Support Healthy Habits

Diet, exercise and sleep can have a huge effect on a person’s emotions and ability to cope with challenging emotions.  When people are not feeling well it is also easy to let the basic things such as eating, sleeping ad keeping active slip.   

Helping a young person understand these things and encouraging improvements to their lifestyle will help not only improving energy levels but also helps people think more clearly and build confidence so that they can better cope with difficulties or see pathways to recovery.

Encourage Improved Sleep habits

Sleep helps.  We know that young people are more likely to experience problems with their sleep because of all the changes occurring in adolescence.  This development also means that they need more sleep.  Sleep affects our physical health, our learning and concentration, our activity levels, emotions and relationships.

If young people are not getting enough sleep it will probably impact on:

  • Having difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • Feeling more irritable or stressed than usual
  • Feeling less energetic

Sleep is important for the body to recover and recharge.  Problems getting to sleep, waking early or not being able to sleep throughout the night can affect general well-being.  This can lead to other problems such as difficulties with school work, poor health, or finding it more difficult to manage emotions.

There are many reasons why people have difficulties with sleeping.  Some people find it hard to sleep when they have a lot of things on their mind, trying to process the days thoughts and feelings and let go of them before they go to bed.  Some are temporary but others, like illness, pain or stress, can last for longer periods of time and change sleeping patterns.  Usually a more regular sleeping pattern returns as the illness or the stressful situation passes.  But if this doesn’t happen, it can lead to worry about getting to sleep, which makes the problem even worse and creates a vicious cycle.  Continuing tiredness and low energy levels can also contribute to the development of depression.

Simple things for young people to try:

  • Write thoughts down prior to going to bed
  • Avoiding caffeine late in the day
  • Avoid TV or games before bed, allow yourself time to wind down
  • Being active during the day
  • Try developing a good sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time
  • Try relaxation techniques 

Encourage healthy eating

Food improves mood.  Everyone has gotten angry or irritable simple because they are hungry.  Simply having something to eat, the healthier, the better will have instant results in improving a person’s mood.  What you eat not only affects your physical health, it affects your energy levels and the way you think and feel about yourself.  Encourage regular healthy meals, limiting fatty, sugary treats and drinking lots of water.

Encourage social activity

A sense of belonging and connectedness can be protective factors to mental health concerns.  These are also be useful to recovery and having access to multiple support options.  Exploring a young person’s interests and supporting them to get involved in groups or activities. 

Encourage physical activity

Keeping active is a great way for young people to improve mood and feel better about themselves.  Exploring even small activities like a walk around the block can help relieve stress and frustration, provide a good distraction from negative thoughts, help concentration and feel better about the way they look and feel.   Doing something that the young person enjoys and identifies themselves will mean they are more likely to get involved even when they least feel like it.

Support them to improve their self-management skills

Sometimes when young people feel really overwhelmed or stressed and they don’t have the resources to manage these emotions they are at risk of it developing into something more lasting and concerning.  Helping young people understand their distress and develop skills to solve problems, regulate their emotions will only strengthen their protective factors for mental health concerns.  

Further Resources