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Being a teenager is tough. From navigating middle school and high school, new relationships, getting ready for college, and zits, there are plenty of challenges that come with each new day. For many teens, though, these struggles go above and beyond the norm. More teenagers now than ever before suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. These mental disorders can make life extremely difficult. Here are some signals that what you’re experiencing may be more than just typical teenage stress:

  • Often feeling very angry or worried
  • Feeling worthless
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Lack of interest in things you once found enjoyable
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in energy levels and sleep habits
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Constantly feeling ‘on edge’

Facing a mental disorder can be daunting, but here are four things you can do now to start feeling better.

  1. Talk about it

Depression and anxiety are extremely treatable, yet only about 1 in 5 people seek help for these mental illnesses. Counseling is proven to be effective for treating these disorders. Talking to someone about personal issues can bring immense relief. The people that struggle the most from mental illness are the ones that keep their struggle a secret. If you have been struggling with depressed or anxious thoughts, be sure to reach out to a parent or other family member, youth minister, trusted teacher, or another adult who cares about you and will take your concerns to heart. There are people in your life who will want to ensure you get the help you need. Ask them about finding a counselor, because counseling can equip you with the necessary tools to deal with depression or anxiety and help improve your quality of life.

  1. Find support

Having depression or anxiety can inhibit social learning. This means that while everyone is learning how to function as a son or daughter, sister or brother, friend, or student, mental illness can distract from these lessons, causing learning deficits in these social roles. For teenagers, this can lead to a crisis of identity and feeling out of place socially. Withdrawing from friends and family is also characteristic of depression and anxiety, leading to isolation. As humans, we have an innate need and desire to be in relationship with others. These mental illnesses attack this desire and starve our need for connection with others. This is why it is so important to engage in relationships with friends and family and to talk to others if you are struggling with depression or anxiety. No, you won’t feel like hanging out with your friends when you’re feeling depressed, but you need the connection and support of others to find healing and relief. Talk to others. Mental illness thrives in the dark. Bringing your issues into the light is the first step to finding healing.

  1. Stay in the now

Brooding over negative emotions intensifies anxiety and depression. Anxiety lives in the future, and depression lives in the past. Both of these disorders cause us to ruminate over events that we either cannot change or cannot control. The only place where we have any control is the present. Practicing mindfulness can help us to stay present in the current moment and avoid unhelpful rumination. Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present moment and involves tools such as meditation and deep breathing. Meditation can increase concentration and reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression and can also improve test performance when practiced before exams.

Check out these apps that encourage meditation and processing of emotions:

  1. Make time for you

Self-care is key when it comes to improving our mental health. Doing things that make us happy is one effective way to keep depression and anxiety at bay. When we make time to exercise, eat well, enjoy hobbies, and get plenty of rest, we are creating a natural defense against depression and anxiety.

Living with depression and anxiety is a real burden, especially for teenagers. These mental disorders can be debilitating, but they are treatable. With the help and support of loved ones and professionals and the determination to care for yourself, relief can be found and joy can be restored.

Read another article on Mental Illness in Teenagers and How Parents can Help.