The January blues are multiplied by ten at the moment. The world is currently a pretty upsetting place to be in, so an already pretty depressing time is made all the worse by the dark, short days, the isolation and all awful things we're seeing and hearing on the news each day.
And it's even worse for our teens. It's already a tumultuous time in their lives, with hormones and school stress and social pressure wreaking havoc. But to have to experience life through a screen? It's no wonder they're withdrawn, glum and moody right now.
What is important is that we are there for them. Though they may not react well to it or seem to want it, our support is needed now more than ever. Though they will probably never say it, they will appreciate you looking out for them with these little things that you can do to help them along through this tough time.
It’s definitely harder than usual now to motivate ourselves to get up and get moving. But with gyms closed and PE classes no longer compulsory over Zoom school, your teen isn’t getting the right amount of exercise to keep their spirits up. Do an online Pilates or yoga class together, or book them a modified HIIT class, whatever strikes their fancy – just get moving!
Go for a walk.
With online school happening all day and cold mornings and evenings taking over, we all shudder at the thought of heading out into the wintry air. But just getting that little bit extra vitamin D from the sunlight and fresh air every day could totally change their whole mood. Pop out for a quick stroll around the block on lunch times to waken up and be fresh for the afternoon. Good for digestion, energy and sleep, there’s really no excuse not to.
Not in a ‘new year new you’ insane diet overhaul kind of way. Just be conscious of the choices you’re making in relation to the foods you’re choosing to nourish your body and your family’s bodies with. This is not about weight loss or perfect bodies, but much more about brain food, gut food, all the things that are going to make your body feel its best in these trying times. Have them help out with meal planning, so they have a say in what they’re eating. If they’re major burger and chips fans, maybe some sort of healthier version might pique their interest.
Easier said than done, right? We need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to complete 4-5 90-minute sleep cycles. Keeping these cycles uninterrupted is the key to experiencing that ‘good night’s sleep’ feeling. The first step in getting a night’s sleep is regulating your body. It is essential that your body and brain begin to expect a shut-down and wake-up call at the same time every day. Being on a phone or screen late at night is another culprit, a particularly bad habit in teens. Experts recommend reading a book or doing a meditation for at least an hour before bed in order to really get a great, restful sleep.
This one is so much harder these days, but stress and pressure can make some people turn inwards instead of outwards to where the support is. Many teens are on Zoom classes all day long, so it may seem like they’re seeing a lot of their friends, but really, it’s not the same as a relaxed social conversation. Try to encourage them to do a couple of Zoom calls with close friends outside of school hours, so they can have a real catch up and maybe even realise everyone is in the same boat now. It's not the same as meeting up in person, but it's the best we can do for now.
Do things you enjoy
If they can get some exercise and complete their schoolwork every day, then they're doing well. But make sure there is time to do the things they want to do too- not necessarily self-improvement things, like that yoga class, or learning a new recipe – unless that’s something they genuinely enjoy. I’m talking about relaxing things. Have them read that book they've wanted to get at for ages, or that trashy Netflix show that requires no thinking whatsoever. Not everything they do has to be productive.
Focus on your strengths
Praise them. Praise yourself. Let them know they’re doing a great job and that these are stressful times and they’re rising to the occasion. If you really want to get into it, start a journal together, talking about the things you like about yourselves, your achievements, the things you’ve done well recently. Affirmations are also great ways to get into positive mindsets about ourselves. I am good enough, the work I do is good enough, I am enough. Whatever works for you and your teen.
Have a routine
Let work be work and play be play. There is no need for these two lives to intersect. If there is one thing it is vital for your teen to do, now that home is both school study space and chill zone, is to set boundaries between the different parts of their lives. Set aside certain hours and times in a timetable to be strictly adhered to. When school and study time is over, the books and bags go away and then it is time for food, relaxing activities and family. Make sure to help them create a very clear structure so that they can truly ‘switch off’ and unwind from school mode.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
January brings with it its own set of pressures. Resolutions, willpower and promises might be crumbling around us right now and that’s okay. Wanted to get up hours earlier than usual to complete an intricate and grueling workout routine, but can barely drag yourself out of bed on time for school or work? That’s okay! We’re going through a time of international crisis, stress and fear. There is only so much any of us can do. Find wins in the small things – you made a healthy meal for your family, or got out for a walk today, or finished all your homework. Go you!