Today stress and anxiety among teens has become a growing epidemic. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health says that about one-third of teens say they feel significantly anxious. While stress is your body’s natural reaction to a challenge (activation of the nervous system whereby the hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to have the adrenal glands produce more adrenaline and cortisol to release into your bloodstream), it’s important to understand that this happens faster in teens than it does in adults because their brain’s pre-frontal cortex hasn’t fully developed yet.
The Cause of Stress in Teens
While teens’ stress typically begins in school, everything from social to emotional challenges can trigger it. This includes:
- Family issues
- Problems with friends
- Gun violence
- Social media
- The environment
- Peer pressure
Unfortunately, most teens don’t understand the difference between good and bad stress. Meaning they don’t realize that good stress helps them want to do their best. However, bad stress occurs when stress rises to the point where it’s interfering with your daily living. This happens because coping mechanisms become overwhelmed causing you to be unable to perform at your best.
Good Stress Management Techniques
Although feeling stressed is natural for people of any age, parents and teachers can help teens develop good stress management now that will carry into the future as well. Here are a few tips that teens should learn so they can remain healthy and happy throughout their lives:
- Learn to manage your mind. This is one of the biggest factors that determines how we’ll react to stress and how good we’ll be at stress management. What you think about will result in how you act and the consequences you’ll receive for those actions. Make sure you pay particular attention to your automatic thoughts because they can cause you to suffer even more.
- Find someone to listen to you. As a parent you should be open, loving, and accepting of your teen, especially when they’re feeling either stressed or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, many teens report that they don’t feel this way and instead they feel they’re not good enough. This is why it’s so important to remind them that their self-worth shouldn’t depend on their accomplishments. They need to know that you love them for who they are. Make sure they see you as a safe person to talk to and then offer to help with problem solving, but don’t jump in and merely rescue them.
- Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep each night. This is a natural byproduct of a healthy lifestyle. It is something that stretching and deep breathing can really help with since they’ll stimulate your parasynthetic nervous system which is what helps you sleep more deeply and easily.
- Learn to limit your screen time. According to research, spending hours at a screen will lower your well-being at any age, but this is especially true for teens. In fact, spending more than 7 hours a day staring at a screen makes a person twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression.
- If nothing seems to be working, know that you can and should seek out professional help. Make sure you discuss these resources (e.g. a school counselor, therapist, or life coach) with your teen.
Although you can’t protect teens from experiencing stress, you can provide them with some stress management tools to help them manage their life’s challenges. For help with this you should turn to Advantage Mental Health Center. Their trusted counselors have helped many teens over the years. There’s no reason you shouldn’t schedule your teen to receive their help too.
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