Depressed And Anxious Teens: Experts Give Practical Advice On How To Help (Including Checklists)

Depressed Anxious Teens Practical Advice

Very often, when the best efforts by parents have failed to mobilize the school to take effective action, an aggressive attorney wakes them from their negligent slumber. The prospect of legal action and negative publicity has a sobering impact. What’s more, this sort of action helps the bullied teen to feel empowered. It can be a potent antidote to the feelings of helplessness that so often crop up among those who have been bullied.

Now we move on to the last three expert backed tips for helping a depressed or anxious teenager.

Shifting Your Teen’s Focus Onto Others

One powerful way to lift your teen’s mood is by getting him or her to spend time each week helping others. No, not helping with laundry, washing the car, or mowing the lawn. All of those are great, but that is not the sort of help I have in mind.

Instead, get your teen involved in charitable work. A few hours a week at a soup kitchen, or teaching children how to read, working at a sports camp for underprivileged boys and girls, volunteering at the local animal shelter, etc.

These acts of altruism shift the teen’s focus from their own distress onto the positive impact their actions can make on others. In addition, involvement in charitable work helps teens gain perspective regarding the severity of their own problems (most often, seeing them as less overwhelming).

Lastly, by helping improve the lives other others teens experience a growing sense of competency – a sure fire antidote to depression.

1. Make A List.

Another way to boost teen competency, which helps diminish depression, is to keep a diary of ‘What I Did Today’ (WIDT). For best results your teen should add to the list throughout the day – don’t save it for the evening when many of the small accomplishments of the day have been forgotten.

When your teen finishes a homework assignment, completes a chore, exercises, feeds the dog, runs an errand, babysits a sibling, this needs to be written on the WIDT list.

Each evening set aside a few minutes to focus on what was accomplished, and how this made the day better. 

2. Lifestyle Interventions.

One of the easiest ways to help teens become happier and more confident is to make certain the basics of a healthy lifestyle are in place. These basics include:

  • Exercise- This does not need to be Olympian efforts extending for hours at a time. Twenty minutes a day is sufficient to improve mood. Walking, swimming, playing basketball, weight lifting high-intensity training, and much more work very well.

Exercise gives a momentary boost from endorphins, makes one feel energized, enhances a feeling of control, encourages the development of self-confidence, and provides a structure within the week.

  • A Good Night’s Sleep- Most teens require more sleep than adults, yet many get even less sleep. Add anxiety or depression to the mix and the quality of sleep declines. This results in fatigue, cognitive slowing, and worsening mood.

Help your teen develop good sleep habits: a consistent routine in the evening, a set bedtime, avoidance of caffeinated drinks prior to bedtime, etc.

Depressed And Anxious Teens: Experts Give Practical Advice On How To Help (Including Checklists)
Depressed And Anxious Teens
  • Wholesome Nutrition- Many teens neglect proper nutrition. In fact, most teens pay little attention to what they put in their bodies. This can have a profound impact on their mood and behavior. Parents will have the most luck in helping their son or daughter receive the nutrition they need by providing healthy meals, and not bringing home unhealthy snacks from the store. Your teen may still grab a hamburger, French fries, and soda at the school cafeteria, but at home, there will be healthy food providing the fuel they need.
  • Positive Social InteractionDepressed and anxious teens often avoid their peers. This worsens their fears, sadness, and sense of isolation. Encourage your teen to meet with friends, join a sports team, get involved in a school club, etc. Feeling understood and appreciated by peers is a powerful way to combat depression and anxiety.
  • Develop A Daily Routine- Predictability is often thought of as boring. Something that sucks the lifeblood out of each day. The truth is that predictability creates a sense of calm, confidence, and offers a steady base from which adventures can be launched. If your teen does not have a daily routine it would be helpful to set some limits. Start with the fundamentals: a wake-up time and bedtime, a schedule for doing homework, a specific time each day when dinner is served, etc. If everyone in the family is following some form of a routine, it will eventually be seen as a normal part of family life.
Depressed And Anxious Teens: Experts Give Practical Advice On How To Help (Including Checklists)
Help Depressed And Anxious Teens

Final Note

Do some preparation prior to talking to your teen about your concerns. Nicole Proulx-King, (a mental health therapist at Husson University’s Wellness Center), encourages parents to have the titles of helpful books about depression or anxiety, and links to relevant websites, on hand.

In addition, Caitlin Garstkiewicz recommends having some counseling websites in mind in case your teen wishes to talk to a counselor.  

That way there is no need to delay. No extra time for your son or daughter to have ‘second thoughts’ about getting help. You are able to respond immediately with “That’s great. Good choice. I will call some counselors that come highly recommended and make an appointment with one of them.”

This type of decisive response instills confidence and builds momentum towards a positive outcome.

By following the guidance provided above, being persistent, and using good judgment, your teen will soon be on the road to living a happier, healthier life.

If you know of a teen that needs help with anxiety, depression, or some other distress, feel free to get in touch. We’re glad to be of help and can also provide referrals to others if it turns out that we are not the best fit for your teen’s needs (916 790-5138).


Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress by Regine Galanti PhD 
Depression: A Teen’s Guide to Survive and Thrive by Jacqueline B. Toner and Claire A. B. Freeland 
Social Anxiety - Learn how to feel confident
Curb Stomp Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
How To Know When Medication Makes Sense
Acting The Way You Want To Feel
How To Find The Best Therapist For You
Five Simple Ways To Help Teens With Anxiety

Written By Forrest Talley
Originally Appeared In Forrest Talley
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Depressed And Anxious Teens: Experts Give Practical Advice On How To Help (Including Checklists)
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