Stress Origins Teen

Stress can affect people of any age, and teens are no exception. The teen years are a time of many exciting changes; however, change can cause stress even when that change is for the better. If you learn to recognize the causes and signs of teen stress, you’ll be able to offer the teenagers in your life a few stress management tips.

Understanding Teenagers’ Stress

Like adults, teens experience stress when they are in a situation that they feel is dangerous, painful, uncertain or just uncomfortable. Here are some common sources of teen stress:

  • Body changes
  • Chronic illness
  • Dangerous neighborhood, home or school
  • Death of a close friend or family member
  • Demands and frustrations at school
  • Family problems, including divorce/separation of parents or financial trouble
  • Moving to a new home or changing schools
  • Negative thoughts about themselves
  • Problems with peers, including pressure to dress a certain way, to use alcohol and drugs or be sexually active
  • Too many activities and not enough “down time”
  • Unrealistic expectations for academic/athletic performance or physical appearance.

High stress levels in teens can lead to additional problems. Some teens may become aggressive, while others withdraw from social situations. Risky behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse, can result when teens try to manage intolerable stress levels with these substances. Improperly managed teen stress can also lead to anxiety, depression and physical illness.

Recognizing the Signs of Teenagers’ Stress

Recognizing the signs of teen stress in yourself, or in your son or daughter, can help you seek out stress management tools before other problems develop.

Some classic signs of stress in teenagers include:

  • Always feeling worried or nervous
  • Anger, irritability and lashing out at others
  • Crying frequently and feeling hopeless
  • Eating a lot more or less than is healthy
  • Frequent physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, stomach aches or painful muscles
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating.

Teens’ Stress Management

Stress management can be easy and even fun, and will help you feel more relaxed and in control of your life. Here are some tips for teen stress management:

  • Add breaks and relaxing, enjoyable activities to your busy schedule.
  • Break overwhelming responsibilities into small, manageable steps.
  • Breathe slowly and deeply, while thinking thoughts of being in control such as “I can deal with this.”
  • Consider trying meditation, visualization or yoga to promote a sense of peace and calm.
  • Don’t go through it alone. Open up to friends, family members or teachers you trust.
  • Eat regular, healthy meals and avoid large amounts of caffeine.
  • Exercise in a way you enjoy, such as dancing, swimming or a favorite sport.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself!
  • Recognize that you’re not perfect and you don’t have to have perfect grades or a perfect body to be worthy and loveable. Accept yourself as you are with your unique talents and quirks.
  • Rehearse upcoming situations that are stressing you out, and visualize positive outcomes. Even imagining yourself doing well at something you’re dreading can help.
  • Try progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and then relaxing the largest muscle groups of your body.
  • Try to let go of the things that are out of your control and focus on what you can control.

Resources

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2005). Helping teenagers with stress. Retrieved August 15, 2010, from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/helping_teenagers_with_stress

Dyl, J. (2010). Helping teens cope with stress. Retrieved August 15, 2010, from http://www.lifespan.org/services/childhealth/parenting/teen-stress.htm