By Ariana Mohebbi
People often think that teenagers are influenced by the media to smoke, vape, drink or do drugs, but the main cause of these bad decisions is stress. School is the culprit for creating stress in teens. Teens turn to different substances that will help alleviate that anxious feeling. School could be set up differently to create an environment that is less stressful for teenagers.
Because most schools haven’t adopted the idea of focusing on the mental health of students, now it is up to the students themselves to prevent drug abuse. There are several ways to do this, including exercise, eating healthier, getting enough sleep and meditation.
Exercise is proven to release endorphins (natural painkillers) in the brain. Endorphins also improve sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Sitting at a desk all day long can take a toll on your back.
Exercise is a great solution, relieving the pain and stretching the knots away. After exercising, you will feel a rush of energy and a mellifluous sensation throughout your body (as if your limbs were made of honey).
To gain the maximum relief from physical activity, you must try eating healthier. Studies show that healthy eating with a diet full of complex carbs and soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and increase serotonin in your system, a “feel good” chemical that also decreases mood swings. Not to mention that physically you will have so much more energy to get you through the long school day.
We all know that healthy food is good for a long list of things. However, do you know how bad fast food and sweet treats really are for you?
The biggest bad mood culprits are refined carbs such as sugar. Although you feel good in the moment of eating it, these foods will only give you a short burst of energy (aka a “sugar rush”) followed by a tired and cranky feeling for hours after.
Aside from eating too many unhealthy foods, teens often don’t eat enough food in general. Body image is a common focus in high school, and some teenagers do almost anything to stay slim (except exercise). Not eating enough could ensure that you don’t consume too many refined carbs, but it also ensures that you don’t get enough vitamins.
Lack of food in the system affects mood tremendously. When the body doesn’t get enough food, blood sugar levels drop, which means that vitamins such as zinc, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, Vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids can be low, which has a direct correlation to worsening mood and decreasing energy.
If you are focused on body image, try exercise and eating a balanced diet. Don’t worry about calories at first, just eat whole foods and keep track of the relative amount of nutrition and vitamins you’re getting. Follow this with a normal exercise routine of a steady 3–5 days a week for one hour and you will feel great. As you do this for a while, increases in exercise and your palate are great next steps.
Teens often talk about getting few hours of sleep to the point of that being a bragging topic. Stop this now! Sleep is important for everything in your body and mind. You will increase your anxiety levels with lack of sleep and often perform worse at school, which will make you even more stressed.
Don’t turn to vapes, cigars, alcohol or drugs because while they might feel great in the moment, they are worsening your negative emotions in the long run. These things have long-term negative effects, so don’t make the mistake now.
Instead, take a bath with essential oils (lavender and rose are great anti-anxiety and sleep-promoting oils). Bathing can help you breathe easier, which comes in handy when you have a huge test to take and can’t take full breaths due to your anxiety. This feeds into an improvement in heart health, something that is slowly deteriorating among teens with all of the high heart rates caused by overwhelming stress levels.
Exercise and healthy eating are among the most beneficial anxiety and stress-relieving sources. Plus, they have other positive effects too, like a fitter figure, and improved skin, hair and nails. It’s like a three-for-one deal, so give it a shot.
Take a month off drugs and spend it eating healthy and exercising with an optional essential oil bath on the side. Don’t knock it till you try it.
Here are some foods that will make you feel great (v = vegan):
- quinoa (v)
- butternut squash (v)
- spinach (v)
- nutritional yeast (v), a great source of B vitamins
- cashews (v)
- tangerines (v)
- kiwi berries (v)
- watermelon (v)
- chicken breast
- tofu “turkey” (v) processed. so it’s not a whole food but still a great on-the-go protein source for days you want a turkey sandwich
- oat milk (v)
- probiotic “soda” (v)
- chia seeds (v)
- fresh juice (v)
Ariana Mohebbi is a local high school student.