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Supporting Teen Self-Care and Emotional Well-being After Trauma

Teenager practicing mindfulness meditation outdoors for self-care and emotional healing post-trauma. Supporting Teen Self-Care

Teen Self-Care: Building Resilience Post Trauma

Self-care is quickly becoming a buzzword in the mental health world, but what exactly does it mean, and how does it apply to teenagers who are struggling? For teens who have experienced trauma, self-care is an important part of creating emotional well-being, but it looks a little different from how it looks for adults.

Here is a closer look at how teens can embrace self-care to accept themselves, their role in the world, and the life events they have had.

1. Prioritize Rest

Teens can struggle to get enough sleep. The natural circadian rhythm gets disrupted when hormone shifts start to happen. Getting a consistent bedtime and wake up time, with around eight hours of sleep a day, is a good goal.

Help your teen prioritize getting enough sleep. One way to help is to remove technology use from bedrooms after a certain time, which will prevent distractions.

2. Get Moving

Physical exercise elevates the mood and can make it easier to sleep. Exercise releases the “feel good” endorphins that can create a positive mood for the rest of the day. It also releases the tension that comes from trauma.

Teens can take a walk with friends, get involved in an organized sport, or simply shoot hoops in the driveway to get some physical exercise in. Many teens also know that exercise is healthy, so they will feel a sense of pride when they get exercise.

3. Focus on Nutrition

Few teens choose to sit down and eat a salad for dinner if a less healthy option is available, but nutrition can support healthy mental health. Parents can help by slowing down around mealtime and choosing healthier options for family meals.

Healthy nutrition can help with body image issues, energy levels, and mood, all of which help with overall self-care. Setting healthy eating habits at a young age also supports improved eating habits as an adult.

4. Stocking up on Emotional Tools

Providing teens with the right tools for their emotional toolbox is crucial for navigating intense emotions. It’s essential to include strategies that trigger relaxation responses. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Deep Breathing Techniques: Teach them to find their calm.
  • Artistic Activities: Encourage creativity as an emotional outlet.
  • Music: Whether listening or playing, music can soothe the soul.
  • Journaling: A path to express and understand emotions.
  • Volunteer Work: Helping others as a way to heal oneself.


Help your teen create some ideas of things they can do to release tension and emotions. Having a number of healthy coping mechanisms in place will help teens when they have emotional struggles to address before they become overwhelming.



5. Finding Self-Help Apps

Smartphones and teens seem to go hand-in-hand. Your teen can use apps to help with their mental health. 

In today’s digital age, smartphones are an extension of teens themselves. Apps are a great resource that can significantly improve  their mental health. Some popular ones include:


      • Pacifica – Pacifica gives teens the ability to track their mood throughout the day. If they notice they are feeling anxious, they can use audio exercises to calm their anxiety. It also has tools to record thinking patterns to help teens notice areas where they could change their thinking to improve their mental health.

      • Happify – Happify allows teens to create goals for their mental health, and then provides activities and strategies to help them meet those goals. These tools include games that teens may find enjoyable and motivating. This app is available free, and offers additional features for a small upgrade.

      • Unique Daily Affirmations – Sometimes, all a teen needs is a little positive word to improve their mental health. This app provides positive affirmations every day, and instructions for repeating it to themselves.

      • Hydro Coach – Staying hydrated has a big impact on mental health. Hydro Coach notifies users when it’s time to drink more water, making it easier to track this important health metric and ensure they are getting the water in.

    Apps work because they are on a teen’s phone, and teens use their phones regularly. The notifications from the app keep the teen on track with the various tasks and provide positive motivation throughout the day.

    6. Having Self-Compassion and Acceptance

    The cornerstone of teen mental health is a positive life outlook, beginning with self-acceptance. Teens can learn to love themselves and their bodies and all of the positive qualities they have.

    They can also practice self-compassion, giving themselves grace when they make mistakes.

    Learning to view mistakes as a chance to learn and improve, rather than a failure, is a key way to create self-compassion. For teens who have trauma, recognizing trauma’s role in their lives is also helpful in giving themselves compassion.

    7. Reading Self-Care Books

    Self-care books aren’t just for adults. There are several books that are quite helpful to teens, writing on a level they can understand and helping them embrace better self-care. Some good choices include:


        • A Growth Mindset for Teens by Sydney Sheppard – This book provides practical lessons to help teens move from fixed to growth mindset, which is very helpful in developing a positive sense of self.

      The Role of Adults in Teen Self-Care

      For adults supporting a teen with past trauma, modeling self-care is among the most effective strategies. Be someone who speaks to themselves with compassion and acceptance.

      Demonstrate healthy coping mechanisms, so your teen can see their application in real life.

      As you parent and teach teens how to embrace self-care, remember that there is nothing that is perfect. Many teens are striving for the perfection they see on social media and television, and there is no such thing as perfection.

      By showing your own faults, and your acceptance of them, you can help your teen build a healthy context for real life and the highly edited versions they see in the online world.

      Adults can also teach teens to prioritize rest, nutrition, and exercise. It’s one thing to tell your teen that these things are important, and it’s another to actually spend time doing them.

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