When we think about the struggles of puberty, we normally understand that girls wrestle with a lot more than boys. With girls you have mood swings, depression, anxiety, anorexia, hard and painful periods, and so much more. What do you have with boys? A lot of the time, the fact that their voice drops is just about the only thing people recognize or acknowledge, when, in reality, they struggle with so much more. Because it’s not acknowledged, though, it can be very isolating for those boys and those who are going through it with them.

Things like depression, anxiety, and mood swings aren’t gender-specific, and happen to everyone. The reason for this is that everyone struggles with areas and aspects of life that can either cause or worsen these struggles.

A Word About Aggression and Anger

A lot about puberty in boys and girls has been normalized that isn’t normal or natural. When we see boys going through adolescence with an overabundance of anger or aggression, we tend to hand-wave it as normal male puberty. This is not, however, the case. While testosterone lends itself toward handling confrontation, it doesn’t mean your young man should be picking a fight with anything that moves or inconveniences him. An overabundance of aggression or anger is a sign that something else is out of balance inwardly. The good news is that any or all of the following could be the reason. You can also get your teen’s hormones tested to see that hormone production, conversion, and levels are appropriate.

What is the Condition of the Gut?

There’s far more that happens in the gut than most think–from most of the immune system to neurotransmitters and even hormone producers. Because the gut impacts so much of the rest of the body, making sure it is healthy and stays that way is important to keeping the rest of the body functioning. Did you know that most of the mental health hormones are made in the gut rather than the brain? Getting a stool test and finding out what’s going on in your gut and whether it’s healthy, then, can impact a lot of your body–including those mental health hormones.

What Food is Entering the Body?

Your body is like a car–it can only operate up to the level of the fuel it is given. This applies to the amount of fuel it is given, but also to the kind. If you put diesel fuel into a car that doesn’t run on diesel, it won’t work as well. Your body works the same way. If you eat something you’re allergic to, your body subsequently has to put energy into fighting off what it sees as a foreign invader. This, then, means it doesn’t have energy to put toward other processes your body needs to complete in order to function well.

How is Your Teen Sleeping?

You don’t have to look far to find the importance sleep has on health–both physical and mental. Harvard Health puts it this way:

An irregular circadian rhythm can have a negative effect on a person’s ability to sleep and function properly, and can result in a number of health problems, including mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

When everything in the body is in flux, as happens during puberty, it can easily impact the circadian rhythms. Teens have a tendency toward staying up and getting up later. Neurology Live explains it as follows:

The stereotypical teenage late nights and lazy morning are often attributed to bad habits or a youthful quest to be cool. Particularly lately, with the emergence of always-available social media, teenagers stay up into early morning hours maintaining their online presence. Many parents think that these ‘late night’ and ‘sleeping in’ habits are simply habits.

In fact, research shows that teenage and adolescent sleep patterns are hormonally influenced, and not behavioral quirks, rebellious statements or decided attempts to fit in socially. In the teenage years, the hormonal response to the 24-hour daily light/dark exposure that influences circadian rhythm is altered, making adolescents physiologically yearn to stay awake later at night and to remain asleep later in the day.

The challenge with this comes from the fact that teenagers need more sleep than they do at ten years old because of how their bodies are changing and how much energy is expended in doing so. Johns Hopkins’ Medicine quotes about 9 to 9 1/2 hours a night.

While it may not be a piece of cake to get your teenager to go to sleep earlier and get that extra hour or two of sleep, it is a simple solution to a lot of challenges you may be facing. Turn off screens a few hours before bed, as screens are natural melatonin blockers, use sunglasses if they need a bit of extra help boosting that melatonin. Break out the ‘bed time routines,’ again to help their bodies naturally start to wind down. Even changing the lightbulbs you use in your house to something softer can help encourage the natural production of the sleep hormones.

Speaking of Screens…

How much screen time is your teenager getting?

In a study done by the NIH, they say they found:

…Moderately strong evidence for associations between screentime and greater obesity/adiposity and higher depressive symptoms.

The conclusion of their study goes onto say:

There is evidence that higher levels of screentime is associated with a variety of health harms for CYP, with evidence strongest for adiposity, unhealthy diet, depressive symptoms and quality of life.

Just like with the food your teen takes in, it’s not just the quantity that’s important, but the quality. Adolescence and puberty is a time of life much like early childhood where the brain and mind are growing and taking in what’s around them and starting to cement things like personality. If your teen is watching movies or playing video games that aren’t benefitting the way they think or act, there’s far more value in the long run to cut something out now. Just like recalibrating circadian rhythms, the solution is simple, even if it’s not the one any of us would automatically reach for. But the benefits to your teen’s mind and health, and–moreover–their self-control and ability to let go of mental toxins as well as physical ones will grow and improve and benefit their future.

How Much Sun and Fresh Air is Your Teen Getting?

The EPA estimates that Americans spend roughly 90% of time indoors. The benefits to breaking this habit, getting outside, and breathing fresh air are everywhere. For example, the NIH says this:

There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits. Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress (Thompson et al., 2012) and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety (Beyer et al., 2014), while interacting with nature can improve cognition for children with attention deficits (Taylor and Kuo, 2009) and individuals with depression (Berman et al., 2012). A recent epidemiological study has shown that people who move to greener urban areas benefit from sustained improvements in their mental health (Alcock et al., 2014).

How much fresh air and time outside is your teen getting? Setting a few minutes a day aside to get outside and get fresh air is a simple way to help with mental health no matter your age, as is exercise.

The CDC puts it this way:

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.

Something as simple as going for a walk around the block or going outside and doing twenty jumping jacks will help your teen’s mental state considerably. Do you have a dog? Make it your teen’s job to walk it at least once daily, and tack on the benefits of creating a habit of looking out for another creature’s needs.

How Much Water is Your Teen Getting?

Did you know that the amount of water we’re supposed to drink is half our body weight in ounces? If you’re a hundred pounds, that means you should have fifty ounces of water a day. It’s a safe bet that most of us don’t drink that much, and that, if we did, we’d all feel a lot better.

The fact we don’t drink that much water on a regular basis is not helped by the fact that we do drink things like coffee or sugary beverages. These only dehydrate you and increase your needed intake.

It’s understandable that we’re drawn to things like coffee and soda, though—it can be easy for water to get boring. A simple way to address this is to infuse some berries or other fruits and vegetables into your water. Not only does the taste stay different and interesting, but you also get the added benefits of those ingredients. Try some of our favorite infusion recipes to get your teen interested.

What Company Does Your Teen Keep?

Your brain is a powerful thing, as is your mind and outlook on life. There have been studies done that show a daily gratitude habit has immense health benefits.

Even as adults, it can be easy to find ourselves watching those around us and mirroring their movements and actions and phraseology. It’s part of how we nonverbally communicate that we like each other. When you’re a teenager, this is also expressed in ways like peer pressure. Who your teen hangs out with impacts the way they think and act, and—as we’ve seen—the way we think and act is very important to mental health and the struggles of puberty.

Is Your Teen’s Body in Alignment?

The body works like a Swiss watch—every organ and process impacting the others. If your teen takes a tumble, gets sick, or even stubs a toe, it changes how the rest of the body behaves. If your teen is out of alignment, and parts of their body are taking weight or an impact that aren’t meant to, it’ll fatigue the body and impact their overall health.

To get adjusted and back in alignment, get your teen’s allergies, hormones, or gut tested, or learn more, contact a Wellness Way clinic today!