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7 Steps of Stress Management for Teens

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Adolescence is a time that’s filled with tremendous growth and self-discovery.[1] The teenage years are a time to explore your identity, establish new independence, and learn to navigate the complexities of the world.

However, along with the excitement and opportunity, many teens are also facing the daunting challenge of managing the rising stressors of modern life.[2] From academic pressures to social dynamics and the ever-present influence of technology, today’s youth encounter a mass amount of stressors that can impact their mental and emotional well-being for years to come.

In today’s post, Clear Behavioral Health will explore the 7 steps of stress management for teens and how their loved ones can help to more effectively manage their stress. Additionally, we’ll examine the impact that increasing stress can have on young adults’ overall health, highlighting the importance of early intervention and seeking professional support when needed.

Why Are Teens So Stressed?

Stress is a natural part of life, triggering the body’s stress response in reaction to everyday stress and specific events.

While these reactions and biological responses in the central nervous system are natural, experiencing too much stress can have detrimental effects on a teen’s mental and physical health. Teens experience stress for a variety of reasons, many of which can vary depending on the individual.

Some common causes of adolescent stress can include:[3]

  • Academic pressure: Teens often face intense pressure to perform well in school, whether it’s from parents, teachers, or peers. The pressure to get good grades, excel in extracurricular activities, and secure admission to prestigious colleges can be overwhelming.
  • Social pressures: Adolescence is a time of significant social development, and teens may feel pressure to fit in, conform to social norms, and maintain friendships and romantic relationships. Social media can heighten these pressures by creating unrealistic expectations and causing them to compare themselves with others.
  • Family dynamics: Conflicts within the family, such as parental expectations, divorce, financial stress, or other challenges, can significantly impact a teen’s emotional well-being.
  • Hormonal changes: The teenage years are known for significant hormonal changes, which can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and emotional instability.
  • Identity discovery and self-esteem: Teens are in the process of forming their identities and developing a sense of self. This can lead to feelings of confusion, insecurity, negative self talk and low self-esteem, especially if they face bullying, discrimination, or societal pressure to conform to certain standards of beauty or behavior.
  • Uncertainty about the future: As teens approach adulthood, they may feel anxious about their future, including career choices, financial independence, and finding their place in the world.
  • Technology: The pervasive use of technology and social media can lead to constant connectivity, information overload, cyberbullying, burnout and a lack of privacy—all of which can contribute to stress and anxiety.

Related: What is Teenage Angst, and is it Normal?

What are the Symptoms of Elevated Stress in Teenagers?

Teens may exhibit a variety of symptoms when experiencing elevated stress, such as:[4]

Physical Symptoms

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Stomachaches or digestive issues
  • Muscle tension or body aches
  • Fatigue or trouble falling asleep
  • Changes in appetite, either eating more or less than usual

Emotional Symptoms

  • Irritability, mood swings, or emotional volatility
  • Feelings of anxiety, worry, or panic
  • Sadness, hopelessness, or depression
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism or perceived rejection

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Changes in social behavior, such as withdrawal from friends or family
  • Avoidance of previously enjoyed activities or hobbies
  • Increased aggression or impulsivity
  • Restlessness or fidgeting
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or self-harm
  • Difficulty managing time or completing tasks

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Racing thoughts or difficulty quieting the mind
  • Obsessive worrying about specific issues or concerns
  • Memory problems or difficulty retaining information
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention in school or other activities
  • Negative or catastrophic thinking patterns

The Statistics on Teenage Stress

Recent studies indicate that a significant proportion of adolescents are struggling with chronic stress, with approximately 65% of adolescents reporting moderate symptoms and 9% experiencing high stress levels.[5] Chronic stress, or too much stress, can lead to poorer overall health, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in seven 10-19 year olds estimated to be struggling with a mental disorder:[6]

These and other mental health disorders not only disrupt daily functioning but also pose long-term risks that can persist into adulthood (and increase the likelihood of developing other psychiatric conditions as well).

What Are the Long-Term Risks of Chronic Stress??

The detrimental effects of stress can impact every aspect of a young person’s life. Experiencing chronic stress can weaken coping mechanisms and impair vital functions, such as cognitive abilities and immune system responses.

In addition to the risks to mental health, prolonged stress can elevate the risk of cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and other chronic health conditions as well. Stress-induced behaviors, such as overeating or substance abuse, can also increase health issues like obesity and diabetes.

Furthermore, persistent stress can hinder cognitive development and academic performance, potentially affecting a young person’s future opportunities.

The emotional toll of chronic stress in teens can strain relationships with family and peers, leading to social isolation and loneliness—both of which can be risk factors for further mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety disorders, as mentioned above.

These conditions may in turn amplify existing stressors, creating a cycle of emotional distress and impairment in day-to-day functioning.[8]

The 7 Steps of Stress Management for Teens

Regardless of age, stress management skills are important to develop when it comes to safeguarding mental health and physical well being.

For teens, learning healthy coping skills at an early age is a great way to stave off potential mental health problems and prepare for stressful situations. Here are seven effective and healthy stress management tips for teens:

1. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation, can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels.[9] By focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment, individuals can develop greater resilience to stress.

2. Exercise Regularly

Physical activity is a powerful stress reliever, as it releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that boost mood and reduce feelings of pain.[10] Engaging in regular exercise, whether it’s jogging, yoga, or dancing, can help the body relax, relieve stress, and improve overall well-being.

3. Maintain Healthy Habits

Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can help regulate stress levels. A healthy lifestyle provides the body and mind with the resources they need to cope with stress effectively.

4. Establish Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries in personal and professional relationships and prioritizing self-care activities is a great way to manage stress. Taking time for oneself, engaging in hobbies, and practicing relaxation techniques can help recharge and greatly reduce stress levels.

5. Connect Socially

Connecting with friends, family, or support groups can provide valuable emotional support during stressful times. Talking to someone who listens without judgment can help individuals process their feelings and gain perspective on their stress.

6. Practice Time Management

Feeling overwhelmed by a busy schedule can increase stress levels. Learning effective time management techniques, such as prioritizing tasks, breaking projects into smaller steps, and scheduling regular breaks, can help individuals feel more in control and less stressed.

Additionally, sticking to a daily routine lowers stress and makes it easier to incorporate the strategies mentioned above.

7. Seek Professional Help When Needed

If stress becomes overwhelming (or persists despite efforts to manage it), seeking help from a mental health professional can provide valuable support and guidance.

How Can We Get Help To Reduce Stress?

Getting help to reduce stressful situations, especially for teenagers, often begins with supportive parenting. Parents can create an environment of understanding and encouragement, supporting open communication where their teens feel comfortable expressing their concerns.

Parents can also guide their teens in finding a therapist or counselor who can offer individualized support and guidance.

Additionally, exploring group therapy can be highly beneficial for teens dealing with stress. Group therapy offers a unique opportunity for connection with peers who may share similar experiences.

In a group therapy setting, teens can share their challenges, learn from others, and offer mutual support and validation. This peer support fosters a sense of solidarity and belonging, helping teens feel less isolated in their struggles.

Group therapy provides a platform for learning from other peoples experiences and coping strategies, broadening teens’ understanding of stress management techniques. Normalizing experiences within the group setting can be particularly empowering for teens.

Realizing that no one is alone in their struggle with stress can reduce feelings of isolation and shame, validate their emotions and encourage acceptance.

Ultimately, group therapy serves as a valuable companion to individual therapy and parental support, offering a unique space for peer connection, learing, and growth in managing stress effectively.

Related: Should I Engage With Parent Counseling If My Teenager Is In Treatment?

Get The Support Your Family Needs

At Clear Behavioral Health, we understand the unique challenges that teenagers and families face, from navigating the digital landscape to coping with social pressures and identity issues.

We proudly offer comprehensive support through our teen outpatient program, which incorporates specialized and individualized care for adolescents.

Our program focuses on promoting healthy relationships and empowering teens to develop effective coping strategies. With three levels of care—Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and outpatient services—we provide the best evidence-based treatment to address how to manage their stress, and a range of mental health disorders and unhealthy coping mechanisms, including trauma, depression, anxiety, and substance use.

Let Clear Behavioral Health be your partner in guiding teens toward a brighter, less stressful future. Give us a call today to get started.

References:

  1. World Health Organization. (2023). Adolescent health. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/adolescent-health#tab=tab_1 on April 8, 2024
  2. Hellström, L., & Beckman, L. (2021). Life Challenges and Barriers to Help Seeking: Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Voices of Mental Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(24), 13101. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182413101 on April 8, 2024
  3. Lewis, K. (2023, May 18). Teens and stress: When it’s more than worry. NIH MedlinePlus Magazine. https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/teens-and-stress-when-its-more-than-worry on April 8, 2024
  4. Katzenstein, J. (2023, April 26). Anxiety and Stress in Teens. Www.hopkinsmedicine.org. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/anxiety-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-in-teens on April 8, 2024
  5. Anjum, A., Hossain, S., Hasan, M. T., Christopher, E., Uddin, Md. E., & Sikder, Md. T. (2022). Stress symptoms and associated factors among adolescents in Dhaka, Bangladesh: findings from a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-022-04340-0 on April 8, 2024
  6. World Health Organization. (2021, November 17). Mental Health of Adolescents. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health on April 8, 2024
  7. Gábor Stromájer, Csima, M., Réka Iváncsik, Varga, B., Krisztina Takács, & T. Stromájer-Rácz. (2023). Stress and Anxiety among High School Adolescents: Correlations between Physiological and Psychological Indicators in a Longitudinal Follow-Up Study. Children (Basel), 10(9), 1548–1548. https://doi.org/10.3390/children10091548 on April 8, 2024
  8. Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 8). Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 on April 8, 2024
  9. Silverman, A. (2017). How to Reduce Stress Through Mindfulness | Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging With Physical Disabilities. Agerrtc.washington.edu. https://agerrtc.washington.edu/info/factsheets/mindfulness on April 8, 2024
  10. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022, August 3). Exercise and stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469 on April 8, 2024

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