Mrs. Jean has just recently noticed her 16-year-old daughter’s frequent emotional instability, her recent moodiness and the obvious flare up or irritation to happenings around her. This issue now seems to be to so worrisome considering that her always vibrant and proactive sweet daughter now acts like a mascot. On a closer look at Suzanne, Mrs. Jean finally discovered that her little teenager seemed to be facing a lot of stress both from school and her relentless efforts to gain relevance among her peers.
It is easy for all mothers to realize when they are stressed by their responsibilities either at home or at work. It is not too easy though for them to realise their dear teenage daughter is right in the midst of severe stress. Why would a teenage girl who at the moment has no bills to pay, feel stressed.
Most teens experience stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resources to cope, neither do they see a hope of changing such situation. Some of these situations might include: School demands and frustrations, negative thoughts or feelings about themselves, changes in their bodies, problems with friends and/or peers at school, unsafe living environment/neighbourhood, separation or divorce of parents, chronic illness or severe problems in the family, death of a loved one, moving or changing schools, taking on too many activities, having too high expectations, family financial problems and so on.
When some teens become overloaded with stress, it can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, or poor coping skills such as drug and/or alcohol use. It is natural that when we perceive a situation as difficult or painful, changes occur in our minds and bodies to prepare us to respond to danger. This “fight, flight, or freeze” response includes faster heart and breathing rate, increased blood to muscles of arms and legs, cold or clammy hands and feet, upset stomach and/or a sense of dread.
The same mechanism that turns on the stress response can turn it off. As soon as we decide that a situation is no longer dangerous, changes can occur in our minds and bodies to help us relax and calm down. This “relaxation response” includes decreased heart and breathing rate and a sense of well-being. Teens that develop a “relaxation response” and other stress management skills feel less helpless and have more choices when responding to stress.
Parenting a teenager who is constantly faced with stress can be less of hard work if parents adopt safe measures which are capable of combatting and reducing such stress. Help that sensitive growing teenager navigate through life’s stress. To ensure the negative impact of stress do not overwhelm your teenager, here are ways Parents can help: –
- Monitor if stress is affecting their teen’s health, behaviour, thoughts, or feelings
- Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading
- Learn and model stress management skills
- Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities
Teenagers also have their role to play, teens can decrease stress with the following behaviours and techniques:
- Exercise and eat regularly.
- Get enough sleep and have a good sleep routine.
- Avoid excess caffeine which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
- Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques).
- Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite, firm, and not overly aggressive or passive ways: (“I feel angry when you yell at me.” “Please stop yelling.”)
- Rehearse and practice situations which cause stress. One example is taking a speech class if talking in front of a class makes you anxious.
- Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.
- Decrease negative self-talk: challenge negative thoughts – with alternative, neutral, or positive thoughts. “My life will never get better” can be transformed into “I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help.”
- Learn to feel good about doing a competent or “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.
- Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress.
- Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.
By using these and other techniques, teenagers can begin to manage stress.
Parents should also understand that, if a teen talks about or shows signs of being overly stressed a consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional may be helpful.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent psychiatry – https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Helping-Teenagers-With-Stress-066.aspx