At Ondol Clinic, we treat people of all ages. We find that particularly young people respond well and quickly to acupuncture. Starting treatments early in the teenage years can help prevent or reduce health issues in young adulthood.
Adolescence is a time of enormous change. It includes changes in the body, relationships, friendships, when the teen is trying to balance the need for family and the need to spread their wings and bond with their peers. The demands of study at school seem to increase yearly, and many teenagers are involved in after-school sports and part-time jobs. No wonder they get anxious!
The teenage brain
The teenage brain is also undergoing tremendous changes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM), the brain continues maturing into a person’s 20s. The prefrontal cortex is the last to develop fully; this area is responsible for planning, prioritising, and controlling impulses. It means that teens can be more likely to engage in risky behaviours without considering the possible results of their decisions. And the fact that the teen brain is still developing means they may respond to stress differently from adults, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
The impact of COVID
Now let’s add the impact of a global pandemic on our adolescents. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), research shows that teenagers have experienced anxiety about isolation from friends and family, disruptions to education, and a friend or family member contracting COVID-19. While the infection affects people differently, the social and economic impacts on young people have been substantial. Compared with older age groups, young people have experienced high rates of psychological distress, loneliness, educational disruption, and domestic violence.
How can we support our teenagers?
During times of change, teenagers can experience a range of emotions they may not know how to handle. As parents and other significant people, we can help them understand how to manage their feelings when life changes unexpectedly. When teens realise these feelings are normal, they can better deal with stressful events.
- Talk to your teen – that time spent with them getting their driving hours up is an excellent opportunity to encourage them to open up
- Validate their feelings – tell them you understand how they feel, rather than always challenging them or under-estimating their hurt or anxiety
- Focus of control – help them to understand what is and isn’t in their control and to let go of what they can’t control
- Acceptance of challenges – life is full of challenges. You want them to be a self-sufficient adult, able to deal successfully with their problems
- Look after yourself, too -it can be challenging for carers and parents to deal with their beloved teenagers day after day. Make sure you have support in place for yourself.
What are some of the triggers to avoid?
ReachOut is a great resource to help young people access the support they need as they experience mental health challenges. They look at triggers and coping strategies.
Anxiety can be triggered by:
1 Lack of sleep – adolescents need more sleep than adults or younger children.
2 Major life events – such as a death of a loved one, divorce of parents, moving house
3 Poor health – a healthy diet and exercise are essential at this critical time of development
4 Hormonal changes – these can heighten emotions and cause anxiety
5 Alcohol and other drugs – extra dangerous when the brain is developing
What are some coping strategies?
1 Breathing exercises
2 Light exercises like going for a walk or a swim
3 Writing down worries
4 Meditation and mindfulness
Ongoing lifestyle supports
1 Regular sleep schedule and enough sleep
2 Healthy eating
3 Regular exercise
4 Connecting with others
East-Asian Medicine and Teenagers
As adults, we know change is rarely easy, but the beauty of acupuncture is that it can help make this transition go more smoothly.
In East- Asian Medicine, times of change, such as puberty, mean a higher likelihood of imbalances arising. It is a time characterised in Chinese Medicine where the Yang Qi – the warm, invigorating, rising energy of the body – surges.
Tiffany Black, an acupuncturist in the UK who works with many teenagers, explains that the surging of Yang is normal and positive (although for parents, it is not always enjoyable!). It is the force that liberates us from our parents and encourages us to become independent and, ultimately, adults. However, according to Tiffany, some teens struggle to integrate this energy, which is where acupuncture can help. In terms of mental health, this rising Qi can agitate the spirit, causing anxiety. In contrast, in others, if it is too constrained, the system stagnates, and depression arises.
Acupuncture encourages the Qi or energy to flow harmoniously again – to calm the system down and restore equilibrium. Addressing imbalances can make their transition from child to adult as smooth as possible.
How can Ondol Clinic help?
At Ondol Clinic, we enjoy treating adolescents. They tend to be very responsive to treatments, and seeing their equilibrium restored is rewarding. We also have a unique opportunity to impart dietary and lifestyle advice, giving your teenage patients a healthier start to their adult lives. We always reassure our new clients that the treatments are gentle and the needles we use are very thin, and we are more than happy to chat about what they can expect in treatment before their first session.
If you would like to book an appointment for your teenager or discuss this further, please call us on (07) 3371 0100 or book online here.