Stress is a normal part of life at every age. In the short term, stress can push a child to practice for her piano recital or inspire a teen to study when he'd rather be out with friends. But chronic, long-term stress is different as it can contribute to a long list of physical and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression — disorders that are becoming more common in youth.
Many things can lead to stress among teens. However, like adults, they can find healthy ways to cope by learning to spot the signs of excess stress and manage it with the right tools. Parents can play a significant role in the process.
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened and usually happens when we are in a situation we think we can't manage or control.
Stress is a normal part of life. Everyone experiences stress, and some stress is OK. It can prepare you for action and motivate you to get things done.
Stress is of two types - Eustress and Distress.
Eustress is what energizes us and motivates us to make a change. It gives us a positive outlook and makes us capable of overcoming obstacles and sickness. Without it, life would be dull as it motivates us to face the situation. For example, we always feel a little nervous right before a race. This stress helps us be alert, focused, and prepared for the event.
On the other hand, distress is stress that negatively affects you. It is unpleasant, destructive, and upsetting. Distress evokes negative feelings when the stressor is interpreted as a threat and harm one cannot overcome. Being bullied, getting into an argument with family, failing to meet a deadline, and public humiliation are some examples of distress.
Acknowledge your child's stress
If your child is stressed, let them know that you've noticed it and that you're there to support them. Responding to your child with warmth and compassion can help them be kinder to themselves. When teenagers treat themselves with self-compassion, it can reduce the effects of stress and help your child bounce back during or after difficult times.
Spend time together
Try to spend some time alone with your teen each week. Even if your teen does not accept it, they will notice that you offered. You can get involved by participating in school activities or attending games, concerts, or plays they are interested in.
Keep an eye on the sleep cycle.
Teens need plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep makes it harder to manage stress. Try to ensure your teen gets at least 8 hours of sleep a night, even though it might be a challenge between school hours and homework. One way to help is by limiting screen time, both TV and computer, in the evening before bed.
Promote media literacy
Today's kids spend a lot of time online, where they can run into questionable content, cyberbullying, or the peer pressures of social media. Parents can help by teaching their children to be savvy digital consumers and limiting screen time.
Stock up on healthy food
Like many adults, teens often reach for unhealthy snacks under stress. To help them resist the urge, fill your fridge and cabinets with veggies, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. Skip the sodas and high-calorie, sugary snacks.
Spending time in nature is an effective way to relieve stress and improve overall well-being. Researchers have found that people who live in areas with more green space have less depression, anxiety, and stress.
Encourage a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy lifestyle choices can often help your child handle stress or reduce its effects. Physical activity and exercise can improve mood, give your child a sense of achievement, and boost their physical health. Exercise also burns off the stress hormone cortisol and can help the body relax.
If your child is often overwhelmed by stress and finds it difficult to cope with everyday things, they might benefit from extra support.
Call your health care provider if your teen seems overwhelmed by stress, talks about self-harm, or mentions thoughts of suicide. It would be best if you also looked out for signs of depression or anxiety.
Psychologists are experts in helping people manage stress and establish positive mental health habits. A consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professionals may be helpful.