The following article has been authored by a non-clinician.
These should be the best days of a teenager's life.
After all, they live in America. Certainly the most blessed and free country in the world. And, furthermore, it is Christmas and the holiday season. There is no school, there is a lot of shopping at the mall, secret Santas, and Christmas parties every week for a month.
And yet, take a look around us.
The youth of the 21st century have been born into terror, financial disaster, the break-up of the family, and a global health pandemic.
They have been raised in a national setting of governmental division and a lack of media censorship and control.
Teenagers and young adults have been immersed in the unrealistic comparison environment of social media and they have seen an unprecedented sexual revolution crash on the shores of their life.
Finally, the youth of today have lost the moral center of their theological faith that guides their worldview and ultimately their lifestyle.
Do you remember what Lenin said in his prophetic book, "How to Destroy the West"?
"Corrupt the young. Get them away from religion. Encourage their interest in sex. Make them superficial by focusing their attention on sports, sensual entertainments, and trivialities. By specious argument cause the breakdown of the old moral virtues: honesty, sobriety, and self-restraint."
Vladimir Lenin, 1921, "How to Destroy the West"
If you look at our country right now, we are doing a pretty good job of fulfilling that tragic prophetic statement.
Joy to the World?
But back to Christmas, young people, and depression.
Youth in the 21st century are showing a remarkable strength and resilience that will prove to the world all has not been lost from their childhood, adolescent, and young adult experiences.
I'm not sure we can point to science yet. Or that we can read the research to support this. But, anecdotally, as I cross this nation, the youth narrative is a positive story being written in the midst of maybe one of the worst times in our country's history.
An appreciable number of people claim their stress increases during the holiday season. Holiday stress has been known to trigger depression in some, even leading to physical illness, anxiety, and substance abuse. The reasons given for increased holiday depression include a lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings.
You would think that Christmas and the holiday season would be a joyful time of the year; for some it has proven to be just the opposite. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that 64% of people agreed the holiday season increases stress and depression.
And yet these should be the best days of a teenager's life.
Christmas and the holidays are about the celebration of Christ the Messiah who came to bring salvation to the world from their sin. Christmas and the holidays are about family, giving, and rest. Keeping that in focus and not getting caught up in the commercialization of Christmas and the holidays can be a great step to mental health during this season.
Let's take a look at 4 ways we can help young people navigate their mental health during the holidays and Christmas in 2021:
1. Total Wellness and Health — When our health fails, everything else in our lives can come crashing down, too.
Total wellness includes sleep, diet, exercise, and social and relational balance. Depression is not a single issue illness and it is not a single issue solution. It requires teenagers and young people who take seriously their total health by simply keeping to sleep patterns, eating well, walking at the mall, and doing something special for others.
Total wellness is central to our mental health.
2. Perspective is a powerful solution to abating depression — Maybe a teenager or young person didn't get the present they wanted, or doesn't want to spend as much time with their broken family, is comparing their lowlights with the highlights of their friends on the socials, or is separated from their classmates and the structure of the school day.
We have to place more emphasis on the big picture and what Christmas and the holidays are all about rather than focusing upon the present problem.
Look at it this way.
It's as simple as placing a small object such as a pencil in front of your eyes. It's very difficult to see anything at this point. However, when we remove the pencil, even just an arm's length away, we can see everything clearly.
Teenagers and young people (actually adults do this also) have a tendency to place their problem right in front of their eyes. Something like a poor grade on a test or a broken relationship or not getting the right present can seem insurmountable in the moment.
But, if we can change our perspective we can change our setting and ultimately our mindset. And when our mindset is healthy, our lifestyle follows.
One of the helpful ideas to assist teenagers through difficult times is when parents can create a "Problems List" and a "Solutions List" with their children. This can help them see and solve the concerns going on in their life.
3. Relationships are central to mental health — At Christmas and the holidays, you would think that being with family and friends is a safe place. For many reasons the circle of family and friends we choose creates healthy interaction and stress management.
When our relationships are not healthy we lose a primary coping mechanism to manage our mental health. The added pressure of having the perfect holiday is unrealistic. But when we have a relational group of family and friends, our stress management is working at its highest level of success. High level relationships are what we call problem-solving and not problem-placing.
Teenagers and young people must fight the temptation to escalate a problem and isolate from people by valuing the university of people around us who can keep us communicating in difficult times. Parents must ask questions and value personal time with their children.
Here is an important question parents can ask teenagers at this time:
"How can I help this Christmas break to be the best Christmas break of your life?"
Let's look at the last principle to help teenagers and young adults fight against depression at the holidays.
4. We must restore the Sabbaoth — The business of the holidays can become more busyness than anything else. And that is unhealthy.
The Sabbath is a commandment. For a reason. We need rest. And yet as young people, there is a pressure to always be productive.
I love the wisdom from the scriptures about rest. Exodus 20.8-11 says, "Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy. For the Lord blesses the rest."
And Psalm 46.10 says, "Be still."
"Joy to the World" doesn't have to be a meaningless Christmas hymn or a far-fetched dream. If we do a few simple things, we can make depression among our teenagers and young people at Christmas time an afterthought.
Because these really should be the best days of a teenager's and a young person's life.
After four decades of Youth Leadership, Jeff Grenell founded ythology to inspire, educate and resource youth leaders to prepare the NextGen to lead in the Church and the world. Some of the services yhthology offers include events, leadership development, resources, anti sex-trafficking and humanitarian efforts. Follow Jeff on Twitter: @jeffgrenell Read Jeff Grenell's Reports — More Here.
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