Stress continues to be a problem in today’s high-paced world, but many parents are unaware that their teenagers are dealing with dangerously high levels of stress. Recent studies and polls show that teens have stress levels that are as high, or even higher, than the stress levels of adults. Elevated stress levels are particularly problematic during the school year, and stress reported by teens are far higher than what is believed to be healthy.
The dangerously high stress levels in teens are concerning, but even more problematic is the fact that most teens don’t realize how stress impacts their overall physical and mental health. Many teens are not equipped with the knowledge they need to decrease their stress levels, and in some cases, high stress levels may result in risky behaviors.
It’s important for parents to be aware if their teens are enduring a lot of pressure. Parents also need to know how stress affects their teens’ physical and mental health, while learning ways to help teens decrease their stress levels. In some cases, parents may even need to turn to outside help, such as therapy.
Common Sources of Stress in Teens
Teenagers deal with stress when situations are perceived as difficult, painful or dangerous. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a few of the common sources of stress in teens include:
Changes in their bodies
Negative feelings and thoughts about themselves
School frustrations, demands and testing
Changing schools or moving
Financial problems within the family
Unsafe neighborhood or living environment
Problems with peers at school or friends
Having expectations that are too high
Taking on too many extra-curricular activities
Divorce or separation of parents
Chronic illness of death or a family member
Bullying or cyberbullying
Teens have difficulty Managing Stress
One thing that makes high stress levels in teens such a problem is the fact that teens have difficulty managing their workloads. Many teens note that their stress levels continue to increase instead of decreasing. Since many adults don’t use effective stress management techniques, teens don’t learn how to manage stress effectively from their parents. Many teens are unaware of how to manage the stress they feel, which means that parents need to step in and teach teens and children effective stress management techniques.
Since teens have difficulty managing stress, it begins to affect their performance in every area of life. According to USA Today, 21 percent of teens say they have neglected school or work due to stress and 26 percent note that they’ve snapped at peers due to stress.
How Stress Affects a Teen’s Physical and Mental Health
High levels of stress may interfere with quality sleep, which increases the risk of health problems. Stress has also been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, depressed immune systems, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, eating disorders and more.
Not only does stress have the potential to cause physical problems in teens, it also may negatively impact their mental health. Depression in teenagers is already a common problem, and with the addition of elevated stress levels, the risk of depression is even greater. Stress has the ability to trigger mental illness in teens and some studies show that the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, results in changes in dopamine levels, which is seen in depression, schizophrenia and many other mental disorders. Other studies show that teens dealing with extreme stress and pressure may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse.
Helping Teens Decrease Stress
The parents’ jobs have become a whole lot harder since the arrival of digital gadgets as they have been unable to know whether their kids are happy, sad, or stressed. What doesn’t help is that children nowadays aren’t too expressive and keep their feelings to themselves or share about them only on their social networks. Luckily, parents can now find out if their kids are in any stress by monitoring their social networking profiles or mobile activity. With the information gained, parents can proceed to use some stress management and stress prevention tactics, some of which are outline below.
Tip #1 – Get Monitoring App – There are a ton of monitoring apps like SecureTeen available in the market that allows parents to keep an eye on what’s happening their kids’ lives with ease. With these apps, parents can monitor some of the social networks like Facebook and Instagram or they can look at their children’s messages. This will give them a pretty good idea of what’s going on in their kids’ lives.
Tip #2 – Get Active – Physical activity is an effective stress buster. Parents can help teens find physical activities they enjoy to get the right amount of exercise.
Tip #3 – Sleep – Most teens aren’t getting enough sleep, particularly while they’re in school. Teens need eight to nine hours of sleep and a lack of sleep only increases stress levels. Smartphones and Internet use are big reasons why teens aren’t getting the sleep they need. Teens can improve their sleep by reducing screen time and avoiding caffeine late in the evening.
Tip #4 – Engage in Positive Self-Talk – Negative self-talk can contribute to a negative body image, which is a common stressor in teens. Teens need to learn to engage in positive self-talk.
Tip #5 – Use Stress Reduction Techniques – Parents can help teens learn more about effective stress reduction techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, deep breathing and getting involved in creative activities.
Tip #6 – Encourage Hobbies – Hobbies and activities that bring joy and pleasure provide a great way to relieve stress. Parents should encourage teens to engage in activities or hobbies they enjoy, even when they are busy.
Tip #7 – Talk About Stress – Simply talking to a parent or other trusted adult can help teens deal with stress. Keeping the conversation open can help teens learn new ways to communicate their problems.
Stress in teens often manifests in certain behavioral symptoms. Some teens deal with panic attacks or anxiety, while other teens may seem irritable, sad or depressed. Moodiness, oversleeping and changes in appetite are also signs a teen may be dealing with excessive levels of stress. When teens begin acting out, engaging in risky behaviors or showing signs of depression or other mental disorders, parents should consider getting outside help for their teen. When the situation is beyond a parent’s control, the best choice for a teen is to get professional help. A therapeutic boarding school may offer the help a teen needs if stress is resulting in serious health, mental or behavioral problems.