I have worked with a number of young people over the years and it has been amazing to see how they have developed in the number of months we worked together.
Are young people battered by technology?
As a psychotherapist, I know all too well how young people are battered down by the world we live in – there is no let–up from all the social media:
And the instant access to texts and emails via the phone; and being available 24/7 with a mobile. To boot they are also bombarded with adverts via the aforementioned technology and have access to addictive games. They can access the internet at any time of day or night, and can watch a film or just find a route to where they are going. (https://www.independent.co.uk/student/istudents/rapid-digital-technology-advancement-is-significantly-impacting-young-people-socially-and-a7014656.html)
This leads to information overload and eyestrain and possibly ear strain if they are constantly listening to music on the mobile. No doubt this means their brains are over-stimulated, including thumbs that are disproportionately used for texting and emailing, whilst their bodies are dealing with natural hormones whizzing round to grow and develop them. This latter activity also raises other primary functions such as an understanding about their:
· mood swings
· and potential conflict with parents and care-givers.
Being a young person is already stressful, however in todays world it is doubly STRESSFUL! (https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/.../parentsandyoungpeople/youngpeople/copingwithstress.a...)
Coupled with all the above, as a society we send them to school early in the morning, when every cell in their body and their biological rhythms are shouting out ‘LET ME SLEEP!’ (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/sleepless-in-america/.../sleep-and-teenager...) Some also have a difficult time at school because of the pressures to perform for exams; to look a certain way due to peer pressure; or may struggle with not having the latest fad due to living in poverty and being bullied as a result; where they may be exhausted due to being a carer for a sick parent; or a parent has an addiction problem or any host of other issues.
Fences & gates around school – what do they do child?
There are now also fences and gates round schools – I wonder whether we are keeping intruders out or keeping children and young people in? Thus we incarcerate young people in a building called school – this then subconsciously raises anxiety and fear and a mentality that states we live in a dangerous world. (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/why-schools-look-more-and-more-like-prisons-a7804096.html)
Due to the wealth we enjoy some of us have bigger and bigger televisions in our houses and not only do our children and young people have mobile phones, but also a television/computer in their bedroom where they go off to. If they then do not learn how to socialise from the adults around them then they are hampered by a limited way of being in the world – young people learn through modelling - by the way adults handle situations and problems; but cannot do this if they are in their room.
Out of Control
Often when young people or children feel out of control about something in their lives they can resort to different coping mechanisms they can become:
· resorting to bullying others
· there are as many responses as there are people.
Also if they are in pain emotionally they may resort to using physical means to deal with their pain, rather than sharing it with an adult. This may not be as severe as cutting, but could start off as restricting what they eat or comfort-eating which then turns into an eating disorder later on. All of these behaviours are self-harming, including worrying and anxiety, as these can be habits that lead to self-sabotaging behaviours with serious consequences.
All of this has a huge impact on self-esteem, self-love and self-worth. So is it any surprise that young people and even children are struggling with anxiety and depression?
As young people from all walks of life are affected – this is not about wealth, poverty or social class.
What can young people do to have good mental health?
It is important to accept that our view of ourselves determine our mood and when we have negative thoughts, then our feelings plummet into a very unhappy place and then this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Leading to very serious consequences in some instances.
Of course life events also trigger mental health problems such as traumatic incidents, bereavement, accidents, health conditions and abuse or relationship breakdowns. When something occurs it is important to talk to people (adults) you trust and seek therapy when you are ready to talk to a professional. Being sent to counselling is not a good use of your time, energy or this resource - it is vital to want it for yourself.
To prevent falling into a deep depression and anxiety, thus having low self-esteem, self-worth and self-love it is important to take time to enjoy life, smile (more on this later) do the things that are enjoyable and be with people that make you happy. Self-esteem, self- worth and self-love do not come from things – they may help for a little while, however that feeling will dissipate quite quickly.
It is also important to not read or watch things that are gruesome or distressing no matter how popular they are – dipping into something to get the gist of it so it is still possible to have a conversation about it may help.
Because of hormonal changes young people are more susceptible to mood fluctuations therefore it is important to counter this with something that is easy to do and do it on a regular basis, for example going for a walk or a cycle regardless of the weather.
Why do we need to Manage Negative Self-Talk & Smile more?
Another way to manage negative thinking is to not keep going over things from the past, if that is happening it is important to find someone to talk to, someone you trust or a therapist. The latter would be trained and able to listen to all that is going on in your life in a more detached way, however, you may not be able to be totally open with someone else who knows the people you are talking about.
Smiling is important, even if it is a false smile initially, because it does the same thing as chocolate, it gets the endorphins (dopamine and serotonin), or happy chemicals in the brain working. This with singing, dancing, walking or any other exercise that gets you breathing deeply helps.
All of these would boost the immune system as our physical body gets affected by our mental and emotional state.
Life is ’suck it see’!
It is more difficult for young people to open up about being in psychological pain than adults because they haven’t gained the life experience and they are also getting to know themselves. Unfortunately, life is a ’suck it see’ experience – there are no manuals about how to do life right! Nor should there be as all people are unique and no two lives are the same. Therefore we pick up ways of being in the world due to parenting we received, our personality and the way adults have modelled life around us. As young people you have to choose what suits your personality, copying a peer group member may not help, because like you they may be going through similar things.
Be your Quirky, Unique Self!
Being a young person is also about getting to know yourself – what your personality traits are, what you like and don’t like, your triggers around others’ behaviours or ways of thinking and talking. We are not carbon copies of our parents, nor should we be. Therefore it is important to look at what you love about your parents and try to do more of those things, and do less of the things you don’t like about them.
Other ways of helping yourself is to practice things like meditation, or even joining a martial arts class – because this helps to learn a discipline and self-control; and it helps to get rid of any excess energy. There are many different types of meditation and all can be accessed via the internet. Meditation helps with mindfulness and slowing down and deep breathing – the latter is the thing that helps most, because with enough oxygen in the body it is possible to think of different solutions to issues.
Basics such as enough water, rest, good food and restricted sugar intake all contribute to better mental health.
Coming back to the issue of technology and young people – it is important to be moderate around usage. And be aware that the pictures around body image are often airbrushed and you are unique in all your quirky ways and it is important not compare yourself with others, no matter how glamorous they look. Also be aware that even young people who have seemingly everything struggle with low self-esteem, self-worth and self-love – which suggests that it is not money or a certain lifestyle that makes someone happy and loving, but an attitude and a way of being in the world. (https://www.dove.com/uk/dove-self-esteem-project/help-for-parents/respecting-and-looking-after-yourself/the-importance-of-individuality.html)
Kala Patel MA, Counsellor and Psychotherapist MBACP, PGCE (Oxon)