Stress in teenagers is just as prevalent as in adults. Inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness or poor coping skills such as drug and alcohol use.
- The physical, intellectual, emotional, and social changes that middle schoolers are experiencing rival those of babies and toddlers. Drives and impulses become stronger. Restraints become weaker.
- Researchers have learned that a “pile-up” of many stressful life events in a small amount of time is more difficult for teenagers than dealing with just one event.
- Stress in teenagers at home and school may lead to reduced attention span and to diminished motivation to succeed academically. Some students develop poor coping patterns like verbal and physical aggression toward others, defiance of authority, acting out, juvenile delinquency, and suicidal ideation.
- The years as a teenager are a high-risk time for depression. Intense stress is often seen as a trigger. Possible signs of chronic stress include: upset stomach, headache, insomnia, avoiding other people, crying, irritable reactions and eating too much or too little.
- Research shows that children who are forced to live prematurely on adult levels sometimes become oppositional to following the parents’ rule or those of society.
Sources of Stress
Most teenagers experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and when they do not have the resources to cope.
- Sources of stress might include: school demands, changes in their bodies, problems with friends, parents’ divorce, death of a loved one, moving, changing schools, family financial problems, having too high expectations, taking on too many activities, and chronic illness.
Teenagers can decrease stress with certain behaviors and techniques. Studies show that the most common ways young teenagers cope with stress are listening to music and watching television.
- Exercise and eat healthy meals regularly. Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Decrease negative self talk and develop assertiveness training skills. Practice relaxation techniques. Take breaks during stressful situations.
- Learn to feel good about doing a competent job rather than demanding perfection from yourself or others.
- Avoid excess caffeine intake which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
- Middle schoolers are still growing and need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
- Non-school activities help explore new talents and provide structure. Build and maintain a network of positive friendships.
- Studies show that people who deal with their problems by seeing the positive side of difficult situations and by taking part in activities they enjoy are more likely to be well-adjusted.
Sources: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Harvard Science, Ezine Articles, Bnet, University of Illinois at Chicago, Life Positive, National Network for Child Care, University of Michigan, Stress Management for Adolescents, University of Connecticut, Parents Talk, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. For additional information, consult your physician.