Related To Category : Children

Teenagers, like adults, may experience stress everyday and can benefit from learning stress management skills. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resources to cope. Some sources of stress for teens might include:

school demands and frustrations
negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
changes in their bodies
problems with friends and/or peers at school
unsafe living environment/neighborhood
separation or divorce of parents
chronic illness or severe problems in the family
death of a loved one
moving or changing schools
taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
family financial problems
Some teens become overloaded with stress. When it happens, inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, or poor coping skills such as drug and/or alcohol use. When we perceive a situation as difficult or painful, changes occur in our minds and bodies to prepare us to respond to danger. This “fight, flight, or freeze” response includes faster heart and breathing rate, increased blood to muscles of arms and legs, cold or clammy hands and feet, upset stomach and/or a sense of dread.

The same mechanism that turns on the stress response can turn it off. As soon as we decide that a situation is no longer dangerous, changes can occur in our minds and bodies to help us relax and calm down. This Arelaxation response” includes decreased heart and breathing rate and a sense of well being. Teens that develop a Arelaxation response” and other stress management skills feel less helpless and have more choices when responding to stress.

Parents can help their teen in these ways:

Monitor if stress is affecting their teen’s health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings
Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading
Learn and model stress management skills
Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities
Helping Teenagers with Stress, “Facts for Families,” No. 66 (5/05)

Teens can decrease stress with the following behaviors and techniques:

Exercise and eat regularly
Avoid excess caffeine intake which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation
Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco
Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques)
Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite firm and not overly aggressive or passive ways: (“I feel angry when you yell at me” “Please stop yelling.”)
Rehearse and practice situations which cause stress. One example is taking a speech class if talking in front of a class makes you anxious
Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks
Decrease negative self talk: challenge negative thoughts about yourself with alternative neutral or positive thoughts. “My life will never get better” can be transformed into “I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help”
Learn to feel good about doing a competent or “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others
Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress
Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way
By using these and other techniques, teenagers can begin to manage stress. If a teen talks about or shows signs of being overly stressed, a consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist or qualified mental health professional may be helpful.