degrees and may even allow you to go to university at a higher level in the future. This framework compares academic and non academic qualifications. 

For free and impartial advice and guidance, the National Careers Service’s Exam Results Helpline has professional careers advisers available to young people, parents and carers. 

Whatever the case, don’t panic. When you’ve done your research, list out your options and take some time to think them over and discuss them with family before you decide. Making big decisions about your future when you’re upset or stressed isn’t a good idea.

Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed

Talk to friends and family if you feel able about your feelings.

If you are struggling or are worried about someone else, you can contact the Samaritans at any time on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Alternatively you can access Young Minds Crisis Messenger for urgent help by texting YM to 85258.

9 Ways To Ease Lockdown For Your Autistic Child

Parents of all autistic children will know – change is rarely easy for their little (and big) ones. But the last few weeks have bought a cataclysm of change unprecedented in our lifetime and it’s hard. 

Every autistic child is different so I can’t predict how your child will react. I can’t even predict how my own will react. But I know it will be hard to process and it’s likely there will be delayed reaction. And while so much is out of our control, I’m going to share with you 9 things you CAN do to mitigate the impact of the lockdown for your autistic child.

MY daughter, like all her peers I’m sure, will be bored at home very quickly. But unlike most of her peers, she finds self-regulation of her emotions very difficult, and heightened stress with all the change means it’s going to have to spill out somewhere.

She was already at home but this week all her groups have been cancelled, and the whole family has been at home, taking up space, breathing her air, crowding her kitchen, disturbing her solitude. She doesn’t like it. It makes her anxious and very uncomfortable. And in the past, being this anxious has led to unhealthy ways of coping so we, like many other SEN parents around the country and indeed the world, are trying, unsuccessfully it must be said, to keep everything as normal as it can be.

But how can life be normal when your favoured way to self-regulate is to go to the supermarket (yes, we know!)? When you are hostage to OCD, with no treatment of it for two years, but suddenly everyone is telling you to wash your hands? When the professionals you rely on and have been part of your recovery are no longer available and the groups which brought you back into the world cease to run?

Well the answer is of course that it can’t. For any of us.

The world is topsy turvy and just not RIGHT at the moment. And it’s scary. If it’s scary for adults, imagine how scary it is for a child who relies on everything being just as it’s meant to be in order to have low anxiety. Things are very much NOT as they are meant to be. And while this continues, parents of autistic and other neurodiverse children are likely to see behaviours that reflect that anxiety. Behaviour is communication, and even if your child can’t necessarily articulate to you what’s wrong, they are telling you with their behaviour. 

So how can we help?

9 Ways To Ease Lockdown For Your Autistic Child

#1 Communicate The Facts

Be honest about what’s going on (without going into too much detail, depending on the age of your child). Simple facts can be processed without too much emotional baggage going with them. You will know the best way to do this for your child. Bear in mind teens can find out anything and may see some scary things on social media, so it’s better to come clean (pun intended).

#2 Get That Routine Going Quickly

Quickly establish a new routine, and be clear that it’s important there are no sudden changes as much as possible. How varied your routine is will depend on the needs of your autistic child and their siblings. We have a comprehensive resource list here: https://teencalm.com/home-schooling-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

#3 Try to Keep As Much As Possible The Same

It’s likely your autistic child is made anxious by change. Keep as much constant as possible. Although it may not seem important that a particular drink is drunk at a certain time, there is little enough stability to hold on to at the moment.

#4 Use More Than Words

Neurodiverse children are likely to be visual learners, and possibly have issues with short term memory, so make a visual timetable, tailored to your child as detailed or illustrated as they like it. Stick to this timetable every day.

#5 Screentime is Downtime Now

Relax your usual screen time rules, especially if this is one of your autistic child’s means of self-soothing. After all, we bet your social media usage has gone up too?

#6 Use Social Stories

Social stories are visual short stories with teach a lesson about a specific social situation. They can be a great way to help autistic children understand new social situations, as long as they are done properly. Here’s a good resource to learn about them: https://carolgraysocialstories.com/social-stories/what-is-it/ Create a social story to help your child process all of this change (there are some examples for COVID-19 particularly in our home education resources).

#7 Make Sure They Understand the Importance of Washing Hands

Many autistic children are demand-avoidant, and just telling them to wash their hands for 20 seconds is not going to work. They need to understand why and how, and one of the videos circulating on social media where someone uses a coloured soap or substance to show all the parts of the hand which are usually missed is a perfect example.
Alternatively show them handwashing while singing Mr Brightside!

#8 Help Them Understand Why We Can’t Go Out

The Teen Calm household has two autistic teens. One of them would live like a hermit most of the time if he could. He gets his socialising from online gaming and he’s (mostly) happy with that. For him, not going to school is a pleasure and being isolated at home is a habitual choice.
For the other, going out is part of her self-regulation. Therefore keeping her in is already proving difficult and is likely to become a lot more so. Despite the fact that this is all out of our hands, she needs to feel listened to when she moans about it. Visual animations about social distancing have helped – we recommend you make all explanations as visual as possible. And keep some distraction projects up your sleeve for further down the line.

#9 Cultivate Sainthood

As hard as it is, your children need you to be even more patient than normal!

The world may seem as if it has gone slightly bonkers, but what our children are going to remember of this time is not news reports or empty shelves in the supermarket but their time at home with us. Let’s make it memorable for the right reasons.

Self harm in Teens- How to help

If you are a teenager in significant distress, you may feel the urge to self harm. This often happens when things are too painful to handle and you are unsure of how else to deal with your pain. Young Minds say that sometimes it can feel like the ‘only way to let those feelings out’, even though in reality there is support out there for you. Social media showing others self harming can also unfortunately encourage you to harm yourself as a way of coping, particularly if you are struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental illness.

The charity Young Minds notes that 10% of 15-16 year olds self harm and it is very common, affecting one in 12 people in the UK.

The NSPCC adds that, ‘For many young people, self harm can feel like a way to cope with difficult feelings or to reduce tension. The physical pain of hurting themselves can feel like a distraction from the emotional pain they’re struggling with.’

They go on to say that if you have depression or anxiety, low self esteem or feeling unworthy, been bullied or feel lonely, have experienced abuse (sexual, emotional, physical) or neglect, are grieving or struggling with family relationships or are feeling angry, numb or out of control, then these are risk factors for self harming. Sometimes illnesses like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia will feature self harm behaviours. 

Self harming behaviours will bring only temporary relief to mental health problems and can be dangerous. There are healthier ways to cope and recover if you already self harm- there is a way to get better.

Psycom says that ‘Helping teens recover from self-harm is understanding why they do it in the first place. There isn’t a simple answer to this question but, in general, some teens use self-harm to relieve tension by stimulating endorphins while others use self-harm to feel physical pain instead of emotional numbness. Stress and pressure, anxiety, and depression are all associated with self-harm in adolescence.’

So as a parent, guardian or friend of another teen you are concerned about, What are the signs to look out for?  

Signs will vary from person to person but may include:

1) Wearing long sleeves and covered clothing all the time and being secretive when undressing- this may be to hide self harm scars, cuts or bruises. 

2) Unexplained bruises, cuts and scars on their body (this could also be a sign of abuse from another person). Wounds that don’t seem to heal and get worse over time.

3) Talking frequently about harming themselves and self injury behaviours  and watching self harm videos (or following Instagram accounts).

4) Collecting sharp items for self harm use.

5) Avoidance of friends and family, spending more time at home.

6) Depression, low self esteem and self blame.

7) Finding blood stains on clothing or blood in their room/ in tissues and bandages. If they are stockpiling bandages too this is a worry.

8) Engaging in risky behaviours such as drinking or drug taking and outbursts of anger.

How can we help a young person who is self harming and needs treatment?

If you are the young person- Talk to someone you trust- your GP or psychiatrist, a parent, relative, teacher or another trusted friend. The best thing to do is speak to your doctor as they will have seen this before.

You may also need an assessment with the Children and Adolescent Mental health services (CAMHS) as your self harm could be part of wider mental illness/ distress. 

In the immediate- if you have injuries that need treating and you can’t sterilise it yourself, speak to a trusted family member or go straight to your doctor or walk in centre. If you are very injured, you will need to stem blood flow and go straight to Accident and Emergency in hospital, if your GP can’t treat it themselves.

As a parent you will need to provide emotional support,  unconditionally as they adapt to recovering from self harm behaviour. Your teen will be in emotional pain  and need empathy as they try to break the addictive cycle that self harm can bring.

Psycom recommends making time to connect one to one, helping your teen to destress and have a slower, calmer schedule as they recover (including relaxing activities such as walking, mindfulness and reading ), speaking to a school counsellor or psychiatrist and accompanying your teen to appointments and creating a list of friends or professionals to phone.

With early identification and good support networks, self harm behaviours can be managed. It is important to seek professional help.

Helplines such as the Samaritans 116 123 can be of help to people managing self harm behaviours.  Young Minds and Childline also have crisis text lines and see the Mix and Me Two apps too. At Teen Calm, we send subscription boxes to teens struggling with anxiety and mental health conditions. See more at www.teencalm.com

Dealing with exam stress as a teen

If you’re a teenager of school or college age, you will worry about exams. Essays, coursework, exams by memory, subjects you find difficult and knowing you have to get GCSE and A level grades in order to progress in life means the pressure can be high. Having to choose subjects at such a young age to determine your future path can also be stressful.

Additionally, if you are a teen with mental health issues or have additional needs, having to think about exams can be daunting. You may need extra support from parents, teachers and teaching assistants or have to take fewer exams in order to cope. It very much depends on the individual, how much you are able to do academically and cope with emotionally.

The most important thing is to not be hard on yourself and to do what is right for you. Exam grades are important for careers later in life, but you need to look after your own emotional health too.

Signs of stress 

First of all it is vital to recognise signs of stress. You may experience frequent worries, insomnia, have headaches and stomach pains, not want to eat, feel irritable, feel lower than normal and hopeless about the future. If you start to have panic attacks or depression and are unable to function or feel better, you will need to see your GP to help you manage what is going on.  

The NHS advises, ‘’Having someone to talk to about their work can help. Support from a parent, tutor or study buddy can help young people share their worries and keep things in perspective. Encourage your child to talk to a member of school staff who they feel is supportive if you think your child is not coping. It may also be helpful for you to talk to their teachers. Try to involve your child as much as possible.’’

Speak to someone you trust

Additionally to this, the mental health charity Young Minds gives tips for teens who are struggling with their health and the pressure of exams. They advise several things to help, including:

‘’1) Let your trusted friends and family know you are struggling so they can be there to support you and offer a listening ear. You don’t have to go through this alone.

2) Ask for help from your school and teachers to give you more support and resources

3) Find a study group or start your own – this can help you feel less isolated and build friendships, helping to relieve stress

4) Be kind to yourself and write a list of all your achievements. ‘’ (Young Minds)

The charity ChildLine also seems to agree with the above advice. They recommend that as well as talking to teachers and trusted friends, that speaking with a counsellor may also help in some cases. You can speak to a counsellor at school, through a charity or be referred by a doctor.

Some stress busting tips that they recommend include taking breaks for 20 minutes each hour, giving yourself something to look forward to, planning exam revision in a specific time slot  and making sure you make time for self care, sleep, eating well, relaxation and exercise.

Revising for exams means you may compare yourself to your friends. Try not to compete or constantly look at social media as this will make you feel worse, you may feel not good enough. 

What to do if I am a teen or parent of a teen with bad anxiety?   

If exam stress triggers your anxiety badly, it is important to go and see your GP and also try to practice anxiety management strategies- including talking to loved ones or a close friend,  relaxation techniques, meditation and visualisation, calming music, warm baths, journaling your fears on paper, creating some art and reducing time spent on the internet/ screens. If anxiety is particularly high, a doctor may want you to try medication or counselling. 

Counselling can help to unpack worries in a safe environment and if you are a teen, you can work with therapists that understand the needs of your age group.

As a parent, make sure you don’t pressurise your child or heap criticism on to them if they are struggling. Be there as a support and a listening ear. Help them find a safe, quiet place to revise and be there as a positive sounding board. You can also give your teen small rewards to help motivation. If you are very concerned about the impact exam stress is having on your child, please go with them to their GP.

Child Line have an art box resource  to help deal with stress here: https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/art-box/#Howtouse

Here at Teen Calm, we provide wellness subscription boxes for teens struggling with anxiety. Each month, we have goodies to send to your child to help them with their fears and let them now they aren’t alone.

Caring for an Anxious Teen? You May be Forgetting Something Vital

In today’s hectic world, self care is becoming more important than ever. With work stress and demands on our time, parents are more overstretched than before. Parents are also working longer hours than ever, in a bid to provide for their family.

What if you are a parent or guardian of a child with mental health issues or SEN (special educational needs)? How do you cope and look after yourself whilst being a good, loving parent to your child? What do you do in times of trauma?

Self care is defined as ‘the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.’ (online dictionary)

Erin Leyba writes for Psychology Today that,  ‘It’s essential that parents care for themselves – first, for their own well being, but also because any effort they put into self-care also has huge payoffs for their children. When parents “fill their own cups,” they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.’

If your child or a teen you know is going through a trauma, there are ways to help. For example, if they are in hospital due to illness or are unwell at home, you may feel overwhelmed and struggle to cope. You may also feel helpless seeing your child in pain and become anxious or overprotective as a result.

If you are seeing your child go through acute anxiety or depression or have a reaction to any trauma they face, whether it is illness, bullying or struggling at school, then as a parent we react by putting them first. It’s natural, but the longer the trauma continues for our child, the longer it continues for us too, and while no self-care is sustainable for a short time, after a while something is going to give.  So how do you care for yourself alongside this? Here are 8 possible ways to give you an idea.

Psychotherapist Stefan Deutsch did some research into this area, specifically looking at the epidemic of ‘burn out’ amongst adults and parents. He comments, ‘’The self love needed for self care was missing. Academicians use terms like self esteem, self worth, self support, self care but rarely self love. That is left to the spiritual community. People don’t realise that taking care of their own needs; eating, drinking, brushing their teeth, showering, wearing clean clothes, going to work are all acts of self love. My own clients conceded that they were on the bottom of their Totem Pole of priorities. Everything in their life came before their own health and wellbeing; the job, the house, the kids, the family, the car, finances, and so forth. The problem is that people have a hard time reaching for balance in their lives.’’

Finding balance and taking care of yourself are vital in difficult times (and a good pattern to get into for every day too). Here are some strategies that may help you manage stress:

1)  Write it out– write out how you are feeling as a stream of consciousness on paper, getting all thoughts and worries out of your brain. The simple act of sharing it and writing it down, means you can move forward knowing its out of your head and you can come back to it at any time. The act of journaling freely for 20 minutes can really help reduce stress.

2) Talk it out– confide in a trusted friend, family member or therapist about how you are feeling. Going to counselling in times of trauma or shortly after can help you to seek support and process all that is going on. Having a cup of tea with a friend and a good chat can also be helpful.

3) Schedule an hour to see a friend or do something for you– parents are often short on me time. Make sure you schedule in time for yourself away from everything that’s going on. This could be a phone chat or going out for dinner or the cinema with a friend. Or something as simple as carving out time for you (and you alone) to watch a comforting film or TV show.

4) Do something special with your child – a trip if they’re well enough. Or something at home – a takeaway and a film, baking a cake together, watch them play their video games…sit and watch their favourite YouTube channel with them.

5) Walk in nature. Nature is soothing and walking in fresh air and getting some exercise can help clear your head and put things in perspective.

6) Make a gratitude list and write 3 things you are grateful for on it every day. This can help with boosting positive mindset.

7) Eating well and sleeping: Make sure that alongside caring for your child, you eat well and try to get enough sleep. If you are struggling with this, reach out for support from your GP. Sleep is vital for replenishing our bodies and encouraging resilience.

8) Medical help. If you are struggling to cope with your life situation or think you may be depressed or highly anxious , it may help to see your doctor or psychiatrist to see if you need anti depressant or anxiety medication. You can also self refer to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme) in the UK for therapy sessions if needed, which have shorter waiting times than the general psychology list.

You can also reach out to various charities such as Mind or Young Minds for support and helplines including the Samaritans are open 24/7 for judgement-free listening.

You cannot pour from an empty cup, so in times of stress, you can learn to unwind and take care of yourself.  Make self care and self-love your priority as well as looking after your child.

At Teen Calm, we provide subscription boxes for teens with anxiety. You can learn more at www.teencalm.com            

How to get better sleep

Lying in bed staring at the ceiling and feeling exhausted is never fun. Good sleep is important for our mental and physical health. As a teenager, you may be experiencing a lack of sleep or feel that you don’t need it as you’re ‘too busy’. Getting a good night’s sleep helps our bodies to repair and grow and as you enter your teen years, this is more integral than ever. Additionally, in some people, mental health issues can start in teen years and be made worse by lack of sleep. So make sure you get your rest.

According to the NHS,

‘A minimum of 8 to 9 hours good sleep on school nights is recommended for teens.’

There are some sleep researchers that recommend up to 9 and a half hours, but this depends on the person. Some people need more sleep to function better.

Dreams.co.uk, a bed company in the UK, has shared some interesting facts about sleep. Did you know that humans spend a third of their life sleeping? Among young people, ‘dysania’ (or struggling to get out of bed in the morning) is very common with many teens finding it hard to get to school or wake up groggy.

So how can you get better sleep? Here are some tips to help:

1) Practise sleep hygiene.

The National Sleep Foundation defines sleep hygiene as ‘a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.’ This can include limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes, this level of nap can improve alertness. It is also important to increase exposure to natural light, as well as darkness to maintain a positive sleep-wake cycle.

2) Avoid caffeine close to bedtime

Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep your brain and body alert, often found in coffee, tea, chocolate or coca cola. Make sure you limit them close to bedtime as they can stop you falling asleep and effect sleep quality.

3) Exercise for better sleep

Regular exercise, out in daylight is said to improve sleep patterns. If you are struggling to sleep regularly, it may be good to take up a sport or walk more, instead of getting the bus.

4) Be careful with what you eat before bed

Fried, fatty, spicy and heavy foods can cause painful heartburn which can keep you awake. Make sure you limit these before bedtime, if they are a problem for you.

5) Make your bedroom sleep friendly and at the correct temperature

The Sleep Foundation suggests that a bedroom should be between 60 and 67 degrees for optimal sleep. They also suggest limiting screens with bright light before bed and adjusting the room lighting to be low.

The aim is to make your bedroom as relaxing as possible so invest in good, soft pillows and duvets and a comfortable mattress. If you are struggling to get good sleep, you can buy blackout curtains and face masks, or ear plugs and ‘white noise’ machines which have a relaxing effect. In the middle of summer if the room is too hot, invest in a fan or air conditioning unit if possible.

6) Establish a bedtime routine

A regular bedtime routine can help the body to learn that now is time to rest and switch off. There are many routines that can help, experiment to see what works for you.This could be listening to calming music, dimming the lights, having a warm bath or shower, reading quietly and limiting screen time for the hour before you go to sleep.

Some people find switching off their phone or putting it in a drawer to be helpful. Relaxation practices like guided meditation can also help.Always go to bed and try and wake at the same time each day so you can develop a good routine to aid sleep.

7) If you’re a parent listen to your teen

Teens often have problems and worries which can stop them from falling asleep. As a parent or guardian, they may need a listening air and guidance. Remember to stay calm and listen to them if they want to talk to you about it. Don’t push them to talk before they are ready.

Teens may be stressed over school exams and homework worries, relationships and friendships, bullying, social activities and any other fears or worries going on in their lives. If they have fallen in with a bad group of friends, this can be a worry too. Always be there non judgementally as much as you can be.

If you are worried about your teen’s mental health and lack of sleep or notice they are engaging in risky behaviour, it’s important to speak to their GP with them and you can also get in touch with their teachers, mentors and charities to help. The Samaritans free helpline in the UK is 116 123

Lastly, remember that getting into a good sleep pattern can really help to benefit you as a teenager, making life feel that much better.

At Teen Calm, we promote winding down before bed, getting a good night’s rest and finding your inner calm. See more at www.teencalm.com

Self Care for Teens: 5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Feel Better

It’s essential you know what to do to give yourself a boost. Making self-care a routine part of your life will help you manage stress and anxiety, better cope with life’s challenges, and help you enjoy yourself more.

Even if you’re feeling pretty good right now, read-on so you’ll know what to do when you need a little lift.

Self care is important for anyone of any age, but in our teen years as our bodies and minds are constantly changing and adapting, it is vital. Self care is looking after your physical and  emotional health and this can be any activity that assists with making you feel happy, healthy and positive.

Everyone has varying methods of self care. Some love to take soothing bubble baths, others enjoy exercise such as yoga or running and find it relaxing. Some want to spend time with friends or family face to face or go on day trips. For other people, self care could be curling up with a good book or TV show, meditating to clear your mind or partaking in a much loved hobby or craft, promoting mindfulness.

Practising self care can not only improve your own mental health, but it also helps relieve the pressures on yourself and family life too. As a teen it can sometimes be challenging relating to your parents and arguments can be frequent, particularly if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, school friendships or relationships. Self care activities can help calm you and assist a positive atmosphere.

Whitney Bell at Teen Vogue says, 

Self care isn’t always bubble baths and pretty candles, sometimes it’s just getting out of bed, taking a shower, and reminding yourself how amazing you are. Self-love is meeting yourself exactly where you are at with compassion and love. It is knowing what serves you, and removing the things that don’t. Our worth isn’t determined by the clothes we wear, or by how many people have crushes on us.

 Outside validation might feel great for a second but it will quickly pass. Everyone’s mental health journey is their own…Allow space for your growth and remind yourself of your worth by investing in your health, your head, and your heart.’

Many teens struggle with self esteem and self worth as they develop into adults. It is important to focus on mindful techniques like repeating positive affirmations about yourself such as ‘I am worthy’ or ‘I am enough’. Some recommend saying these daily to yourself in the mirror or writing them out in a journal. 

What can help promote better mental health and self care? 

1) Forest bathing

In the busy technology focused world we live in, nature can be very soothing.  This Harvard Medical School study shows just how much the Chill Factor of Nature can affect us.
A walk in the park, on the beach or by a lake can help calm and relax us. The fresh air and exercise can also help to clear the mind. Similarly, gardening has a soothing effect, especially if you are growing a bright happy plant like sunflowers. 

2) Spend time with friends or family

This could be face to face over a cup of tea, if you feel able. If you are struggling with a mental health condition and feel up to it, you can video chat or talk on the phone to friends. Human contact makes us feel connected, less isolated but make sure it’s with a good friend and people you trust, that support you and make you feel good.

3) Learn a new hobby to beat stress

You could learn a new creative craft like sewing or knitting or if fashion and beauty is more your thing, take a make up course. You may want to take up a sport or if you like writing and social media, start a blog or Youtube channel. Whatever it is, it should help with your self care and not make you more stressed! Mindful crafts can be very healing. Other activities that help with distracting the mind include reading a good book or listening to calming music.

4) Take care of your physical health to boost mindset 

Make sure you look after your physical care too- a healthy, balanced, nutritious diet and go to sleep at the same time each day. If you struggle with this, reach out to your support network to help if you have insomnia or anxiety. Listening to sleep hypnosis, deep muscle relaxation or a guided meditation can really help you to switch off at night. Additionally, if you are a teen struggling with an eating disorder, your self care could mean you need to reach for further support and speak to a specialist to help you.  

Additionally, make sure to stay away from drugs and alcohol, which can be depressants. 

5) Its OK to let it out, cry or journal

If you are going through a hard time, its good to talk and most importantly to cry to release those pent up emotions. You can also write in a private journal about how you are feeling or talk to a trusted friend or parent. Don’t bottle it up as it will make you feel worse.  

In addition to regular self care, it is vital to speak to your GP or psychiatrist if you are struggling. You may need medication or to be referred for therapy, two other very important forms of self care. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.   

See this Mind page for a list or organisations that can help you.

Teen Calm is a subscription box for anxious teens, learn more at www.teencalm.com

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