Stress is a normal part of a teenager’s life. It can stem from physical causes, such as an illness or not getting enough sleep, or from emotional causes, such as academic issues or the death of a loved one. Even everyday obligations and pressures can unknowingly cause a stress response.
Providing teens and young adults with tips, tools, and information about what stress is and how to manage it can be the difference between them achieving success in school and life - or not. In this article, I share four stress management techniques that can help minimize the impact of teen stress.
Understanding Teen Stress
We all experience periods of anxiety or tension throughout the day. A stress response is a physical reaction to a stressor. Stressors can be something positive like playing video games or running into an old friend, or something negative like your phone battery dying or a looming test or project. When you encounter a stressor, your body automatically releases hormones to help you deal with what’s happening.
The effects of stress hormones can be subtle, but some immediate signs to look for include fast heart rate, shallow breathing, shaking, tense muscles, sweating, upset stomach, and dry mouth. Stress that goes unresolved for a long period can cause moodiness, depression, headaches, muscle or joint pain, weight gain, heart disease, sleeplessness, low energy, inability to focus, and frequent illnesses - just to name a few!
Early education and prevention empower teens and young adults to handle the stressful situations they encounter on a day-to-day basis. It helps them strengthen their resilience, improve their health, and live a more fulfilled and productive life.
4 Stress Management Tips for Teens
Fortunately, there are ways to decrease the harmful effects of stress. It begins by identifying situations that cause it and consciously controlling your mental and physical response. Here are four stress relief habits that can help teens and young adults mindfully control their body’s response to all the stressors encountered each day:
1. Sweat it Out
Exercise helps to reduce physical response to stress. Doing at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week, such as brisk walking, releases “good” hormones that counteract the negative effects of “harmful” stress hormones. Studies show that people who exercise have lower blood pressure and heart rates during stressful situations than non-exercisers.
2. Be Social (at least a little!)
Research suggests that having a strong social support network can reduce stress. When teens and young adults can talk to someone they trust or become part of a team, club, organization, or church, they increase their resilience to stress. Being part of a group of people that share similar beliefs or interests provides opportunities for them to receive guidance, mentorship, and support from a larger network of people.
3. Seek Help
Sometimes stressful situations are too much to handle on your own. Stressors such as physical or mental illness, behavior issues, abuse, addiction, grief, harassment, bullying, and more can be debilitating. Professional help or support groups can play a critical role in helping teens and young adults handle situations that are causing high levels of stress and anxiety.
You can also reduce stress with self-help tools like inspiring TED Talks or self-help blogs or books. Self-reflection, introspection, and continued curiosity and learning can give young adults the knowledge and confidence they need to manage stressful situations effectively.
4. Set Aside 10 Minutes of Downtime Every Day
Teenagers are inherently always on the go. And if they aren’t on the go, they’re plugged into the Internet. Studies show that unplugging from everything and relaxing and clearing the mind for as little as 10 minutes per day can improve stress management skills.
The body’s responses to stress are designed to protect us, but when they are constantly activated, it can be harmful. If you know of a teen or young adult that could potentially benefit from a support system to help them overcome barriers preventing success in school or life, let us know. We have programs and services that can help.
This article was written in collaboration with Carla Saunders.