Teenage behaviors and symptoms that might indicate high levels of stress include: increased or unusual irritability, sleep disturbance, over-eating or under-eating, pattern of reacting too intensely to apparent minor problems, increase in nervous habits (e.g., nail biting), headaches, more frequent crying, muscle tension, increased expressed frustration, social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, and low motivation. It can trigger anxiety and anger. Teens who have poor coping strategies might also turn to alcohol and drug use or self-harm.
TIPS FOR TEENS
- Be careful not to overschedule. Cut out activities if necessary
- Be realistic. Do not aim for perfection. Set small goals and break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks.
- Get good sleep. Get enough and have a good sleep routine
- Relax. Learn and Practice relaxation strategies (diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation)
- Make time for fun. Schedule activities you enjoy. Take a break. Listen to music, talk with a supportive friend, draw, write, create
- Prioritize Health and treat your body well. Get exercise and eat well
- Avoid excess caffeine, illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
- Find the upside. Attitude can influence emotions
- Solve the little problems. Address small problems. Break tasks into smaller steps so that they are not overwhelming
- Know what you can control. Focus on what you can control (reactions, actions) and let go of what you cannot (other people’s opinions and expectations)
- Build positive relationships. Ask for help and support when needed
- Learn how to be assertive. Practice expressing your needs and setting boundaries in a polite and clear way
- Decrease negative talk. Use more helpful and neutral thoughts and self-talk statements such as I can handle this.
(From TeensHealth, Nemours https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/stress.html and https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Helping-Teenagers-With-Stress-066.aspx)
TIPS FOR PARENTS
- Watch for signs of high stress and help identify sources of stress in your teen
- Provide practical support
- Have open communication and listen to concerns from your teenager’s perspective. Be available to talk and provide opportunities to talk.
- Challenge negative thoughts (gently): negative thinking can increase negative emotions
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle-exercise, adequate sleep and good nutrition
- Model healthy and effective stress management
- Help problem solve how to address stressors (For a handout to help create a stress plan see https://www.healthychildren.org/English/Documents/BR3_My_Personal_Stress_Plan.pdf)
Stress is inevitable. Helping your teenager build skills that help reduce and cope with stress will have a lifelong benefit. Maintain a positive relationship with your teen. Observe, communicate, listen, accept, and model healthy coping strategies. Have realistic expectations for yourself and your teenager. Practice self-care. If you or your child need support or assistance managing stress, please contact our office.
*(Researchers at Harvard Center for the Developing Child distinguish between positive, tolerable, and toxic stress. The recommendations here are related to tolerable stress. For more information about toxic stress see https://developingchild.harvard.edu/guide/a-guide-to-toxic-stress/).