How to Prioritize Your Mental Health During Prom Season

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Anxiety, Counseling, Highly Sensitive People (HSP), Perfectionism, Self-Esteem, Stress, Teen therapy

How to Prioritize Your Mental Health During Prom Season

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You may expect your high school prom to be right out of a movie scene. A slideshow of scenes plays in your head, full of laughter while getting glammed up with your friends, a shiny venue with sparkling lights, the perfect outfit you’ve been dreaming about since you were a kid, and a romantic slow dance with your long-time crush. Some of this montage may come true—prom can be a night full of excitement and memories for many high-schoolers. But, amidst the glitz and glamor, the anticipation of prom and all that comes with it can cause stress and anxiety for many. That is why it is so important to prioritize your mental health while preparing for and experiencing prom. After all, most people only get one! Keep reading to learn more. 

Common Stressors During Prom Season

Some of the most common stressors that teenagers experience as prom season approaches are: 

  • Academic Pressure: 

Prom season usually falls around the end of the school year in May, which (of course!) is right around the time when students also have exams, final projects, and assignments to focus on. Balancing academic responsibilities while planning for prom can maximize stress levels and lead to students feeling as though they need to “pick one,” because focusing on both feels impossible. 

Prom can get pricey. The dress, suit, shoes, corsage/boutonniere, transportation, and tickets can add up to a number you are unhappy with, or unable to spend for one night. This can lead to financial concerns among teenagers and their families, which can cause stress. 

  • Social Expectations: 

Prom is often hyped up by the media, peers, and stories from adults. It is depicted as the perfect event where everyone looks amazing and has the best, happiest time. The pressure to have the perfect prom can cause excess worry, comparison, or even a feeling of depression if you are unable to feel fully happy during this time. 

  • Peer Pressure: 

Lots of teenagers have the idea that prom is the time in which they should partake in risky behaviors, like substance use either during prom or at an after-party. Prom is also talked about as the time one “should” lose their virginity with their date, according to various movies, television shows, and general talk. Teenagers may feel uncomfortable or unsafe partaking in these activities but feel pressured to conform to social norms and fall into peer pressure because they want to fit in with their peers. 

The focus on appearance that prom values can worsen body image issues, especially for those with existing conditions. Teenagers may feel like they need to look a certain way, or like everyone else, to feel beautiful. This can lead to depression and low self-esteem when one feels like they can’t measure up.

Tips for Prom Season: 

Before prom approaches, define your personal boundaries. How much time are you comfortable dedicating to prom preparation? How much money are you willing to spend? Do you even want to go to prom? Ask yourself these questions before jumping into what you feel you are supposed to do. There is no shame in going against the grain and maybe doing things differently than your peers. Maintain these boundaries within yourself and express them to others in a respectful but stern way if they question you. Remember, this night is supposed to be fun for you—setting proper boundaries so that prom doesn’t become an unhappy memory full of stress and anxiety is what you need to do to protect your peace. 

If you are going to prom, you will need to prepare at least the basics. Write out a list of logistics that you need to plan, like transportation, outfit, date(s), tickets, etc. Then, take some time to think about what you must do to fulfill these plans calmly. Starting planning ahead of time (such as a month in advance) will help ease nerves and reduce the pressure of things being last minute. Other than logistics, you can also write out plans for how you will deal with worries you are having about prom. For example, if you want to take a date but are feeling anxious because you don’t have one yet, you can write out a list of 2-3 people you would be happy to take as a date. Then, you can plan on how to ask them. You can also write a backup plan to just go with a group of friends if your plans with dates fall through. Most of the time, having a planned course of action will make you feel more at ease and prepared! 

If you are experiencing stress about prom, you may be dealing with it unhealthily. If you are lashing out at your peers, over-planning to the point of burnout, or not maintaining boundaries in fear of displeasing others, you may need to rethink your stress management techniques. It is recommended that when you feel stressed you reach out to a trusted individual for support, whether that be a parent, friend, or your therapist. They can help put things in perspective and plan with you. Other ways you can manage your stress are by distracting yourself with healthy habits, like exercise, art, or hanging out with friends.

Consent is the act of giving permission or being in agreement through affirmative and voluntary words that are understandable to everyone involved. In other words, you cannot give consent if you are under the influence or in an unequal power dynamic. What you choose to partake in during or after prom is completely your choice, so make sure you remove yourself from situations if your choices are not respected. Likewise, be sure to respect other people’s decisions, and not pressure them into doing something that makes them uncomfortable in any way. 

Both before and after prom, you should be practicing self-care. Even if you follow all the tips above, prom can still cause some healthy stress. Self-care, like bubble baths, reading a relaxing book, spending time with those who make you happy, and/or journaling, can help fill your cup back up after feeling stressed. Not to mention, after prom, you are bound to feel exhausted. Mark off some time on your calendar after prom to unwind through self-care activities, as well. 

Following these tips will help you have a less stressful, more enjoyable prom experience that will include memories that will last a lifetime. Remember, prom is supposed to be fun! We hope you have the best time. 

To discuss how therapy could help you during this season of your life, please contact me or schedule your free 15 minute consultation.

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