Stress Management for Teens: Coping With Senior Year Stress

The senior year of high school is often a time of excitement for teenagers as they look forward to the beginning of their adult lives. It can also be a time of anxiety and stress as they step out into the world as independent people. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, more than 30% of teenagers experience depression, sadness, fatigue, feel overwhelmed or skip meals as a result of high school stress. Additionally, teenagers are less likely to believe that stress has any impact on their bodies or physical and mental health, or take any steps to reduce or manage their stress. As a result, stress management for teens can be an important intervention, particularly for those in their senior year of high school.

Recognizing Indicators of Stress

If you are unsure whether you, or if you are a parent, your teen, is under stress, the following behaviors are common signs to watch for:

  • Excess fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal from people or social activities
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Forgetfulness
  • Extreme worry
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Unexplained fluctuations in emotions
  • Drug or alcohol use

Managing Stress

Stress management for teens is not much different than managing stress in adults. Exercising, eating healthy and getting adequate levels of sleep are still good practices for managing stress. But teens may also need extra help learning how to cope with life changes. Some additional strategies include:

  • Learn to plan for eventualities without catastrophizing. Teens who are under stress may become overwhelmed and turn even the smallest issues into major disasters. Try creating a plan to deal with situations as they arise in a positive manner that reduces, rather than increases, stress. One method is to identify the problem, then develop a plan to deal with it that contains Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based (SMART) goals.
  • Reprogram the negativity bias. Negativity bias refers to the human tendency to remember negative experiences. One way to counteract the negativity bias is to overwhelm the brain with memories of good experiences to improve mood and outlook. For starters, try writing down positive emotions, gratitude and all the good things that happen during the day. You can find downloadable gratitude diaries online to give you instant access to positive thoughts no matter where you are.
  • Simply learning to slow your breathing and clear your mind can be very helpful in reducing stress and creating space for creative thinking. Meditation can be difficult at first, but with practice, the mind becomes better at it. Meditation helps with focus, impulse control and self-awareness. These self-control skills can be extremely useful when it comes to stress management for teens as well as adults.
  • Talk to your parents — and adults, talk to your teens — about what is going on in your lives. Try to brainstorm solutions for any problems and set up plans that include SMART goals. Parents should not try to solve problems for their teens, but rather help them develop skills they can use now and as adults to navigate life’s difficulties.
  • Eliminate perfectionism. No one is perfect, no one. We all make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. Expecting perfection from yourself, or your teen if you are a parent, is unrealistic, sets up a situation for failure and only serves to add to current stress.

Sources: Out Teens: 4 Stress Relief Strategies That Work Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults

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