All About Teenage Stress:
- Signs And Symptoms Of Teen Stress
- What Causes Stress In Teens
- Tips For Teens To Deal With Stress
- Stress Management Activities
- Teenage Stress Statistics And Facts
A survey by the American Psychological Association in 2014 revealed that teenagers are more stressed than adults (1), which is quite alarming for parents. Teen stress is not uncommon. But it can and should be dealt with before it worsens. Even though there may be many causes of stress in adolescence, they can be dealt with a little patience from parents. Here, MomJunction discusses everything that you need to know about stress among teenagers.
Teen Stress – What Is It?
Your daughter/son has an important exam in which he or she has to score nothing less than an A. They have exactly a week to prepare for it. Through the week, your child, and maybe you, is likely to experience anxiety, worry, increased heart rate, irritability, anger and more. Just before the exam, your kid may even have this churning feeling in the pit of the stomach.
That is stress.
Stress is how the body responds to a demanding or a threatening experience. You feel stressed when you are under pressure to do something or when you have to deal with an adverse situation. Everyone experiences stress, and teenagers are no exception. Teen stress is the result of enduring anxiety and worry that adolescents sometimes experience. Every teenage girl and boy feel stressed at some point in time. While some feel severe stress, others aren’t as affected by it.
Do you know what age group has the most stress?
If you think that school-going teens are the most stressed, you are wrong. A study by the American Psychological Association revealed that Millenials (18-33 year olds) are most stressed, scoring an average of 5.4 on a scale of 1 (least stress) to 10 (most stress) (2).
[ Read: Teenage Depression ]
Signs And Symptoms Of Teen Stress
Stress can manifest itself in different ways, mostly emotional and physical. You can also tell that someone is stressed by the way they are behaving. The effects of stress on teens can be many; some of them are listed below.
1. Emotional Signs
People who are stressed aren’t the most excited lot. They are evidently unhappy and may seem depressed. Stressed teens may also seem agitated, anxious, aloof, and irritable. They get angry and overwhelmed easily by simple things. The next time your teenager snaps at you for no reason, you could know that he is stressed.
2. Physical Signs
Physical signs of stress in teens include tiredness or fatigue, headaches, constipation, nausea and dizziness, palpitations, and loss of appetite. Your child may lose interest in sports and other physical activities as well.
3. Behavioral Changes
Common symptoms of stress often include behavioral changes like eating or sleeping too little or too much. Your teen may also seem fidgety and display nervous habits like nail biting, restless pacing, moving around constantly and so on.
[ Read: Common Behavior Problems In Teenagers ]
4. Cognitive Symptoms
Stress in teens can also impact their cognitive abilities like memory. You may think that your teen is neglecting his chores or being careless but for all you know, he may have been stressed and forgot about it. Other cognitive symptoms include the inability to focus, negative perspective, and poor judgement.
Other effects of stress on teens include
- Being irrational
- Drastic changes in weight
- Feeling ‘hopeless’ and ‘helpless’
- Change in period cycle for girls
- No care for appearance
Sometimes, you may not be able to identify if your teenager is stressed or is just being a ‘teen’. In such cases, a teen stress test could be a good option. You could get them to take an online test or take one at school. Do not force them to take such tests and do not single them out. Instead, make it a fun activity that everyone in the family participates in.
Unlike what you may think, stress is good if it motivates you to perform better (4). It can also help you identify an underlying problem. Mental stress or tension that your teen is going through can be managed easily, only if you know what is causing it.
13 Causes Of Teen Stress
More often than not, it is the everyday things that can be stressful. If your teenage boy or girl is stressed, it could be because of one or more from the list of stressors explained below.
1. Academic Stress
The pressure to perform academically and better is one of the most common causes of high school stress. Teenagers often worry about a lot of things like completing school work, projects and reports, studying for an exam, and about the colleges to apply to. This kind of pressure is good when it encourages your teenager to get better grades at school. But if it is affecting their cognitive abilities and taking a toll on their health, it is a concern.
2. Physical Stress
Physical changes can also be a cause of stress among teenagers. Adolescents go through some emotional and physical changes which can leave them confused and stressed. Not knowing what is happening to their body and why they feel a certain way during puberty is usually the cause of such tension. Also, excessive strain on the body can leave your child tired and mentally stressed.
[ Read: Physical Changes During Puberty ]
3. Social Stress
Social life is paramount for teenagers, and they could have a persistent need to be accepted by their peers by being in the popular ‘groups’, attending parties and hanging out with their friends. They could give more importance to friends than family. They are under constant pressure to dress in a certain way, speak the teen lingo and be ‘cool’. More often than not, all this implies that the teenager has to put aside her true self and pretend to be someone she is not, which can be a very stressful experience.
In addition to the above, problems with friends, being bullied, and romantic relationships can also be a cause of stress among teenagers.
4. Stress Due To Family Problems
Anything that affects the family impacts the teenager directly. Unreasonable expectations by parents, marital discord between parents, sickness of a family member, or strained relationship between siblings are all the factors that can affect a teenage boy or girl. If your family is going through a financial problem, that can also be a stressor for your teenager.
5. Financial Stress
Money isn’t something that worries only the adults. Teenagers are more stressed about finances because they cannot do much about it. Studies show that kids from low-income families deal with poverty-related stress almost all the time and become troubled teens and adults (5). Teenagers may worry about college tuition and scholarships, which can be very stressful. While it is okay to let your teen know if you are trying to make both ends meet, do not burden them with too many details.
6. Traumatic Events
Dealing with traumatic events like accidents, sickness or death of a close family member or a friend, instances of physical or mental abuse can have a very severe impact on children. Death can create a sense of loss and fear of losing everyone and everything, adding stress to the pain. Sometimes, breaking up with a romantic partner can also be traumatic for young adults. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your teenager in the wake of any such events.
7. Drastic Changes In life
Adolescents may not embrace change as quickly as adults do. Drastic changes like moving to a new school or city, addition of new members to the family such as a step-parent, step-siblings, etc., can make the teenager uncomfortable. Not knowing how to deal with changes and the way to meet the expectations of parents or teachers can make life very stressful for the teenager.
8. Romantic Relationships
Boys and girls in high school often worry about not having a boyfriend or girlfriend, when all their friends do. In the middle of academic and social pressures, adolescents indulge in romantic relationships that add to their stress. Expectations from the partner, getting too little or too much attention from the partner and the confusion caused due to budding sexual feelings are just a few things about romantic relationships that can get them stressed.
9. Poor Self-Esteem
Teenagers have a lot of questions and doubts about the different emotions and physical changes they go through. Self-doubt or poor self-esteem is the worst among them. How you treat your child can also give rise to self-doubt and poor perception of self.
10. Peer Pressure
Children start to socialize more during adolescence and try to navigate through the complex world of relationships at this stage. The need to be accepted by their peers motivates them to try new things including drinking, smoking, and drugs. As adolescents are at a vulnerable age, they try to find an identity. In that process, they create an accepted social image and are under constant pressure to maintain it. Trying to strike a balance between their image and a created one, is not an easy task and can be very stressful.
[ Read: Teen Peer Pressure ]
11. Unhealthy Competition
Competition amongst peers in school is common. Students usually indulge in healthy competition in academics, sports and extracurricular activities. Competition is good and healthy as long as it only encourages them to perform better and improve their grades. But if it gives rise to negative feelings like jealousy and resentment, it only adds to the current academic stress.
12. Sibling Rivalry
Differences between siblings are normal, but if it goes up a few notches and turns into war, it can be stressful for both the parties involved. Teenagers may develop feelings of jealousy and hatred for their younger siblings who get more attention from the parents. Also, the way you treat your teenager and the younger child, if any, can make a teen feel bad about himself.
13. Poor Time Management
A common complaint that your teens make is that they “don’t have time” for anything. There is never enough time for breakfast, for school work, or household chores. Poor time management is yet another cause of stress among teens. They get easily distracted by technology and media, which eats up most of their time. Before they realize, they are left with little time to finish what needs to be done. The result – a stressed out teenager.
7 Tips For Teens To Deal With Stress
There is no point in stressing about the “stress” that your teenage child undergoes. Help your boy or girl deal with the stress with these simple solutions.
Between schoolwork, social life, and home, adolescents have little time to get proper sleep. They tend to stay up late at night and get out of the house very early. Relaxation is necessary to de-stress. When the body is relaxed, the mind also relaxes and rejuvenates. A full night’s sleep can help your teenager deal with stress better. Short naps in between tasks can also reduce the stress.
2. Physical Activity
Physical activity is one of the best stress relievers in teenagers. Nothing beats stress like a run. When you are stressed, go for a walk or just hit the gym – you’ll feel better afterward. Encourage your children to exercise or take up a sport to keep their body and the mind healthy to beat stress.
[ Read: Physical Activities For Teens ]
3. Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is necessary to alleviate the tension that the body accumulates. A balanced diet that includes a good intake of fruits, vegetables, and dairy and protein foods keeps your child healthy. When your teen is stressed, they tend to eat junk foods such as pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream. Replace such food with healthy options like avocados, berries, dark chocolate, milk, and turkey.
4. Support From Parents
Teenagers can be difficult to handle as it is. They become worse when they are stressed out. Getting angry with them and punishing them for their behavior when they are stressed is not going to help. If you want to help your teenager deal better with stress, you need to be there for them and support them through it, and not make it more difficult for them.
5. Focus On Positives
When we are stressed out, it is easy to focus on what is going wrong. We tend to worry about what we don’t have and what we cannot do. Stress is the result of negative thinking, and focusing on all that is wrong only makes things more difficult. It may not be easy to stay positive in the midst of what feels like a crisis, but you can help your child by reminding them about their strengths and how they can put them to use to deal with the situation better.
An effective way to deal with stress is to help your teenager fight the unhelpful thinking patterns that they seem to be developing when they are stressed.
6. Talk About It
Encourage your children to talk about what is worrying them. Talk is therapeutic and one of the most effective stress relievers too. Also, talking about a problem or discussing will also help you find a solution for it sooner. The most important thing you should do as parents is to listen to your child’s feelings and see what you can do to make it easier for him.
7. Do What Makes You Happy
Stress Management Activities For Youth
Teenagers and adolescents can also use the help of these activities to deal better with stress.
- Breathing Exercises – Deep breathing exercises (belly breathing) relax the body and mind. Breathing exercises can help bring the balance back to the nervous system, and also promote mindfulness.
[ Read: Regular Exercise For Teenagers ]
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness is the art of focusing on the present moment. When you are overwhelmed by your thoughts and emotions, take a deep breath and take a look around you. Try to think nothing – just focus on what you see. You can also practice mindfulness by focusing on your breath, the body sensations, or what you hear. This simple activity gives you a break from your thoughts and relaxes your mind.
- Creative Visualization – Visual imagery is a powerful tool that can be used to get out of negative thinking that creates stress. Sit in a quiet place in your room. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around. Try to become mindful. Now picture how the ideal situation would be like. Think about how you would feel and what you would say. Hold that thought for a minute or two – experience it in your mind. Once you open your eyes, you’ll be back in the real world, but with a fresh perspective.
- Co-sharing – When you and your friends are stressed, you can try this activity. Co-sharing lets you share your feelings and thoughts in a structured way. It also helps you develop your listening skills.
- Silent Ball – This is a game your adolescents can play in a group. Take a lightweight ball, like a Nerf ball that can be thrown easily. The objective of the game is to stay silent when you throw or receive the ball. The person who makes a sound or misses a catch is out. The activity forces the kids to focus on catching the ball, and keeps them from thinking about whatever is bothering them.
- Freeze Dance – This is a fun activity that a group of teenagers can play to de-stress themselves. Gather the teenagers in a room and play some music. The participants have to dance to the tunes and freeze in whatever position or posture they are in when the music stops.
Teenage Stress Statistics And Facts
Did you know that more than 25% adolescents experience “extreme stress” during the school year? A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found out that over 31% teenagers feel depressed or sad because of stress.
- 59% teens said that time management was a significant stressor.
- 40% teens reported feeling irritable and angry because of stress.
- 35% of them could not sleep at night, while 23% had lost their appetite because of stress.
- Many teenagers also experienced physical changes – 36% felt tired or fatigues, while 32% had headaches, and 21% had an upset stomach or indigestion.
- For girls, appearance was a significant source of stress, with 68% girls feeling that way. Only 55% boys surveyed thought their appearance was a stressor.
- Video games (48%) was the number one activity for beating stress, and browsing the internet (43%) was the second.
- 28% teens played sports and 37% exercised to manage stress better.
While these numbers may seem like teens are under a lot of pressure, some experts disagree. Michael Bradley, a Pennsylvania psychologist, says that teenagers get stressed when someone demands them to do something they do not want to do (6).
Keep in mind that these tips do not eliminate stress. In fact, you cannot eliminate it. You can only manage it better to prevent it from taking over your life. The sooner your teenagers learn how to deal with stress, the better they will become at handling it in their adult life.
Share your tips on how teens can deal with stress here.
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