Teen & Adolescence Stress
Do you find it difficult to recognize signs of stress in yourself or a teenager you care about? Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress is an essential first step in assessing the necessary support to address these concerns.
While stress is commonly perceived as negative, it actually serves an important purpose. Stress signals our body to release increased energy or adrenaline, helping us to succeed academically, before a big game, or a musical performance. It’s our body’s way of telling us that we need to focus our full attention to achieve success in a particular task. However, when stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can have detrimental effects on our mental and physical health. Thus, learning how to manage stress is crucial for our overall well-being.
Stress, which we commonly associate with a negative feeling, is actually the body’s response to overstimulation, burnout, or an overwhelming amount of information or stimuli that the central nervous system cannot handle. This can be due to repeated stressors without relief, or the body’s reaction to a perceived threat or trauma. Prolonged exposure to stress can trigger unnecessary physical responses that can feel uncontrollable.
As a parent, you may struggle to understand why your teenager is stressed. Alternatively, as a teenager, you may experience stress overload that affects your mood or ability to handle daily tasks. Recognizing the body’s response to stress and the cause of repeated stress is critical for regaining control of your physical and mental health.
Changes in Bahevior
It can be challenging for teenagers to vocalize their stress or emotions before they feel overwhelmed. Therefore, it is essential to watch for consistent negative changes in their behavior.
As teenagers transition into their adolescent years, they tend to explore themselves and strive for independence. It is normal for them to choose to confide in their peers rather than their parents or spend more time outside the home doing activities with friends. However, certain indicators of increasing stress may include exaggerated versions of these typical teenage behaviors, such as consistent hostility or avoidance of parents, distancing themselves from long-term friends to seek out new peer relationships, or lashing out at siblings and other family members.
Emotional changes may also manifest in increased irritability, social withdrawal or disinterest in activities that used to bring pleasure, emotional outbursts, displays of anger, or changes in sleep patterns. Paying close attention to these changes can help identify and address potential stressors before they become overwhelming for the teenager.
“I feel Sick”
Have you ever experienced a stomach ache or headache that seems to appear only before leaving for school or taking a big test? Stress can manifest itself in physical symptoms. Initially, it may be challenging to recognize the cause of unexplained stomach pain, discomfort behind the eyes, or excessive fatigue. However, it’s important to look for patterns in these symptoms. Do they occur at a particular time of day or before specific events? Do they happen only on weekdays? Identifying patterns in physical symptoms can be an indication of significant stress.
Stress can have various effects on the body, including headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach, fatigue, and changes in appetite or sleep patterns. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to identify potential sources of stress and take steps to manage it. Simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, or meditation can be helpful in reducing stress. Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can also be beneficial in managing stress.
Interaction With Others
As previously mentioned, emotional expression can be challenging for teenagers. As a result, it can be challenging to recognize signs of stress. However, sometimes these signs may manifest in unexpected ways. For instance, a teenager may act one way in a particular environment and differently in another environment. Paying attention to patterns of behavior is crucial in identifying stress.
If a teenager is frequently experiencing conflict with friends, or if teachers and coaches are raising concerns about mood swings or outbursts during the school day, these may be indicators of stress. Changes in how a teenager interacts with others in casual, academic, or competitive settings can also provide valuable clues.
It’s essential to approach these situations with empathy and compassion. A teenager who is struggling with stress may benefit from open and honest communication, a supportive environment, and access to appropriate resources. Encouraging them to take breaks, practice self-care, and seek help from a mental health professional can also be helpful in managing stress.
Identifying the Meaning of Stress
Expressing emotions and managing stress is a learned skill that requires practice, just like riding a bike or playing a sport. For both parents and teens, it can be challenging to identify the root cause of stress or even understand what the term “stress” means. When individuals feel overwhelmed, discouraged, angry, or worried, it may be a sign that they are experiencing stress overload. It’s essential to pay attention to negative self-talk, such as “I can never do anything right” or “I suck at everything,” as well as thoughts of being judged by others. These expressions can be red flags that someone is struggling with their emotions and may need support.
What to Do & How to Help
Feeling understood and supported is crucial for managing stress. If you are a parent of a teenager or a teen yourself and suspect that stress is becoming overwhelming, reaching out to a licensed professional or mental health therapist can help identify and support underlying concerns.
Reducing screen time and limiting exposure to technological stimuli before bed and upon waking can help alleviate stress. Studies indicate that overexposure to technology can disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood and self-esteem, trigger negative comparisons, and increase stress levels. Helping your teenager regulate their screen time can significantly reduce stress.
Exposure to sunlight within 30-60 minutes of waking up in the morning can also decrease stress and improve mood while reducing fatigue. Moderate sun exposure is a free and natural resource that can boost energy levels throughout the day.
Exercise in the form of sports, walking, or playing outside with friends can reduce stress through the release of endorphins and excess energy. Exercise need not be high-impact to be effective, and consistent low-impact exercise supports hormone regulation in both males and females.