depression in young adults

How to Deal with Depression, Low Motivation, or a Failure to Launch in Teens

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Adolescents is a pivotal time in one’s life. There are often important decisions to make, which can increase the pressure that they face. Do you have a loved one finding it difficult to meet life’s basic expectations? Does caring for themselves every day seem overwhelming? Do you ask them, “What are your plans?” but they can’t seem to see past today?

Depression in teenagers, lack of motivation, anxiety, and so many other mental health challenges can significantly impact a adolescent’s ability to progress in life.

When teens face difficult challenges, such as trauma, family conflict, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse, it can be easy to get lost on the road to independence. If you recognize one or more of these difficulties in your adolescent child, there’s a high probability they are struggling with everyday tasks and life expectations, which is understandable.

Many teens don’t know how to deal with depression, low motivation, or whatever issues contribute to their failure to launch. While “failure to launch” is not a clinical diagnostic category, the signs are very real. The phenomenon of teens living at home and getting lost in the transition to adulthood is becoming more prevalent.

Outdoor Adventure Therapy: How to Deal with Depression, Low Motivation, or Failure to Launch

Recognizing that your loved one needs help with the transition to adulthood is the first step to getting them back on the road to independence. Outdoor adventure therapy, occasionally mistaken with wilderness therapy, is a great way to help show adolescents how to deal with depression, low motivation, family conflict, trauma, and other issues that may be contributing to a failure to launch.

Adventure Therapy: What It Is And Isn’t

Outdoor adventure therapy is not the wilderness boot camp you’ve likely heard about in the headlines. In fact, outdoor adventure therapy is the opposite in that instead of using nature as a punishment, nature is used as a healing tool and a reward. Adventure therapy is an opportunity to redirect the path your teen’s life is currently pointed toward. Therapy, also referred to as “talk therapy,” is known to be an important spoke of the wheel of healing.  Adventure therapy is a blended methodology of bringing together the healing powers of nature, confidence-building activities, and the strength of group and individual therapy to improve your mental health and future.

If you want to help with depression in your adolescent, sending them to outdoor adventure therapy might seem scary. Many people hear “outdoor adventure therapy” and think of what is known as “wilderness therapy” and imagine a struggling kid being woken up in the middle of the night and forcefully admitted into a treatment program where they try to survive in the harsh wilderness.  We want to be very clear– Pure Life is not this.

Pure Life’s program takes our students into the front country wilderness of Costa Rica, where they will be engaging with the community, cooking group meals together, and experiencing new and exciting adventures such as rappelling, surfing, and white water rafting. We teach our students how to manage these outdoor activities safely. We train them and give our students professional guidance and critical knowledge to participate in our adventures safely. While we challenge our students during their time in outdoor adventure therapy, our challenges are healthy, purposeful, and healing.

READ MORE: 5 Back To School Red Flags In Young Adults

7 Ways To Discover Motivation During Depression

For those who have never experienced depression, trying to verbalize the lack of motivation and utter nothingness that depression presents can be almost impossible. Motivation is a skill we all have; some don’t even realize they use it as often as they do throughout their day. However, motivation is something we become hyper-aware of once it’s gone.

So what can you do as a parent or loved one of a teens with depression? How do you improve low motivation or a failure to launch in life? Knowing what to do is hard not only for those experiencing it firsthand but especially for those who can’t relate. We’ll share 7 ways you can help inspire and promote motivation from the outside when you see depression taking over in your adolescent.

Give Them Grace

An evil cycle that depression likes to spin is the feeling of worthlessness. It’s truly amazing what depression convinces someone about themselves. Depression cannot be wished away. It is important to allow your loved one some grace and acknowledge that you understand they have depression. Depression makes things hard!

Don’t remind them of their depression constantly and that you can see they are struggling at every turn. Don’t insult them, even if it is passive or seems harmless. Be kind. Tell them you love them. Give them hugs. Give them sincere compliments when appropriate. Allowing them grace doesn’t mean enabling, but it means you acknowledge that it may take them longer to get moving, respond to your requests, or even take a shower.

Go Outside

It can be that simple. Depending on the severity of the depression, going outside can be accomplished in many different ways.  If your teen has a bad day, ask them to join you on the porch or backyard. A little fresh air can help improve their mood, even if it’s raining or cold! If their depression isn’t quite as severe, they may have enough energy to walk to the park, the grocery store, or even visit a local hiking trail. Invite them to join you on a simple outing. No matter how it is done, help them get some fresh air. Studies have shown that nature, even for short periods, is healing.

Offer Support In Whatever Way They Need It

If you know they have a task that needs to be done, but their depression and lack of motivation are pinning them down–try to talk to them without pressure or accusations.  Let them know you understand things are tough right now and want to help. You could even take it a step further and ask your teen if you can help them with the task. Do they need to do laundry? Offer to sit and chat with them as they fold their clothes (but don’t do the chore for them!).  Is a household chore piling up? Offer to put on some music, just listen to them, or sit with them as they work through the task.

Play Some Music

It’s hard to want to do anything when depression sets in. Even something as minor as turning on music. When your loved one is in a positive place, suggest they create a “motivation” playlist of songs that spark a happy feeling. If they don’t have a motivation playlist, just get the music playing. It will help soften the unkind voices of depression. Music is proven to have a major impact on our emotions and body.

Getting Ready For The Day

When someone with depression changes out of whatever they are wearing (because even though it may not be pajamas, it may be what they have worn for the past few days), it can improve how they feel physically. Putting on fresh clothes can provide a positive change, helping them feel renewed, and may nudge their day in a more productive direction. If we feel presentable, we are more willing to leave the house, answer the door when a friend stops by, or continue with any activity besides laying in bed.

Avoid Negative Triggers

It is important when someone is struggling with depression and feeling unmotivated to avoid sad, upsetting, or negative things. Negative triggers can be sad news stories, reading negative comments online, or interacting with someone they already know they don’t get along with.  You can help by turning off the news, helping them avoid known triggers, and avoiding conversations or topics that you know are difficult for them, even on their good days.  Help them to focus on feelings of gratitude. If they are willing, suggest they try jotting down five or more things they are thankful for now.

Sleep Is Important

Now, this can seem counterintuitive for some with depression. However, depression wreaks havoc on its victims in different ways. Some sleep too much, while others can’t sleep at all.  Both can be damaging. The proper amount of sleep is critical. Sleep is vital to our health, both physically and mentally. But too little or not enough is harmful. Whether your loved one struggles with insomnia or sleeps the day away, both are unhealthy decisions. Help them set a goal for 8 hours of sleep a night. In severe cases, they may need to talk with a health professional to help regulate their sleep.

TRENDING: Creating Intrinsic Motivation In Your Teen

The Benefits Of Adventure Therapy

Our 7 suggestions for depression in adolescents will certainly help, but it won’t be a long-term solution. Your adolescent with depression may need other healing methods, such as Pure Life’s outdoor adventure therapy or therapeutic gap year program.

Outdoor adventure therapy programs have become increasingly more popular and prevalent over the past few decades. The popularity that outdoor adventure therapy has gained is due to its ability to aid teens in overcoming mental health, social, and emotional issues. Many have found success by taking a gap year to travel and combining that with a gap year experience for mental health.

A large part of the effectiveness of outdoor adventure therapy programs is due to the individualized, therapeutic methods of helping each teen work through their own personal issues. In fact, “the design and theoretical basis of outdoor adventure therapy program should be therapeutically based, with assumptions made clear and concise to better determine target outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.” (Bandoroff & Scherer, 1994)Bandoroff & Scherer, 1994)

Outdoor adventure therapy is extremely effective in showing teens how to deal with depression, low motivation, and other issues contributing to a failure to launch. Research suggests that mere exposure to the outdoors has many benefits, including:

  • Improved clarity
  • A reduction in ADD/ADHD symptoms
  • Improved critical thinking and decision-making
  • Enhanced problem-solving abilities
  • Better executive functioning

Some treatment programs incorporate an adventure therapy component into their outdoor adventure therapy programs, leading to a more actively engaged client base.

In addition to reaping the benefits of exposure to the outdoors, outdoor adventure therapy participants reap the benefits of adventure therapy during their gap year, which include:

  • An increased buy-in (especially among adolescents and teens) to be more actively engaged in therapy due to the variety of appealing adventure activities
  • An opportunity to adapt and thrive in a variety of settings, activities, and adventures; this ability to overcome helps to build self-esteem and develop one’s identity
  • Learning healthy, physical activities that adolescents can continue to participate in long after treatment ends leads to a healthier, more active lifestyle in the long run
  • Confronting challenges and an opportunity to overcome those challenges by utilizing one’s method of coping also leads to the further development of one’s identity

An adventure component also allows therapists to more effectively target an increase of self-efficacy instead of just increasing self-confidence. Self-efficacy is the belief in oneself to overcome adversity/difficulties in life. This is vital in showing teens how to deal with depression, low motivation, and other major hurdles in life, as research has shown that self-efficacy is one of the most influential predictors of behavioral change.

By building on each individual’s strengths, outdoor adventure therapy allows teens to learn new, healthy coping strategies, behavioral and emotional regulation skills, leadership skills, and life skills. Field staff and therapists help adolescents develop higher self-efficacy by using their strengths to build a strong foundation for the future.

For more information on helping with depression in adolescents and assisting them in achieving independence, reach out to Pure Life today. We would love to discuss with you how to start progressing forward or how we can help a loved one make a lasting change in their health and life. We would love to discuss how you can start progressing forward or how we can help a loved one make a lasting change in their health and life and see if our gap semester and gap year programs are a good fit.

For more information, please download our free, twelve-page white paper, The Road to Independence Can Be Rough: It’s Okay to Ask for Help

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More About Wilderness Therapy From Pure Life…

9 Health Benefits Of Being Outdoors Backed by Science

Outdoor Adventure Therapy And Young Adult Mental Health 

A Day In The Life with Pure Life Adventure Outdoor Therapy

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