Anxiety, Depression, and the Holidays

Nia Hendricks & Laura Quinn
In the rush of the holiday season, the emotional needs of children can sometimes go unmet. Parents are hosting dinners and parties, volunteering extra time at church, or working longer hours to purchase those special gifts. Teen anxiety and depression are growing epidemics in America, and it’s important to remember that emotional and mental stresses don’t take a vacation for the holidays.

Last November, Time Magazine committed its cover article to Teen Anxiety and Depression: Why the Kids Are Not Alright. Inside, research and personal stories outlined the serious increase in teen anxiety and depression since 2012. One Friday, we dedicated our high school chapel time to an authentic conversation about anxiety and depression. One of our teachers, Mrs. Saavaedra, shared intimately and powerfully about her journey with anxiety. “You hear the motto a lot ‘follow your heart.’ If I followed my heart I would have a heart attack,” revealed Saavaedra. “Comparing myself to other people can be a struggle for me.” Her transparent testimony, coupled with solid scriptural and practical points, gave our students a framework for opening up about the very real struggles they face on a daily basis.
 

What Are Anxiety and Depression?

Sometimes, feelings of anxiety and sadness are appropriate and natural responses to life’s circumstance. Anxiety disorders and depression, however, illicit prolonged and more severe symptoms. In order to bring healing, it’s important that we understand what anxiety and depression are. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes anxiety disorders as experiencing “excessive fear or anxiety” that also “hinders your ability to function normally.” Depression, according to HelpGuide.org, “is caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.” Both are complex disorders that may have multiple points of influence.
 
"I needed to stop comparing myself to other people and reflect on the blessings in my life instead.”

The Influence of Social Media

During our chapel, we learned that the stresses and pressures are real for our students. In addition to everyday stresses, such as homework and self-image, today’s teenagers are surrounded by never-ending stream of information and stimulus. They’ve grown up in an era where news of corruption, violence, and social injustice are coupled with images of lifestyle bloggers, celebrity news, and social influencers, all in a single social media stream. Time Magazine stated that the analysis of a CNN special report that “examined the social-media use of more than 200 13-year-olds . . . found that ‘there is no firm line between their real and online worlds.’” Even CCA teacher Mrs. Saavaedra explained that she needed to disconnect from social media: “I needed to take a break from social media. When you’re looking at everyone’s highlight reels, it feels like the grass is always greener. I needed to stop comparing myself to other people and reflect on the blessings in my life instead.”
 

What We Can Do

Part of the battle students may experience with anxiety and depression is the impression that they are completely alone in it. It’s important for them to know that they’re not. As we approach winter break, where students will have two weeks off from school, parents can take this opportunity to observe their child and offer support. Here a few things you can do:
 
  • Create opportunities for your child to disengage and disconnect from social media and the internet.

  • Pray for your child continuously.

  • Offer one-on-one support by engaging in intentional conversation with your child.

  • If your child is experiencing severe and chronic anxiety and depression, consider looking into counseling or psychiatric care.

  • Build trust by sharing a personal story of how you’ve struggled with something.

We serve a God that desires healing in our inner most parts
 
Remember, there is no quick fix for anxiety and depression. These are both complex mental illnesses that are influenced by a variety of factors. Just like any illness, some things that work for some may not for others. But there is hope—we serve a God that desires healing in our inner most parts, and has provided spiritual, emotional, and practical wisdom through His word, His Spirit, and through the fields of research and science. As you celebrate Christmas, remember to take moments to pause and offer support for your child who may be struggling. It’s important that we start the conversation, so that we might change the culture.
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