Help Keep Your Teen’s Stress Level in Check
“I’m so stressed out!” Do you hear your teenager talking? If so, it’s not a surprise.
Newfound freedom and independence, puberty’s biological changes, the anticipation of entering a new school year, peers, relationships, conflicts with parents, changing schools, taking on too many activities, poor eating habits and lack of sleep are just a few of the factors that can drive a teen’s stress level over the top.
“Stress is the body’s way of rising to a challenge,” Gina Meadows, director of Centra Bridges Treatment Center. “It’s a good thing in emergencies when your response is critical or in milder situations in which the pressure is on but there is no real danger—such as getting ready for a first date or taking a final exam. Once the challenge is over, the body’s nervous system returns to its normal state, ready to respond again when necessary.
“But long-term stressful situations, such as those encountered during adolescence and the teenage years, can wear out a body’s reserves, leaving your teen feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, weakening the immune system and sometimes leading to more serious problems such as eating disorders, self-injury, depression, alcohol or drug abuse or even suicide,” she said.
How parents can help?
To teach stress management to a teenager, parents must know how to handle stress in their lives. Modeling good stress management skills is an important way to coach a teen, said Meadows.
“Parents can’t just talk the talk,” she said, “they must walk the walk. Teens observe parental behavior. How a parent handles stress can have a huge impact on how teens deal with their own stress loads.”
Providing a nurturing environment at home is a key factor in reducing teenage stress. Healthy families are those that feel like safe havens to children. Parents also can teach teenagers stress management and stress reduction skills such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing as well as helping their teens create a life/school balance.
For more information on how to handle stress in the family and in teenagers, call Centra Mental Health Services toll-free at 800.947.5442 or visit mentalhealth.centrahealth.com.