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12-28 Not so merry and bright: Teen mental health during the holidays

Posted in Mental Health

Not so merry and bright: Teen mental health during the holidays

The last day of school before winter break has finally ended and the kids are free – for the next few weeks at least. They should be happy with presents under the tree and more free time. Yet, not all children sleep soundly at night with dances of sugar-plums in their heads, as the holiday season can bring about more stress than cheer.

Tis the season to be stressed

A 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association finds teens experiencing high levels of stress greater than the level of adults. The stress level of more than 1,000 teens averaged at 5.8 on a 10-point scale; with 3.9 being the healthy level of stress. While, close to 2,000 adults averaged around 5.1 out of 10.

Among the teenagers in the survey, 31 percent thought their stress levels increased in the past year and 34 percent believed their levels would increase the following year. The holiday season only intensifies these stress levels.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health, AACDH, in Maryland, offers advice for lowering stress during the holidays.  The AACDH explains, “During the holidays, children will find their routines disrupted,” leading to higher levels of stress.  Their routine can include diet, bed time, school and extracurricular activities being on hold for holiday break. Given how stressful the holiday season can be, parents need to watch their levels of stress; since a parent’s stress can also affect a child’s.

Spread joy not stress this season

Kyle D. Pruett, M.D., writes on the subject of holiday stress being passed from parent to child. “The most effective way to calm holiday stress is to manage our own,” Pruett continues to say, “Kids will learn far more about staying calm when we get there first.” This message applies to teenagers as the environment can raise stress levels.

To help keep the house calm this holiday season, Pruett offers a few tips:

  • Focus on only one or two holiday events this year, instead of many.
  • Remember that no holiday is perfect.
  • Watch the family diet in regards to sweets, treats and alcohol.
  • Exercise during the holidays.
  • Accept help from others.

While these tips can help decrease stress this holiday season, a teenager still may not feel the holiday spirit. offers teenagers ways to find the holiday spirit.

Planning for the holidays, involves, “Getting our spirits ready and open to the joy that’s possible, then creating that joy (for ourselves and others) through our actions,” explains. Given each family is different, there is no single answer for what a teenager can do to brighten the holidays. No matter the solution, spreading joy is a positive choice, since, “The more joy you give to others, the more joy you feel.” To do so, one can make heartfelt gifts for family members or take the family to a local soup kitchen. Helping those who are in need, can bring out the holiday spirit.

Do not let stress or other mental health issues shatter the holiday spirit. Teenagers can overcome mental health struggles just as any adult can and should not be brushed aside when treatment is needed. The Sovereign Health Group Rancho San Diego Facility treats mental illness and substance abuse issues in teens aged 12 to 17. Teen patients receive personalized treatment and acquire the skills necessary to live a successful life after treatment. For more information call our 24/7 helpline.

Written by Nick Adams, Sovereign Health Group writer

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