Teens and Stress

Teens have many reasons to feel stressed out.  Between school work, parents, teachers, friends, relationships, jobs and anything else, it’s no wonder teens are feeling the pressure.  You’re not alone, and believe it or not, there are many things you can do to help yourself identify, minimize, and manage your stress.

“A 2013 survey by the APA found that stress is extremely common among teenagers…In fact, the survey found teens experience both emotional and physical symptoms of stress. Common symptoms include feeling nervous or anxious, feeling tired, procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, feeling overwhelmed, having negative thoughts and experiencing changes in sleeping habits. Problems with concentrating and changes in eating habits (eating too much or too little) are also linked to stress” (https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-teens.aspx).

So, pretty much, that describes nearly every teenager.  School seems to be the biggest stressor, which makes a lot of sense.  There are many levels stress associated with school.  It is attending and focusing in class, completing homework and assignments on time, and preparing for and succeeding on tests.  It is dealing with teachers and friends and peer pressure.  Add more stress with testing and college applications, and it seems logical that anyone would be stressed out to the max.

First, I’d like to help you identify your stress.  Pay attention to your body.  Do you get a sick feeling in your stomach sometimes?  Do you get shaky?  Is it impossible to concentrate or complete your required tasks?  Maybe you’ve lost your appetite or you’re stuffing your face and having problems sleeping.  All of these are signs of stress.  Learn to pay attention to them and listen to them, and you’re on your way.

The next step is to minimize your stress.  Not all stress can be erased, and that’s okay.  A certain amount of stress is normal in your life, and may even help to drive you forward and push you to succeed.  But when stress takes over your life, and alters your ability to function in a healthy and productive way, its time to reduce your stress level.  Start by asking yourself which areas of your life seem to be causing the most stress.  Can any of those be deleted?  Obviously, you still need to attend school, but do you need 5 AP classes all at once?  Maybe you can change your classes to lighten the work load a bit.  Are you doing too many extra-curricular activities and/or sports?  What can you delete to have less on your plate?

Lastly, I’d like to teach you some techniques for managing the stress in your life.  These are important life skills, as you will very likely always have some amount of stress in your life.  If you can learn to live with it and not let it get the best of you, then you can beat it in its path!  Here are some things you can do to manage your stress:

  1. Listen to your body and your mind.  Learn to know when the stress is starting to build up, so you can catch it before it’s too late.
  2. As soon as you notice the stress, take several long, slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Use your diaphragm to breathe the deepest, if you know how.
  3. Get some fresh air and try to find time to take a walk or a run.  Even if the time it takes seems counter-productive, it is not.  You will be able to use the rest of your time more efficiently if you have more intense focus and ability to concentrate.
  4. Get it off your chest.  Talk to a trusted friend, teacher, family member or therapist.  It really can lighten your burden just to talk about.  You can even write in a journal instead of talking to someone.  It will serve the same purpose for you.
  5. Always make time to do the things that make you happy.  Whether that means reading a good book, soaking in a bubble bath, or meeting up with friends, you need that in your life.  Don’t allow yourself to believe that you don’t have time for yourself.  That is the single biggest mistake people can make.

All in all, if you recognize, minimize and manage your stress, by learning to take really good care of yourself, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of success.  Know your limits, and always make that time for yourself.  Nothing is more important, and you do nobody else any good if you are not okay.  Most importantly, ask for help if you feel you need it.  There should be no shame in expressing your needs, and it’s actually a sign of self-awareness and self-care to do so.

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