By William J. Furney
It may seem as though there’s never been a better time to be a teenager. Constantly connected with all their pals and all the world’s information — and entertainment — at their fingertips, they seemingly want for nothing. With the internet on their smartphones, many teens are better informed than the countless no-net generations that came before them. And if they care to voice their opinions on anything that interests them, the can do just that with a tap of an online button, and reach audiences right around the world.
It all seems so incredibly amazing, and if you thought that some kind of dire catch might be lurking somewhere, you might be right. In fact, you are. New research shows that despite all their online and other advantages, today’s teenagers are more distressed, depressed and downright anxious than ever before.
One recent body of research, in the United States, found a shocking 20-percent rise in medically diagnosed cases of anxiety among people aged 6 to 17 and from 2007 and 2012.
The internet and all those social media platforms, it turns out, heap a world of online pressure on teens — to look good, eat clean and be an all-round awesome young guy or gal. And that’s quite apart from the more-real pressures of study, exams, trying to decide on a university and course — and an actual career. Then there’s the minefield of relationships and wondering if you should dive right in now or hold your fire (not to mention a crazily changing body and floods of hormones attempting to get you into all sorts of trouble, including the gender preferences you thought you had — you can rightly emit an existential scream: What on Earth is happening to me?!).
Key Ways to Beat Teen Worries
Even without all the social media stress, being a teenager takes guts. You’re really trying to figure the world, and yourself, out and it’s a highly confusing time. When I look back to my teenage years, it seems like one long, unfortunate blur. You’ve practically no idea what you’re doing and somehow just hope it all works out for the best. The good news is that for the most part it does, and worrying about it is a total waste of time and mental energy, when you would be better off just enjoying yourself.
For teens reading this and perhaps bogged down by all the various stresses of a young and blossoming life, here are some ways to battle any anxiety you may be feeling:
The most important lesson about lessons or just about anything is you don’t have to be at it 24/7. Constantly doing anything in the hopes of being the absolute best you can invariably leads to burnout and extreme levels of irritability — and lack of progress. So even if you’re cramming for impending upcoming exams, take a step back, forget it for a while and give yourself a rest. No one can be a champion all the time.
If you’re incredibly stressed from all the various teen-life pressures, one sure way to beat them in a flash is to get your heart pumping. No matter what your pressing pressure are, going for a zippy half-hour run, cycle, swim or any other sporting activity will make your woes vanish in a flash. The pumping blood in your system will aid your creativity — there is now evidence that exercising creates new neurons in the brain and can make you more clever — and another added benefit is it will help to clear up any eruptions of acne on your face due to improved circulation. (If you haven’t worked out in a while, or ever, start off gently and work your way up — and consult a doctor before considering a new fitness regimen.)
Mind Your Mind
Retreating from a world that seems increasingly scary and insurmountable — how can you do everything that’s expected of you, including getting a great-paying job and decent house and mortgage, learning to drive and possibly finding a mate and procreating? — is also advantageous, for a short spell. I’m not suggesting you become a monk and sequester yourself in a cave somewhere in Southeast Asia. But just five or 10 minutes freeing — and protecting — your mind a day or every other day can have enormous benefits. This is easily achieved by the world of apps and YouTube videos that take you on meditation journeys that will leave you mentally refreshed and entirely uplifted.
And finally, for teens of all kinds everywhere, my advice is: Don’t take it all so seriously and go out and paaaarrtaaaay! The world, I promise you, is not about to end.