Liz Morrison, LCSW
Tips for Teenagers: Stress Reduction
Tips for Teenagers: Stress Reduction
With the school year now in full swing, it is common for some teenagers to start to feel increased stress due to academic, social, and emotional pressure. As a parent, you may start to notice more resistance from your teen in getting them to share details of their day and, it may begin to feel like they are shutting you out. The most important thing you can do is help your teenager explore where their feelings are coming from and help them implement ways they can decrease their stress.
Here are some tips your teenager can use to reduce their feelings of stress.
Healthy Sleep Habits: Not only can stress and worry cause a lack of sleep, but it can also leave your teenager vulnerable to more stress. When your teenager is well rested, it is much easier for them to be emotionally regulated and make sound decisions that are well thought out. To help improve your teenagers sleep, the National Sleep Foundation provides some ideas. Some of these ideas include establishing consistent sleep and wake schedules and creating a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. One problem I see frequently with teenagers is having too many distractions in bed while trying to go to sleep. Distractions such a computer or television keeps the mind engaged and busy when it should be slowing down to prepare for rest, thus causing difficulty falling asleep or getting a full nights rest.
Increase Movement and Exercise: Exercise is a healthy way to release stress, improve physical health, and promote general wellbeing. In addition to the general health benefits, exercising produces endorphins, which in turn leads to increased feelings of happiness and self-satisfaction. More and more frequently, the teenagers I work with are reporting that they are testing out of their gym classes so they do not have to get sweaty in the middle of the day, or because they would prefer the free period to hang out with their friends. If this is the case, encourage your teen to play an afterschool sport, join a gym, or play a game of basketball with their friends. By making exercise a part of their day, not only are you helping them to release stress, but also increase health, energy levels, self esteem and confidence.
If your teenager needs suggestions on how to begin an exercise routine, encourage them to visit this WebMD article Tips for Getting Your Couch Kid to Exercise
Time Management: Leaving early in the morning can help your teenager get to school on time without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. Running late increases stress levels and provokes anxiety. In the afternoon, make sure extracurricular activities make sense and do not overload your teen. Often, having too many responsibilities can also increase those stressful feelings. If your teenager seems overwhelmed by all that is on their plate, help them break their schedule down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Make a list of tasks and start with the easy ones first. Once they’ve accomplished a few things, it becomes much easier to tackle larger goals.
Learn and Practice Coping Skills: Coping skills are what I like to consider tips and tricks to manage and tolerate stressful situations. There are many different types of coping skills one can use in various situations. Here are a few of my favorites:
Practice taking deep breathes - By doing this, it allows your body the opportunity to focus and remain calm.
Practice yoga or meditation- If your teenager can become more in tune with the needs of their body, it will help manage every day stressors.
Use positive self-talk - Telling yourself that ‘you can do it’ may sound silly, but it has been proven that using positive affirmations can help a person feel more confident and increase self-esteem.
Find an escape with something you love - Finding a creative outlet for self expression can be a very important tool for a teenager when they need to cope. Some creative outlets include writing, drawing, singing, or dance.
Eat Right: Have you ever heard the expression, “You are what you eat”? Well, in the case of a teenager as well as others, this is especially true. Helping a teenager take care of their body by introducing healthy foods can keep their bodies running well and ultimately lead to more motivation in their day. When people eat poorly, they tend to feel more tired and sluggish. When these feelings occur, there is a higher chance that your teen will become stressed, as they might not feel that they are able to complete all the tasks in their day. To help your teenager make good choices when it comes to food, please visit NHS Choices article titled Healthy Eating for Teens.
Too Much to Handle: As a parent, it can be difficult to connect with your teenager, especially when they are overwhelmed or experiencing high stress. Some warning signs that show a greater cause for concern may include:
Mood swings Avoidance of activities that were once enjoyed Drastic changes in body weight Expressing frequent negative thoughts Exhibiting aggression Being neglectful of responsibilities Avoiding school or other tasks Distancing themselves from peers Difficulty sleeping Engaging in reckless behavior
If you have concerns that your teenager is exhibiting any of these symptoms, they may benefit from help and support. Make attempts to engage your teen by encouraging a more manageable lifestyle. Suggest that they read the steps above to support them in decreasing overwhelming feelings and help to stay focused.
How can I help? If symptoms persist, your teenager may benefit from an evaluation from a mental health professional. Feel free to call me at (347) 758-2985 for a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss the concerns you have about your teenager. In addition, I am also running a group for teenage girls in New York City. Teen Issues for Girls can help to provide a safe outlet to support your teenager during a stressful and challenging time in their life. Please call to inquire about the possibility of enrolling your teenager in the group.