How to Prioritize Mental Health in the New Year

The end of a year is a time to look back and reflect, and the beginning of the next year is a perfect opportunity for clearing the slate and looking ahead with renewed positivity. Hence, it’s a great time for everyone in the family to renew their focus on mental wellness—and particularly for teens, who are at higher risk of mental health issues during the pandemic.

Families can make collective and individual mental health goals for positive change, and parents and kids can work toward their goals together and on their own. Moreover, parents can support teens to work toward mental wellness in realistic ways. Habits to improve mental health and well-being can impact every aspect of your teen’s and the family’s daily life.

Lifestyle Changes to Support Teen Mental Health

Particularly in the age of technology and instant gratification, teens may need help learning how to make realistic goals for mental wellness and breaking them down into daily lifestyle changes. Parents can help their teens make smaller goals that will support their primary resolution of improving mental health.

Here are a few goals for your family and teen to improve well-being and mental health in the new year:

  • Restoring Good Habits: The new year can be a great time to bring back healthy habits to improve mental health that we may have forgotten—healthy sleep routines, exercise, and good nutrition, for example. Support your teen to reengage with hobbies and activities that bring them joy and make them feel energetic and thriving. Consider adding more fun family activities into the mix. Emotional health is more than just a checklist of regimented activities; it’s about being true to ourselves and finding joy daily.
  • Finding New Habits: For teens struggling with their mental health, creating new habits can help them find some normalcy in daily efforts to promote their own mental wellness. This includes physical and mental habits that promote good health, such as exercise and nutrition, as well as activities that help them to savor life and build self-esteem. As a parent or caregiver, you can help your teen explore what makes them truly happy, and support them in seeking new activities and experiences that enhance their overall well-being. Moreover, you can build new routines and activities into the family’s life
  • Creating Daily Structure: Many teens, with or without mental health diagnoses, struggle with creating consistency in their daily lives. Help your teen to find a good balance between spontaneity and healthy structure. Encourage them to notice how much better they feel after a good night’s sleep or an exercise routine, while still allowing them to choose daily activities based on their moods and desires. Teens need to feel in control of their lives, so ideally the motivation for creating structure will come from their own experience. That said, parents can help teens find structure by laying out clear guidelines, such as eating meals together, doing chores as a family, and doing outdoor activities together every weekend. This is one of the many mental health goals that is beneficial for the whole family.
  • Seeking Treatment: When a teen’s mental health impacts their daily life, family harmony, and/or ability to function, it’s time to seek professional help. The first step is an assessment and diagnosis, followed by visits with a therapist or, if needed, outpatient or residential treatment. (Learn the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment.)
  • Renewing Treatment: Some teens may already be in treatment, but are struggling during this particularly stressful time. In these cases, the new year is a prime opportunity to sit down and talk with your teen and possibly their therapist or other mental health providers about what is working, what is not working, and where they may need more support. It is important to let your teen know that returning to more intensive care if necessary, such as residential treatment, is not a failure. It is simply part of the process of healing and becoming mentally healthy. Making sure they have the care they need at any given time demonstrates both strength and a commitment to mental wellness.

Goals for Mental Health in the New Year

There has never been a better time to focus on mental health than now. For families and teens who have been struggling, the changing of the calendar can be a reminder of how important it is to address wellness and mental health in the new year and beyond. When we make the commitment to take action to improve our mental health, we reap the benefits for life. If you think your teen is in need of treatment for mental health issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to Teen Rehab and we can assist in finding your family the care that is right for you.