By: Staci Lee Schnell, M.S.,C.S., LMFT
Stress is extremely common among teenagers. Today more than ever, there is pressure to get good grades and high test scores. The time commitments required for extracurricular activities, community service, and a paying job are tremendous. For many teens, this is all required in order to be competitive enough to get into college, and that pressure can cause a great deal of stress..
Stress can not only affect a teen’s emotional health, but their physical health as well. Stress can lead to anxiety, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. It has also been known to contribute to diseases such as depression, obesity and heart disease.
Common symptoms of stress include being nervous or anxious, procrastinating and/or neglecting responsibilities, seeming overwhelmed, and changes in sleeping habits. Problems with concentration and changes in eating habits have also been associated with teenage stress.
Parents can help their teens manage their stress with the right tools.
Physical activity is one of the best forms of stress relief. Parents should encourage teens to participate in activities such as team sports, yoga, hiking, biking, swimming, jogging, or any form of physical activity they may enjoy. Some of the best types of physical activities are those that have a social component as well.
To maximize a teenager’s chance of a good night’s sleep, parents should encourage them to cut back on watching TV or engaging in too much screen time less than an hour before bed. Drinking caffeine with dinner and stimulating activities close to bedtime can also interfere with a teen’s sleep.
Parents should help their teen plan their week. This includes scheduling time to do homework, exercise, community service, extracurricular activities, and most importantly down time.
Parents should encourage teens to find things that bring them joy. That might include listening to music, playing video games, going to the movies or just hanging out with friends.
Encouraging teens to talk to a parent, teacher or other trusted adult can help reduce stress and may lead to new ideas in managing stress. Focusing on teenagers’ strengths can help keep stresses in perspective. Talking to a therapist who is trained in helping people make healthy choices and manage stress is another option.