Grades, exams, college choices, social media, fitting in, self-esteem, self-confidence, adapting to a third culture, physiological changes, body image, time management, peer pressure. These are just some of the stressors faced by adolescents and teenagers daily, as they go through one of the main transition phases of the life cycle. Stress can affect physical and mental health at any age and the earlier we become aware of how it can affect us, the better we can be at managing it.
Parents should be watchful of the physical symptoms of stress which could include irritability, anxiety, antisocial behavior, loss of appetite or sleep, or a general feeling of sadness, among others. Support your teenager in developing a healthy lifestyle that manages stress, with some of these tips:
1. Get enough Zzzzzz
Consistently not getting enough sleep and bad sleeping habits over time is proven to be a leading cause of anxiety and stress in both adults and adolescents. At the same time, the importance of sleep is underestimated by many of us leading busy lives. To ensure a good night's sleep, cut back on a lot of screen time in the late evening, definitely don't use your phone in bed. No caffeine late in the day and try not to do stimulating activities too close to bedtime. If you have an exam the next day, finish your preparation by early evening hours and spend the rest of the time doing something relaxing and completely different. Believe that you are ready, last minute cramming will only add stress not knowledge.
2. Build on your strengths
Spend some time really thinking about the things you're good at, and find ways to do more of those things. If you can play an instrument or sport, you might coach a younger friend who needs help. If you're good at connecting people, volunteer in a club or community. If you're creative, take a camera and go experiment with photography. Focusing on your strengths will help you find your comfort zone, keep your stresses in perspective and boost your confidence.
3. Get Active
Exercise is the most important part of a plan to manage stress.Exercise every day to control stress and build a strong, healthy body. You may think you don't have time to exercise when you are most stressed, but that is exactly when you need it the most. If you are stressed about a test but too nervous to sit down and study—get moving! You will be able to think better after you have used up those stress hormones. Some people exercise before school so they can focus and learn better.
Physical activity is the most effective stress buster. You don't have to go to the gym every day to be active, find activities you enjoy and build them into your routine such as dance, sports, biking, skateboarding or even a nature walk. It works even better if you get active with friends.
4. Know what activities you find relaxing
Everyone has one or two activities that make you feel completely relaxed and happy. Make these a regular part of your winding down routine, especially on exam nights. It may be listening to music, a warm bath, milk and cookies, playing with your pet, drawing, making a jigsaw puzzle, watching funny cat videos. (Social media time is not relaxing) Add your own ideas here.
5. Random act of kindness
Brighten up your own day by making someone else feel good. Think of small, easy and everyday things you can do to make someone smile. It may be as simple as saying an unexpected thank you to one of the many people who make life easy for you. It may be the security guard who greets you every morning or the janitor who keeps your school clean. Send an email to an old friend you haven't been in touch with for a long time, and tell them you were thinking of them. Go talk to the shy kid in class. Thinking of simple ways to contribute to an energy shift for someone else, will be a real energy booster for you, and help you handle your own problems better.
6. Breathing and relaxation
Learn and practice a few simple breathing and muscle relaxation techniques that can easily help you release tension and get calm during a stressful situation, like an exam. The more you practice these the better you will get at calming yourself down within a few minutes.
7. Divide and Conquer
A long list of assignments due can cause you to become overwhelmed and stuck, unable to get started. Break down bigger tasks into smaller manageable steps for each day. Make sure you keep getting the small steps done every day, check them off your list and congratulate yourself for moving forward.
8. Talk to someone
You are not alone. It's so much easier to manage stress when you let others help. Talk to a parent, teacher or other trusted adult. They may be able to help you find new ways to manage stress, manage your schedule and make healthy choices.
Parents and other adults should model healthy habits and stress management in their own lives.