By Pam Willsey
Teen stress and anxiety is a growing epidemic.
In fact, one-third of adolescents report feeling anxious to a significant degree, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and 62 percent of college students said that they feel “overwhelming anxiety.”
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to a challenge. The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The result: A racing heart, as well as a higher respiratory rate, and sometimes increased blood pressure.
When it comes to teens, the physical response to stress kicks in faster, partly because the part of the brain that can calmly assess and react to danger (the prefrontal cortex) is not fully developed yet.
What causes teen stress?
We all experience both “good stress” and “bad stress.”
Good stress is an optimal amount of stress that results in feeling energized and motivated to do your best work. It can help teens rise to a challenge. But when stress interferes with daily functioning, it becomes a problem.
Bad stress is when your coping mechanisms are overwhelmed by the stressor and you do not function at your best.
Teen anxiety can be triggered by social and emotional challenges unique to puberty, family or friendship problems, or social media usage. It can also be linked to major traumatic events like gun violence. Much of this stress starts in school.
And, there’s more to school-related stress than just classwork.
Teens are dealing with anxiety around their relationships, peer pressure, bullying, and their attachment to their phones. Especially for girls: Simply missing a call or text can translate to a real or imagined fear (FOMO).
For all these reasons and more, teaching teens the tools they need to develop resilience and manage their own emotions is life-changing.
Tips to help teens manage stress
Here are seven tips to help teens thrive when they feel overwhelmed during challenging situations and feel teen stress:
1. Manage your mind
Your mindset is one of the most critical factors in determining your reaction to life stressors.
Your thoughts create your reality. This means that your thoughts create your feelings, which lead to behaviors. And, you guessed it: Behaviors can have consequences.
So, if your teen has academic challenges, try helping them manage stress by asking how they would like to feel.
Maybe they say ‘hopeful’ or ‘confident.’ Then, ask them what they need to think or believe in order to create those feelings instead.
Perhaps they’ll realize this: “I know I can ask my teacher for extra help which would increase my understanding of the topic.”
If your teen has the automatic thought of “someone doesn’t like me,” ask them how they would rather feel when rejected. (It’s important to note that rejection is part of life.) Your teen will obviously not want to be excluded, but perhaps you can help them feel more neutral when they experience exclusion. Remind them that they are enough just as they are.
If you want to help them tap into their feelings even more, try EFT/Tapping.
Or, learn about how to introduce mindfulness to kids in the digital age!
Teens need to feel seen and understood in order to create a solid foundation for authentic connection.
So, be curious, open, accepting, and loving when your teen expresses that she feels stressed or overwhelmed.
Many teens feel a pervasive sense of being “less than” and “not good enough”. Let them know their self-worth does not depend solely on their accomplishments. They should know they are loved for who they are rather than what they do.
Validate their emotions and experience by saying, “I get it,” “I hear you,” “Tell me more.” When they have finished, ask them if they want your help with problem-solving.
Many studies show that the practice of yoga (both physical movement and mindful breathing) help reduce teenage anxiety.
Yoga helps you relax and provides a space away from both social and school pressures. It creates an awareness, allowing teens to accept and appreciate their bodies. Yoga can also help increase self-esteem. To top it off, yoga stretching and deep breathing helps you de-stress and provides an overall sense of calm.
Maybe even you can learn how to teach kids yoga or teen yoga!
Want to learn more?
✅Check out this simple, one-hour online course ? Tried and True Techniques for Teaching Yoga to Tweens and Teens!
In conjunction with yoga and mindfulness, meditation helps kids notice and interrupt negative thinking. This in turn helps tweens and teens manage stress.
Teaching teens to witness their thoughts without getting attached to them can be life-changing. Our thoughts are simply stories that we make up in our minds.
Meditation improves focus and concentration so teens can focus on homework and perform better on exams. It also helps with self-esteem and memory, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, and helps boost the immune system.
To introduce your teen to meditation, check out this simple online teen yoga and teen mindfulness course:
If your teen is practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness techniques, getting more sleep is a natural by-product.
Yoga can help improve sleep because the stretches, yoga asanas and deep breathing techniques initiate a relaxation response, helping you sleep more deeply. In fact, studies show that a calmer mind helps enhance productivity the next day.
6. Limit screen time
Research finds that more hours of screen time are associated with lower well-being in children ages two to 17.
Adolescents who spent more than seven hours a day on screens were twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression as those spending just one hour on screens.
So, figure out how to limit phone time for teens and curb screen habits.
Want more inspo? Here are some great tips for ‘Raising Mindful Kids in the Digital Age’!
7. Find help
Your teen should have at least one trusted adult in their life for guidance and support – in addition to you.
Discuss possible resources. For example, a school counselor, life coach, or therapist may be a great source of support for your teen.
Are you ready to help teens manage stress?
While you cannot predict how teens will experience stress, it’s important to have tools to help them manage challenges they face in life.
And remember: If you are a parent, tell your teens that they are enough and you love them. If you’re a teacher or teach kids yoga, tell teens they are important and encourage them to be themselves.
Teens are listening, even when we think they’re not.
Editor’s note: If you want to learn more about teaching yoga and mindfulness to kids and teens ✅Grab Our Free Ebook Here!✅
About the writer: Pamela Willsey, founder of Willsey Connections, is a licensed psychotherapist, certified life coach, and best-selling author of Packing For Success: A Thrival Guide For Young Women Navigating Life’s Transitions. Willsey’s Boston-based company specializes in helping bridge the gap between surviving and thriving by equipping young women with the tools to navigate adolescence, the transition to college, and beyond. You can reach her directly at www.willseyconnections.com