When your teenager is battling anxiety and depression, the world can feel like a lonely and scary place. I know this. I’ve been there. All my thoughts (naturally enough) were around her battle and how I could help her. Which meant … I wasn’t sleeping. Or eating properly. Much less doing any exercise. The things I told myself about myself and my parenting skills – not nice. And if I needed a drink or two to relax and calm down, who could blame me at that point? And the craziest of all: I was still trying my hardest to make it look to the outside world like I had everything in hand. That I was holding it together.
And really, none of this was helping. I wasn’t in a great head-space myself. Right at the time when my teenager needed me to be the guide and her rock. She needed me to be the one to hold the expectation that she would be ok, she’d get through this. And to paint her a future that looked rosier than her current reality.
As my coach pointed out, “You’ve got a lot to worry about, yes. Is that worry helping you at all?” And she was right, it wasn’t helping a bit. In fact, it was making everything worse.
When our teens are unwell it’s natural to make their recovery a priority. That’s what great parents do. With mental health though, it’s far more than serving up nutritious food and making sure they get plenty of rest (although these are important). Your teenagers are looking to you, mirroring your attitudes and mindset as they push through this tough time in their lives. Adolescence is hard work. It’s much tougher when there’s also anxiety and depression to deal with.
One of the best things you can do as a parent is invest in yourself. After all, you are the one who will hold the expectation for your teenager that they will be okay. You are the one who will make sure they have a life worth living to come back to. It’s your job to steer them through this turbulent part of their lives and equip them with skills to heal themselves and go on to live a life that’s worth it.
Best we look after ourselves then.
Here’s a few tips on how to do that:
- Stay connected to your support network – not just medical professionals either. Your family and friends are there for you too. Being lonely doesn’t help.
- Are you hungry? Make sure your diet is meeting your needs. Be nutritionally savvy and buy food that is healthy, enjoyable and looks great. A packet of blueberries is a great alternative to a tub of ice-cream.
- Get lots of sleep. Go to town on useful sleep aids for you and your teenager, like lavender pillows and sleep sprays. Buy a relaxing oil for the bath and indulge yourself before bed.
- Monitor your anxiety levels. If you feel natural supplements or anti anxiety medication would be useful then get onto it.
- Talk kindly to yourself. This is a tough time you’re going through so be nice to you. If you find that a bit odd, think about what you would say to a friend who was going through the exact same thing. Whatever you’d tell her, tell it to you. In front of the mirror if you’re feeling brave. And give yourself a hug while you’re there. Extra hugs never hurt anyone.
How you treat yourself during this time is super important. What you do and say counts now, especially. Yes, your teenager is important. So are you.
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