If you are in crisis, help is available by call or text 1-800-273-8255 24/7. You can also visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You are loved!
This article is for teens. If you are a parent, grandparent, friend, pastor or other guardian, I encourage you to share this with the teens you know.
Teens are some of the most passionate, creative and intense people I know. You are our future leaders. You are smart. You recognize fake. If someone isn't authentic, you see it. However, sometimes it's hard to be yourself as a teen. A little secret to being "you" is listening to what Jesus says about you and the YOU comes out.
As a teen, you need to understand your emotions and feel them. Don't let them take hold of you and control you. They are there. They will come and go in different times. We have to feel them and allow ourselves to move through them. Jesus was a feeler. Matthew 20:34 (NKJV) says, "So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him."
Here are 10 tips on how you can operate as a leader in today's world:
1. Stay off your phone as much as you can. Only go on it if you really need to. There is research that the same chemicals that are released from drugs are released when you get a message or comment on your phone. Phones in itself are not bad but the phone addiction is. Go back to your identity in Christ. You are accepted just the way you are—when we are accepted just the way we are and we know God loves us, we don't need anything additive to "feel good."
2. Use self-sooth or distract skills. It's important you know how to find your groove and what brings you to peace when things get difficult. Self-soothing skills access your five senses. So candles, freshly cut grass, music, drinking a smoothie, ice cream, pictures of loved ones, hot showers, going swimming, sports: use things that can get yourself activated outside of the stress. It shifts your mind out of the problem and into something else. The key is finding what works for you.
3. Learn how to pray daily and be in the Word. I want you to see this as valuable as breathing. The reason why this is important is because this impacts your emotions. If you are reading the Word of God, the truth of who you are is getting into you. When something difficult happens, you will be more at peace and calm than if you weren't.
4. Take care of your body. Do the basics—get enough sleep (teens needs at least 10 hours a night), drink water, eat healthy food and get some exercise. This isn't good for your brain. You will be cranky and struggle with focusing the next day. It's science.
5. Find someone you can talk to. This could be an adult like an aunt, uncle, a counselor, a pastor, a neighbor, a coach, a teacher. This would likely be a mentor-type person who guides you. It needs to be someone besides your parents. And it needs to be someone who gives you godly advice, not someone who will tell you what you want to hear or give you whatever you want. If anyone's mental health struggles show up more often, I'd suggest a spirit-filled counselor.
6. Quit trying to fit in. The Bible says that you are in the world but not OF this world. John 15:16 says that "you did not choose Me, but I chose you." God is looking for brave, laid-down teens to be on fire for Him. The world needs you. Your community needs you to be Jesus to them.
7. Find a passion and walk with it. What do you love to do? What are you passionate about? Find a hobby or activity you can throw yourself into and completely be you in it and have like-minded friends who share it with.
8. Worship the Lord. Do this alone or with friends or at church. Spending time in worship will get out all the worries and the stress you have. This could be with music, going on a walk outside, playing a musical instrument, etc.
9. Volunteer. Help out in the community, help out at church, find out the needs around you or pray for people in public. Bring Jesus to others through you. People would be so blessed to receive a kind word or even prayer from a teenager. They will not say no!
10. Start something! Start a small group, worship night, prayer group, revival night or Bible study. Teens are hungry and want to know God's real goodness, not the religious striving to be the perfect god. The REAL Jesus is in you and the Holy Spirit was brought to you so that you can hear the Lord. Start something in your basement or rent a room at a church or school. It doesn't need to be big. You just need a couple of hungry people. As you continue to honor the Lord through what you do, more people will hear about it and get curious.
For more of Strong Tower Mental Health with Heidi, listen to this podcast episode.
Heidi Mortenson is a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Bridging Hope Counseling in Minnesota. She received her Master's in Counseling Psychology from Bethel University. She is currently attending Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry (BSSM) and is approved for ordination through Patricia King's Women in Ministry Network. Her website is heidimortensonlmft.com.
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