There is no doubt teens are feeling stressed. The pressure is on to excel on every level: academics, extracurriculars, socially. Throw in social media, which literally gives them no break from social demands. Teens don’t have time to rest, let alone be kids. Kids—that is what they still are for a few more years, yet they are so quickly thrown into adulthood these days.
While a little stress can be a good thing, motivating students to put in the extra effort, the amount some are feeling is at an unhealthy level.
The pressures teens are facing are harmful to their mental health—leading to increases in depression, anxiety, and irritability; and physically they are leading to more teens suffering from headaches including debilitating migraines and decreased immunes systems.
So, what can you do? As a parent, or a caregiver, to help your teen—to ease the stress, and let them embrace the joys of the teenage years rather than just the pressures.
Here are some tips to teach your teen:
1.) Eat healthy: Reducing stress starts inside, and a big part of that is how we are fueling our bodies. Eating the right foods helps improve brain power and energy levels, and helps to cut down on the negative impacts of stress.
2.) Sleep: Staying up late to finish that project may actually be doing more harm than good. Sleep is crucial to feeling good, and the better we feel the less stressed we are. If we feel good we are able to think clearer, and manage time more efficiently.
3.) Exercise: It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block. Research shows getting up and moving can reduce stress in big ways.
4.) Me time: It is important for your teen to have time with their friends, and to themselves — whether that be seeing a movie, going for a run, going shopping, reading a book, or spending time at a friend’s house.
5.) Establish priorities: Everything can’t be done all at once. Schedule things out in order of importance and practice time management skills.
6.) Go outside: Fresh air and sunshine can go so very far in helping regulate mood. It can be as simple as doing a school project on the back porch.
7.) Deep breaths: When feeling overwhelmed, teach your teen to stop and take a minute to breath. Close their eyes, tell themselves it is ok, come back down to earth. Meditation is also great stress relief. There are all kinds of tools online to give to help gain a few minutes of peace.
8.) Have a sense of humor: Laughter is such a powerful tool. A few minutes a day can be huge in keeping yourself in check. If the dog literally eats their homework (we all know they do it, sometimes) instead of getting worked up about it, teach them laugh it off and then reevaluate calmly. Easier said than done, but having a parent who sees it similarly can be helpful.
And last but not least…
9.) Limit time on electronic devices: We know it is hard, really hard, and sometimes it is a reliever of stress. But, ultimately research shows time on social networks and glued to our devices is bad for our brains and bad for our emotional health.
Crucial to reducing stress is being open about it. Talk it out, and come up with a plan with your teen to make things more manageable. Keep things in perspective. If your teen is having trouble talking to you, seek out the help of a counselor who can offer helpful skills for managing stress and thinking about things in a productive way.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.