Self-care is a term that’s overused and easily misunderstood. So what is it exactly? According to the Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center, self-care is not about bubble baths and pedicures. “Self-care refers to intentionally engaging in practices and activities that reduce stress… It can look really different for different people.” With teen stress levels at an unprecedented high, it\’s more important than ever to make sure teens know how to prioritize self-care and what it means to do it right. Here are our top four tips for supporting your teen’s success with self-care.

1. Change your definition of success.

Lots of teens excel academically and shine in extracurricular activities but feel stressed all the time. According to the nonprofit organization Challenge Success, 56% of teens say their stress about school has increased since the pandemic. The five major stressors they cited are grades, tests and other assessments, overall workload, lack of sleep, and time management. These teens are on track to experience burnout, characterized by irritability, sleep-deprivation, exhaustion, near-constant anxiety, and loss of motivation. In other words, without self-care teens eventually won’t be able to maintain their level of success. To protect your teen from burnout, uplevel your own understanding of success to include well-being that’s sustainable over the long-term. Then make sure your teen knows that’s what matters most to you.

2. Teach them a variety of techniques.

Each teen’s nervous system, stress-triggers, schedule and circumstances are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to self-care. Support your teen by teaching them a variety of techniques that can be used whenever and wherever they are needed. To start, try equipping your teen with these meditation and mindfulness apps, stress strategies and time management tools. Help them stick to healthy routines for mealtimes and bedtimes and get plenty of exercise. Challenge Success emphasizes the importance of playtime, downtime and family time for kids of all ages. The more tools teens have, the more likely they’ll be to remember and reach for the right one.

3. Schedule self-care.

To learn how to manage stress, teens need to be proactive in their self-care. That means not waiting until they’re super-stressed to do something nourishing for themselves. Teens are just as busy as their parents, and as we all know, it’s easy to leave self-care as the last thing on the to-do list. The best way to ensure a regular self-care practice is to schedule it. A good goal is to schedule at least one self-care commitment each day. It can change based on how your teen is feeling, and may include everything from going for a run, calling a friend, watching funny videos, taking a karate class or reading a book for fun. The important thing is that it alleviates stress and makes your teen feel good.

4. Say “no” and set boundaries.

Sometimes self-care is not about doing more – it’s about doing less. When they feel stressed, teach your teen to ask themselves if there’s something they could do less of, let go of, or say “no” to. Setting boundaries takes practice, so help your teen think through their priorities and the pros and cons of each situation. Remind them that boundaries aren’t so much about keeping people or experiences out; they’re more about protecting and prioritizing their own well-being so they can keep showing up as their best self. Boundaries are an important part of self-care because they teach teens how to care for and respect  themselves and others, meet expectations, and create physical and emotional safety. And there’s no better formula for success.

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