When I was a teenager, even the smallest inconvenience felt like it was the end of the world. When you’re a teen, hormones and emotions are running high, your body is constantly changing, you have to deal with high school, and now with social media, there’s a whole area of being social I didn’t have to deal with back in my day. With all of these pressures, it’s no wonder teens are stressed. If you have a teenager, God bless you, but this is probably no surprise to you. If you are a teen, this is also no surprise to you because you’re probably experiencing this right now.
Studies have found that teenagers experience stress similarly to adults, and in some cases, their stress levels exceed that of the adults in their lives. Although teenagers are raging balls of emotions and hormones, their stress is very real and should be taken seriously.
Of course, some stress can be good and even motivating for teenagers. If a teenager is stressed about their driving test, for example, it might motivate them to study extra hard and practice parallel parking a few extra times. When stress becomes all-consuming, however, this is not good. And if their stress becomes chronic and lasts at a high level for a prolonged period of time, that is also not good and can have damaging effects on their minds and bodies.
When someone becomes stressed it releases a bunch of chemicals in our bodies and brains that kick us into survival mode. When something stressful sets you off, like a pop quiz or dance team tryouts, your body will go into fight or flight mode to “survive” but the situation should then calm back down to its resting state within 20 to 60 minutes. If you stay in a stressful state for longer than that, it can have adverse effects on your mind and body.
So how do you know your teen is stressed? Pay attention to how they’re acting! If your teenager has a change in appetite, increased irritability, trouble sleeping, or fatigue, they are likely stressed out!
Teenagers report school as their number one cause of stress. I get it – tests, pop quizzes, GPA, ACT and SAT scores, getting into college, blah blah blah; it’s a lot, and it can be extremely overwhelming.
Teens also report feeling stressed due to social status, and with social media, I can’t even imagine the added stress and pressure to be social and appear a certain way to your peers outside of school. Family problems and worrying about money or a future career are also big triggers of stress for teens.
So what are some ways you can manage your stress or help your teen?
Exercise is a great way to manage your stress! You’re probably thinking, “Uhh Jenn I’m so stressed out and have so much to do I can’t even make time to exercise WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!” But truly, moving your body helps you complete the stress response cycle and move through your fight or flight response to stress. Even if it’s going for a walk for 20 minutes, it will help.
Stay off social media. I know, this sounds like a bold request, but honestly, it will help you feel less anxious and more focused on the task at hand that’s stressing you out. Seeing what Billy had for lunch or what dress Jessica is wearing to prom will only give you FOMO (fear of missing out, duh) and distract you from getting your work done. Turn off your phone and focus mindfully on tackling your tasks.
Journaling can also help teens manage stress. If you are having trouble sleeping due to stress, try writing out all of the things on your mind and keep them in a notebook by your bed. All of these things will be there for you to handle in the morning. For now, try and get some sleep because sleep is a great way to manage stress.
Try to eat healthy when you’re feeling stressed out. I know, I know, when you’re stressed reaching for ice cream and pizza sounds like the right move, but trust me, eating veggies or something healthy will help your body and mind feel better. Drink plenty of water as well, and save the ice cream for after you ace that test you’re stressed out about.