Best Stress Management Techniques for Teens
Remember that time your heart was beating very fast? You've started to breathe very quickly and it just felt like you were going to explode? What you were experiencing is a physical reaction that we call stress. Stress triggers our fight-or-flight response, which historically prepared our body to escape threats such as coming in contact with a wild animal. Now we face different challenges that cause stress in our lives. While some of these situations are unavoidable, we can learn to practice healthy ways to cope with our stress.
What is Stress?
Stress is a physical, mental, or emotional reaction to a situation or event. It is essentially how your body reacts to something you might consider difficult, dangerous, challenging, or painful. And yes, when your favourite character is no longer in that Netflix series you've been binge-watching, that is a valid reason to be stressed!
But not all stress is negative, there are two types of stress you can experience: positive stress which is known as eustress, and negative stress which is known as distress. You might've felt positive stress before a big competition, before your graduation, or when you have a big presentation. Negative stress is how you feel when you've failed a test or had to move to a new school. Stress can be short-term and could last until a situation like a final exam is over and it can be long-term due to an ongoing issue or event.
What Causes Stress in Teens?
As teens, we face many situations that can cause stress whether it is an upcoming test or a personal conflict, there are multiple events that contribute to our distress. Some of the common causes of distress in teens are:
- Negative thoughts or feelings
- Problems with a friend or classmate
- Divorce of parents
- Family conflicts
- Changing schools or moving to a new neighbourhood
- Death of a loved one
- Managing clubs, sports, chores, and assignments
- School exams
- Poor grades
- Falling behind in school
- Romantic relationships
- Lack of sleep
- Bullying or teasing
- Peer pressure
- World events
- Traumatic events
How does Stress Affect Teens?
Stress can cause several effects on your physical and mental health. Short-term stress leads to mild symptoms such as headaches, whereas long-term stress can lead to more severe symptoms like weight loss. Some of the symptoms that can be caused by stress include:
- Difficulty paying attention in class or focusing on tasks
- Mood swings
- Losing or gaining weight
- Irregular periods
- Headaches or stomach aches
- Dizzy spells and/or panic attacks
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Aggressive behaviour
How do Teens Cope with Stress?
When you are stressed, you probably find yourself engaging in different activities or behaviours to manage your feelings. But, the ways we tend to cope with stress are often unhealthy and can lead to more problems and increase our stress. These are some common but unhealthy ways teenagers cope with stress:
- Criticizing yourself
- Eating too much or not enough
- Avoiding friends or family
- Becoming aggressive
- Biting your fingernails
- Increasing your caffeine consumption
- Substance abuse
Stress Management TechniquesWhile these coping methods might help relieve the stress you feel temporarily, they aren’t the healthiest ways to manage your stress. As teens, it’s important to remember that stress can be long-term and many of the situations we encounter are likely to occur more than once. Developing healthy ways to manage our stress is the best way to reduce the negative effects of stress and avoid unhealthy coping methods. Over time, managing stressful situations such as preparing for a presentation or facing a personal conflict will become easier to handle. Two stress management techniques that are effective in stressful situations are problem-solving and approaching the problem differently.
Problem-SolvingWhen you avoid a problem, it can lead to negative effects on your physical and mental health. Problem-solving is a useful stress management technique that requires you to look at the problem and assess what you can do to control the situation. Start by looking at your problems and break them down into manageable steps. Tackle the smaller problems first, then continue working down your list. If you are overwhelmed by the number of events and responsibilities in your life, you can reduce your extracurriculars. If you are having trouble meeting your deadlines, practice time management by creating a study schedule and keeping track of your due dates. There are several great applications you can download to your phone to track all your tasks, assignments, tests, and activities.
Approach the Problem DifferentlyWhen we can’t avoid a stressful situation, we can change our approach to it and how we think about it. When we are overwhelmed and stressed, we become anxious and think about the worst possible outcomes of our problems. Your thought process might look something like this: if you get a bad grade on a test, you’ll fail the class, and if you fail this class, you’ll never make it to college. But that’s not true! Usually, our problems are not as difficult as we think. When approaching a problem differently, brainstorm ways you can control your response to a stressful situation. For example, if you fall behind in your classes or you’ve received low grades, talk to your teacher and develop a plan to improve your grades. If you're experiencing a relationship problem, talk to a parent, older sibling, or someone you trust. If social media causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend on social media apps.
Developing a Stress Management PlanBuilding a personal stress management plan is essential to relieving stress and maintaining healthy habits. There are several healthy coping strategies you can use to practice positive stress management. When you create your plan, include the four following categories: healthy coping strategies, relaxation exercises, self-care activities, and time-management techniques. Once you’ve included your weekly schedule, stress management techniques, and daily responsibilities, leave a section to record your thoughts and feelings after you’ve practiced these stress management strategies. If you need some ideas on positive stress management strategies to include in the four categories, here are some healthy strategies and exercises you can try.
Healthy Coping Strategies
Listen to your favourite artist or album
Play with your pet
Do something creative: painting, drawing, or writing
Play some board games
Try a new workout exercise
Watch a funny movie
Take a walk
Learn a new skill
Try a Youtube tutorial
Hang out with a friend
Reorganize your room
Read a new book
Watch a funny YouTube video
Eat a healthy meal
Try a new recipe
Learn to play a new instrument
Take a warm bubble bath
Apply a face mask
Paint your nails
Do your skincare routine
Write down a schedule for homework, studying, chores, other responsibilities, and free time
Prioritize your tasks by importance
Develop an after school routine and add it to your plan
Download time-management apps to your phone or tablet