Healthy Summer Routines and Skills

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Summer is sometimes hard

Even though summer is a much needed break, some teens report feeling more isolated and without the structure and distraction of school, some can feel overwhelmed with too much freedom.  To ward off summer time anxiety, lethargy, or loneliness, it can be helpful to develop healthy routines, especially around sleep, eating, exercise, and social activities.  

Sleep

While going to bed later and sleeping in is natural in the summer months, not setting some healthy limits around this, can actually make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.  It is important to not allow your teen to stay up until all hours of the night playing video games or watching YouTube then sleeping in until 1pm.  It's not as much about the hours of sleep someone gets as much as it is about exposure to the blue light of screens and exposure to natural light.  When we allow our children to stay up every night and miss half of the day's sunlight, we are potentially setting them up for sleep issues, especially when school starts back.  Depending on age, my suggestion is to extend bed/wake time to 1-2 hours after school schedule with some flexibility for occasional late nights for sleep overs, parties, and such.  It will be much easier to get back into an earlier bed time come fall and with far less potential for issues.

Diet

Along with sleep, we often under estimate how nutrition plays a role in creating and maintain mental health, especially mood.  Sleeping in very late can lead to skipped meals and teens may tend towards grazing on carbs all day.  Drinking high sugar drinks and caffeine can also perpetuate sleep disturbances and mood issues.  Have a conversation about summer time meal expectations and try to stock easy to make, nutritional meal items as well as favorite fruits, cheeses, healthy snacks, and ingredients for smoothies.  If you work and your teen will be spending some time alone each day, pre-make some items or if they are old enough encourage them to make the meals you've discussed.  If you allow your older teen some caffeine make sure it is within a healthy limit and not too late in the afternoon or it can interrupt sleep.  If you are unclear about specific nutritional needs or would like assistance in helping your teen get the proper nutrition needed to support optimal health, contact your doctor.  A good resource is also located HERE.  As always, if your teen has special dietary needs, follow your doctor or nutritionist's recommendations.  Don't forget water!!

Activity

Exercise is also a often misunderstood component to creating and maintaining mental health.  It is well studied and well known that physical activity can lift mood and reduce stress.  There are so many temptations for teens, especially if they do not play sport, to sit and stare at some type of screen all day especially in the summer.  It is so important to encourage your teen to find ways to exercise every day in some way.  Joining summer time rec leagues, swimming, biking, hiking, walking, running, and even really unique options exist in most cities.  Do a family challenge like Couch to 5K or the many MetroPark Programs that encourage family exercise.  Breaking up screen time with reading, music, and creativity is also important.  Get creative and use it to motivate you as well!

Social Interaction

Connecting in real life (IRL) is so important to mental health and wellness.  In fact, research is now showing that loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking and obesity!  While there are many factors that can contribute to the sense of loneliness, being home alone a lot, spending excessive amounts of time on devices, and simply not getting enough face-to-face contact with peers, can be extra challenging in the summer time.  There are wonderful summer camps and ways to be sure your teen gets IRL time with friends and family.  Be sure your teen is getting enough of this sometimes overlooked component to health and well-being.

P.S. If your teen enjoys being creative and is looking for opportunities to connect to like-minded teens this summer while also developing new artistic skills, be sure to check out my SUMMER CREATIVITY WORKSHOPS!  This is not a therapy group but time for connection and experiencing the joy of creativity!  Do individual workshops bases on time and interest or purchase the whole series!

P.P.S If your teen also would like a little more support and would like to work on a few therapeutic goals over the summer, ask about CREATE & COPE THERAPY GROUP for Middle School and High School teens!  This group goes deeper than the creativity workshops and is a perfect opportunity for teens to gain coping skills to take into the school year!