Whether you’re dealing with something big or simply life’s everyday demands and pressures, stress is unavoidable. Sometimes, a small amount of stress can be a positive thing. It can help you perform under pressure and motivate you towards your goals by studying, planning, and preparing. However, too much stress prevents you from doing and feeling your best. This is why stress management for teens is so important. While stress will always be present, how you handle it can make all the difference.
What Causes Stress in Teenagers?
Before we dive into some stress management tips, let’s first talk about what causes stress in teens in the first place.
Adolescence is an extremely stressful time in life. It is during this time that teens’ brains are maturing, which causes several different changes to happen all at once. Relationships with peers and social experiences suddenly stand out, and gaining independence becomes a priority. Teenagers are also developing their identities.
These changes cause teenagers to think about different issues or aspects of daily life in more complex ways. Stressors for teens may include the following:
- Pressure to perform well academically
- Joining extracurricular activities
- Too much homework
- Public health and safety concerns
- Platonic and romantic relationships
- Pressure to engage in substance use and risky behavior
- Pressure to control or change physical appearance
- Digital and social media pressures
Family and home stressors:
- Family stress (ex: conflict, illness, economic hardship, divorce)
- Changes in family relationships
- Career changes
How Can I Tell If My Teenager is Stressed?
If you suspect your teenager is going through a difficult time, then you can be more attentive to any changes in their behavior that might signal that they are experiencing more stress than usual.
Some signs you can look out for include the following:
- Being high-strung or panicky
- Difficulties with sleep
- Disengagement from daily activities
- Unexplained headaches or stomachaches
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty with concentration and focus
- Depression and anxiety
- School refusal
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Increased intake of alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawal from family or friends
Remember that teenagers typically keep their feelings to themselves or pretend everything is fine. This would be the time to give them your undivided attention and have open conversations about their thoughts and feelings. You can also use tools such as stress management worksheets together.
Why is Stress Management Important for Teens?
Too much stress is detrimental to our health. Left unchecked, long-term, chronic stress can contribute to many physical and mental health problems [*]. Prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, cause high blood pressure, and contribute to other diseases such as obesity and heart disease. It can also result in mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Stress management is essential to stay in good physical and mental health.
Stress Management Tips for Teens
How then can teens manage their stress levels with so much going on? Here are a few tips that may help:
Plan your day
Having a plan can significantly improve the structure of your day. Using a calendar or a planning app, keep track of your daily schedules. Input your class times, major deadlines, and test days for school. Make sure to add some time to do things you enjoy, whether that’s playing soccer after school or reading your favorite books. Having a plan and a daily routine lowers stress.
Balance work and play
Being productive with your assignments, extracurricular activities, and other school tasks is a great thing. However, don’t forget to set aside time for other things too. Be sure to make time for the things that you enjoy, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. Engaging in stress relief activities for kids can also help significantly. This will give you time to relax and recharge, which lowers your stress levels.
Practice good time management
One of the biggest reasons why teens and adults get so stressed out is because they lack time management skills. For many people, the problem is over-committing to too many things at once, which can happen when you’ve got many things going on as a teen. One suitable method to try is writing down everything that needs to be done within the week and time-blocking them on a calendar. Teens can talk to their peers, parents, and teachers about paring down their responsibilities. With less on their plate, they’ll feel less stressed.
Get enough sleep
It can be tempting to stay up after a long day at school. Teens may want to watch their favorite shows or chat with friends. However, going to bed late doesn’t leave enough time for quality sleep, which can cause more stress [*]. It helps to stick to a set bedtime and wake time. Turning off screens at least an hour before bed and winding down with quiet activities can help promote better sleep and less stress.
When teens juggle multiple responsibilities, it can be difficult to allot time to exercise. But as it turns out, exercise can help one cope with stress more effectively [*]. Aside from that, getting enough exercise also improves physical health, and it is a great habit for teens to bring into adulthood. Teens can try exercising for just a few minutes at a time every day to start, then gradually increase to longer sessions. Picking an enjoyable physical activity helps a lot!
Accept “good enough”
At times, teens may find it difficult to relax and destress because they are caught up in perfectionism. For instance, some teens might want to maintain a 4.0 GPA while doing a part-time job, extracurricular sports, and volunteer work. You can help your teen reassess which aspects of their very busy life they can step back from to avoid burnout. Help them practice saying and taking to hear that “this is good enough.” This will help lessen the burden of having too many things on their plate and break the perfectionism cycle.
How Can I Support My Teen in Building Resilience to Stress?
There are many ways that parents and guardians can help teens in building resilience to stress.
- Acknowledge their stress. Teens are more likely to open up and accept support if they see that their parents or guardians are taking what they are going through seriously.
- Help them focus on what is within their control. Recognizing what is within your control and learning to accept what isn’t can be very helpful for managing stress. Helping your teen improve this skill can help them reduce their stress levels.
- Work on stress management techniques together. Aside from the tips listed above, you can also help your teen by introducing relaxation and breathing techniques. You can also go through the basics of mindfulness together. Other helpful coping skills for stress management include art therapy, journaling, or simply spending time in nature.
- Encourage other sources of support. It is a very positive thing if your teen opens up to you for support and guidance during stressful times. While you can help them significantly, encourage them to spend time with friends and have discussions with their teachers or school counselor. As you have open conversations about their stress, they may even be open to seeing a mental health professional for extra help.
When to Seek Professional Help for Stress in Teens
If your teen is still having trouble navigating stressful situations or handling daily stressors, then it may be time to ask for more support. Stress should not be debilitating or cause big disruptions in your teen’s life, so if this is happening, then reaching out to a professional can help.
The Bottom Line
Stress in teenagers is normal, but it can get to a point where it is difficult to handle. Knowing the right stress management techniques and using tools such as stress management worksheets can help your teen. Even more important is seeking the help of a licensed professional who can help in addressing the underlying causes of trouble with stress that your teen may have.
- Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, et al. The impact of stress on body function: A review. 21 July 2017.
- Alotaibi A, Alosaimi F, Alajlan A, et al. The relationship between sleep quality, stress, and academic performance among medical students. 13 January 2020.
- Jackson E. The Role of Exercise in Stress Management. June 2013.