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Five Helpful Responses to Teen Anxiety and Depression - Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders
So how do you know if your teen is experiencing genuine symptoms of anxiety or depression, or if they’re simply, well…uh…a teenager. Adolescents have always shown symptoms of moodiness because of the hormone changes taking place, due to the life station they’re in. They can be emotional, withdrawn or even act out. Often, these are just signs of the times. Teenagers are people who are somewhere between childhood and adulthood.
At other times, however, they can be experiencing deep angst that may need responses beyond a teacher, coach or parent who is coping with them or punishing them—especially in today’s world.
You do know the mental health issues teens face today, don’t you?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration collects data on teenagers’ mental health. They tell us in 2006, about 8 percent of American teens suffered from at least one major depressive episode in the past year. In 2016, the number had risen 5 percent. By then, around one in every eight teens in the U.S. suffered major depressive episodes. Further, a full 60 percent of these students don’t get any treatment for it. Pause and reflect for a moment on this fact. Millions of teens suffer from significant depressive experiences, and neither they nor their parents do anything about it. And those who do see someone about it are now setting counselor appointments in record numbers on college campuses.
An Issue of Control
I’ve written before about Generation Z and their struggle with mental health issues. What I have not covered much is the meta-narrative for why this is happening.
Many from Generation Z feel demoralized about whether they’ll be able to succeed in life after college. The economic prospects are much lower than they were when Millennials were graduating from high school, feeling like they were on top of the world. According to a time-lag study from “Monitoring the Future,” a growing number of teens feel that success is just out of reach, following the Great Recession, as well as the fact that they watched siblings or parents struggle to find the right job. Professor Dr. Jean Twenge writes, “Psychologists call such beliefs external lotus of control. Someone with an internal lotus of control believes she is in control of her life, and someone with an external lotus of control believes his life is controlled by outside forces.” In short, this generation is much more an “outside lotus of control.”
When I stop and reflect, it is clear that an overriding melancholic emotion would prevail if I grew up feeling like success was out of my control.
Five Steps We Can Take
In light of this data, I suggest we consider the following responses in our leadership:
1. Be inquisitive and look for social withdrawals in their behavior.
One of the initial signals of depression is the person begins withdrawing from social environments. Keep your antennas up, without acting strange around them. Beware of any abnormalities, such as moving away from contact with people; low energy levels, anger or tears for seemingly no reason and other unexplainable behavior.
2. Talk with them about how both of you are feeling.
It’s often tough to get a teen to open up to an adult, parent, coach or teacher. It comes easier when you open up first and become transparent. Create a safe space for them to share any melancholy feelings they have. Validate their feelings even when you don’t understand them. Hear them out. This is key to spotting anything unhealthy.
3. Talk to others about them.
Sometimes parents have the most difficult time discovering what’s going on in their teen’s or young adult’s life. A student who is depressed will often have impaired functioning in several areas of life, and it may require you get a 360-degree view, gaining feedback from people who are part of their typical day to help you evaluate. Check with the school, coaches, family, and friends to see if they also notice a change.
4. Empower them to take control of their decisions.
Especially if your students appear to embrace the external lotus of control paradigm, you’ll want to help them to weigh out options, then make their own decisions, hence, fostering the feeling that life is at least somewhatin their control. The older they get, the more they should be making life choices for themselves. This will reduce anxiety.
5. Remind them of “wins” and encourage them.
When they make decisions that lead to positive outcomes, point it out. Connect the dots for them. Help them see that the choice they made turned out well and led to benefits. This will help shift their lotus of controlperspective to internal. Then, be encouraging. More than Millennials, Gen Z may need to hear consistent encouragement about the future.
Meet the NDCA’s new Membership Director Trish Ryan as part of our Featured Member series. Check out her interesting bio below, followed by an article she wrote that outlines a step-by-step plan for preparing for competition season. Wow!
Trish Ryan grew up in Nebraska, where she discovered her original passion for dance performance. After studying dance at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Trish auditioned for the international musical outreach touring company, "The Young Americans". Trish traveled with the Young Americans to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Japan, Canada, and all over the U.S. She stage directed two tours for the Young Americans: one in Japan and one on the East Coast. Trish was also a part of the Young American's Boyne Highland Dinner Theater cast.
Trish has been on the Universal Dance Association (UDA) Staff, has trained at both the EDGE Performing Arts Center and Jimmy De Fore's Dance Studio in California, and has assisted choreographers at the International Dance Festival Dance Excellence in Los Angeles. Trish performed for two seasons with the Omaha Nighthawks Cheerleading Squad, and was captain of the team in her veteran year.
Trish is formerly the Head Spirit Coordinator and Director of Dance at Midland University, where she coached for six seasons. The Midland University Dance Program won the Inaugural NAIA National Championship Title, Three NDA National Championship Titles, Four NAIA GPAC Conference Titles, and multiple regional wins under the direction of Trish Ryan. Trish fostered a program growth and recruitment rate of 867% within the first 4 years of coaching. She held the Second Vice President Position for Competitive Cheer and Dance within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, as well as the NAIA GPAC Competitive Cheer and Dance Conference Chair. Other passion projects have included being an advocate for dance in Nebraska on the Nebraskans for the Arts Council, as well as help write the educational standards for dance as a fine art within the Nebraska Department of Education.
Trish graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration emphasizing Small Business Management from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She recently re-located to New York City, and cannot wait to connect with other passionate dance teamers nationally.
Planning Your Competition Season
The anxiety of being sure every 8 count is perfectly and precisely how you’d like it to be by the end of the competition season is part of the challenge that I both love and loath as a coach. So how does everything you need to practice fit in?
Advanced preparation and communication are key to creating a framework for a successful season. You will see more mental clarity from the dancers in practice. This in turn will have the dancers increase their work output when they know how far they are being pushed each day. Planning out the competitive season will help articulate goals within a measurable timeline. Here is a general eight step process to help you begin planning:
Write down every game, performance, competition, and event (volunteer or fundraising) on the calendar.
Assign game day/event performances to each game day or event. (i.e. Janet Jackson Pom mix will be performed at the Volleyball game on 9/21 and that weekend’s football game, and will be repeated in December for basketball, etc.) Take note of how long each routine is and the difficulty level in terms of cleaning the routine.
Plan out the practice schedule and assign routines to practice days the calendar. Here are some helpful questions to consider:
· What days of the week will practices take place throughout the year?
· Will the number of practices increase towards competition season?
· Which practice days need to be blocked out for annual traditions such as senior routine, kids clinics, fundraising plans, etc.?
· What practice days can be fully dedicated to competition and which need to be days set aside for game day performances?
Break down the competition music by each individual 8 count with notes on the type of choreography (group sections, unison, turn section, syncopated choreography, etc.). If the choreography isn’t finished yet, but the song(s) are complete, then breakdown each song by 8 count, while making notes on music differentiators.
Count the number of full or half practices you have dedicated to the competition routine(s).
Begin grouping 8 counts together by workable sections. Three to five 8 counts per practice is generally a good start.
Considerations that may change how many 8 counts are cleaned:
· Pace of 8 count (multiple & counts)
· Technical skills in the section
· Group work versus unison
· Number of practices available for competition
Working backwards from the first competition or full out performance, assign the workable sections to each practice that has dedicated competition routine time. Sometime this takes a little finesse; either adding or subtracting the 8 counts you’d like completed from different days due to the number of practices allotted for competition (or lack there-of). This may also mean you need to save certain sections for practices after your first competition.
Finalizing the season…
· Breaking down each 8 count…Try to set aside time each week with a captain, or strong dancer in that style, to prepare how you want to clean each 8 count prior to practice. This will help save valuable time with the team; aka, avoiding that conversation over a small decision such as whether the arm is supposed to be a break or a swing.
· Technical Skills…How technique heavy is the routine? Does there need to be full days dedicated only to technique or will the technique be a part of the warm-up in every practice?
· Those “One” Sections…Save practice time for those 8 counts that are the “bane of your existence”. You may not even know which 8 counts those are yet, but you’ll sure be appreciative that you set aside time to figure them out.
· Team Communication Pace…Communicating with the team which 8 counts you’d like each practice to focus on will let them mentally and physically prepare for those practice days. How far out you communicate will depend on the team’s ability to handle information before they are on overload. Communicating the practice schedule between one week to one month in advance is ideal. (Each year may vary with what the dancers can handle. Test out their communication pace during the fall months to determine the best way to proceed with competition communication).
· Using the Stoplight... An idea given to me from a competitive soccer coach was to put a color circle on each practice day to indicate the practice intensity needed. This method helps the athletes mentally prepare for practice, while also allowing their bodies to have days to recover. This will help create balance by peaking the team at the right time. It is suggested that the green days be spread between yellow and red days to help prevent injury, while working to build stamina.
o Define each color day and discuss with the team about what each color day means:
§ Green: Full out, 100% of the time, push as hard as you can. Lots of full routine run-throughs, working on stamina with movement completion.
§ Yellow: Medium day, cleaning by sections, maybe only one or two full routine run-throughs, but will primarily be focusing on stamina within sections.
§ Red: Recovery days, means this is more of a mental day to save the body, and working on less technical sections.
· Team Physically or Mentally not there? Time to be flexible. This is why you planned well in advance and gave yourself a few “buffer” practice days. Trust your intuition. Sometimes, taking a step back from the turns and leaps and sitting down to do visualization is the most helpful thing you could do for that moment in time.
Creating a balance through communication of a well-planned season will increase the team’s trust in the process you create. Good luck in your season and remember to enjoy the process.