How Deep Rest Can Help with Preventing Adolescent Depression

A recent survey of 1,000 teenagers by the Pew Research Center found that more than 70 percent consider depression to be one of the top problems faced by their demographic. While only around 20% of teenagers are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, most teens are faced with the same academic and social pressures that increase their risk of depression and associated mental health issues. Preventing adolescent depression begins with shifting the focus from mental illness intervention for people affected to opening up the conversation about ways to improve mental health for every teenager.

Changing How We Label Depression

Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by depressed mood, lack of or loss of interest in activities, change in appetite, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal ideation, with symptoms lasting at least two weeks.

In a recent viral exchange between Jim Carrey and Ariana Grande, she quoted him saying, “Depression is your body saying, ‘I don’t want to be this character anymore. I don’t want to hold up this avatar that you’ve created in the world. It’s too much for me. You should think of the word ‘depressed’ as ‘deep rest.’ Your body needs to be depressed. It needs deep rest from the character you’ve been trying to play.”

Adolescence is a period of playing different characters and figuring out which ones fit you best. While this technique has been useful for Jim Carrey as a performer, method acting can become damaging when you have to live with these characters off-stage. As teenagers explore their identity and who they want to be, they are likely to lose the sense of self they had as children and may struggle with changing interests, hopelessness, and feelings of inadequacy. This may be part of the process, but these feelings can be hard to shake.

Learning How to Rest

Our society is in perpetual motion. We don’t understand the true meaning of rest. Often, the only time we find time to rest is while we are asleep; however, studies show that our technology use is majorly impacting our quality of sleep. Even when we are asleep, our minds are dreaming in vivid colors and going a mile a minute. We forget most of our dreams and subconscious processing by the time we wake up.

Jim Carrey borrowed the notion of “deep rest” from spiritual teacher Jeff Foster, who proposed that “we can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own false story of ourselves. This longing needs to be honoured.”

Honoring The Mental Health Needs of Adolescents

If depression is a physiological cry for help,

  • It is asking them to listen to their bodies and to learn what to look for. Teens find it easier to identify physical signs of distress than to understand how it is related to their emotions. Teaching them to understand how their body reacts to stress and learning how to feed their bodies can help them bridge that gap and work on their relationship with themselves.
  • It is asking them to slow down. Teenagers overcommit to things trying to please people. They place high expectations on themselves and can get overwhelmed when they struggle to keep up. Focusing on time management skills and realistic goals helps teens stay regulated and feel in control.
  • It is asking them for space to discover their own peace and happiness without having to meet the expectations of parents, teachers, peers, or society.
  • It is asking them to pay attention to red flags in their environment. While most teenagers are exposed to similar stressors, some are better able to plan ahead or make different choices to help them cope if they are able to recognize signs of toxic situations.
  • It is reminding them to get quality rest at regular intervals. Healthy habits increase positive emotions. The key is finding balance. Make sure your teenager is getting enough sleep at consistent hours, getting enough physical activity without pushing themselves too hard, and eating fresh foods that sustain their energy.
  • It wants them to figure out what else they long for. Adolescence is a great opportunity to try new hobbies, learn new skills, discover talents, and develop crafts. Finding activities that elevate your mood and build confidence in your abilities can help students feel purposeful.

Rising rates of depression can be addressed early by recognizing that every teenager has mental health needs and carving out regular time for deep rest and renewal from a young age. Parents can model “deep rest” by providing emotional support, teaching them social skills, encouraging positive relationships, and knowing when to intervene.

Elevations RTC is a program for adolescents ages 13-18 that are struggling with mental health issues, such as depression, that are associated with not allowing themselves enough deep rest.

We offer a multidisciplinary approach and provide college preparatory academics, therapeutic recreation activities, and individual, family and group psychotherapy. Our goal is to teach students positive coping skills, communication skills, and self-care practices to help them manage symptoms of depression when stressors arise. Elevations gives students the tools they need to lead healthy, happy lives.

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