Helping Your Teen Deal With Stress

Stress is a very real threat for teenagers. It comes from a variety of areas – a heavy academic load, family conflicts, the desire to fit in with peers, managing a love and social life, as well as the assault of hormones on their emotions. Teens may be ill-prepared to deal with these stressors. Consequently, stressed out teens are more vulnerable to drug or substance abuse, depression, and the downward slope towards becoming a troubled teen.

Undoubtedly, teens need the presence and support of their parents. Parents can proactively craft a stress management program to help equip their teens with healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are some things you can incorporate in your stress management toolbox:

–          Provide a loving atmosphere. Teens are filled with a lot of self-doubt, fears and negative thinking. “What will my friends think?” “Everyone is on my case!” “I hate my life!” As parents, you may be the main recipients of the backlash of these feelings. However, remain committed to providing an environment where your teen knows that he is loved unconditionally. Remind him that you will always be there for him. As they say, one of the best ways to spell “love” is “t-i-m-e.” Spend time with your teen, doing things that he enjoys.

–          Teach him some relaxation techniques. There are a number of activities that your teen can to calm him down and minimize the negative effects of stress:

    • Thought pattern exchange. Negative thought patterns could exacerbate stress.  Thus, a teen can benefit by becoming more mindful of his thoughts, identifying the factors that contributed to these thought patterns and trying to provide an alternative positive thought for each negative one.
    • Relaxation exercises. When stress threatens to overwhelm, the teen can take deep belly breaths to achieve a steady heart rate and to calm his emotions down. Also, the teen can try a visualization exercise. He can create mental images that calm him down. As he closes his eyes and breathes deeply, he can think about soaking in the relaxing warmth of the tub or while floating in the ocean. While doing a visualization exercise, the teen should focus on using all of his senses. For instance, visualizing a bike ride should involve imagining the feel of the air on his hair, the smell of the grass as he passes a field, the sound of the birds on the trees, etc.
    • Progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing muscles groups one at a time. The goal is to focus on changes in muscle tension so that one is more alert and mindful of physical sensations. 

–          Physical activity. Encourage an activity that will have your teen get up and moving. This can be a sport he likes, some exercise time or a quick run around a nearby park. When stressed, our bodies produce stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. Physical activity will help lower the levels of these stress hormones, as well as the “fight or flight mode” that is brought about by stress. What’s more, the body also releases endorphins after a challenging physical activity. These endorphins provide a sense of wellbeing and happiness in the teen that can counter any of the blues he is feeling.

–          Health lifestyle. Promote a healthy lifestyle for all the members of the family. This includes regular sleep schedules (that helps ensure your teen gets enough sleep), a healthy, balanced diet (that minimizes the consumption of junk food and fast food. Watch out for excessive intake of caffeine, as well as the use and abuse of controlled and illegal substances.

–          Hobbies. If your teen has any hobby that he enjoys and is interested in, provide support and encouragement. These hobbies may include drawing, writing, playing music or taking care of pets.

Looking into Troubled Teen Programs

If stress has already wreaked havoc on your child’s emotions and behavior, you can look into how counseling or enroll in a troubled teen wilderness program. Look for a program that provides cognitive behavior therapy, challenging physical activities, and lots of access to nature. With the right program, your teen can begin to heal from the damage caused by stress and depression. He can also begin the journey towards being a happy adult who is capable of effectively managing stress.


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