Everyone experiences stress. Sometimes it can motivate you and be just enough for you to handle, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Responding to life’s challenges affects you physically, mentally, and emotionally. For today’s teenagers, there are a lot of challenges that put their ability to cope to the test. Pandemics, puberty, changes in routine, parent problems, health issues, worries about the future, and relationships with peers are just a few. And sometimes stressed teens don’t make it easy to help them. They can hide their feelings or resist attempts to intervene. However, if their stress is not dealt with properly it can damage not only their physical and mental health, but also their relationships and their future. So, if you are a teen or know a teen, read further for the signs of high stress and the best strategies to manage it.
Sources of Stress
There’s a reason many look back on their teen years as one of the most exciting, yet also the most difficult, times in their lives. And whether you were a teen decades ago or are a teen right now, you can probably guess some typical causes of stress from conflicts with peers and parents to pressure from school and sports. However, teens today experience new, and in some cases higher levels, of stress compared to previous generations. The COVID-19 pandemic, overexposure to social media, and overscheduling have left adolescents today more likely to be stressed out. More troubling is that sometimes the adults in teens’ lives—teachers, parents, coaches—are often so overwhelmed by stress in their own lives that they can miss opportunities to help their teens, or even actively make things worse.
To stop this cycle, you need to recognize when your teen is experiencing an unhealthy level of stress that is prolonged and beyond their ability to cope, and help them figure out strategies to relieve pressure, provide balance, and increase resilience.
Signs of Too Much Stress
There are several signs that a teenager is overstressed, and they range from the super obvious to the super subtle. With that in mind, these are some of the common warning signs of a stressed out teen:
- Sleeping and eating more or less than usual.
- Grades that slip below typical classroom performance.
- Withdrawing from normal and beloved activities, including refusing or reducing school attendance and spending less time (or no time) on hobbies or with friends. Reasons for withdrawal could range from someone in those activities being a source of stress to fearing failure or embarrassment.
- Having a short fuse so that minor stressors produce dramatic outbursts of anger, tears, panic attacks, or withdrawal.
- Complaining of or displaying physical symptoms such as headaches or poor odor and appearance.
- Using and abusing alcohol and drugs.
Exhibiting one of these signs for a brief period of time doesn’t necessarily have to be cause for serious concern, but if multiple symptoms are seen, and if one or more of them are seen frequently and severely, then it is worth considering that your teen is too stressed and in need of help.
Suggested Stress Solutions
Stress is not something you have to just live with. There are ways to reduce it or cope with it that can help you avoid its negative effects:
- Give Yourself a Break. Schedule break times within and between tasks. Even short breaks can do wonders. Also, if possible, reevaluate the classes and activities you’re doing and decide if there’s one or two that you can reduce or eliminate.
- Find Your Happy Place. Access more positive places and thoughts by having some go-to sources of comfort (e.g. a favorite song, time spent in nature, playing with a pet, etc.)Reframe negative thoughts from inaccurate all-or-nothing catastrophizing thoughts to more accurate or alternative ways of thinking.
- Improve Habits. Try to banish bad habits, even if it’s just one at a time, by eating healthier food, committing to better sleep patterns, getting daily exercise, and keeping up with personal hygiene.
- Manage Expectations. Instead of feeling the pressure of big ambitions and giant goals, break them down into smaller goals. Similarly, reframe what it means to be successful—no one is perfect.
- Establish routines. Routines can make you feel safe and in control. Find aspects of your life where you can implement a routine (e.g. getting ready for school, getting home from school, getting ready for bed, before a class presentation, after an argument) and try to stick with it. If it starts causing problems or not working for you, it’s okay to adjust.
- Get Help. You don’t have to be alone with your stress, and you don’t have to handle it by yourself. Talk to a parent, counselor, therapist, coach, teacher, or friend to vent, work through your feelings, and explore strategies that can help you.
How A+ Can Help
Of the many sources of stress a teenager can face, doing well in school and getting into a good college often top the list. To reduce this stress on teens and their parents, A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers a range of programs to address struggles in specific classes with our Academic Tutoring program, struggles with executive functions such as organization and time management with our Executive Function Coaching program, and struggles with standardized tests with our Test Prep programs for high school and college admissions exams as well as AP exams.
The best way to deal with being overwhelmed is to shift your focus from the storm of stress affecting you to each of its tiny raindrops. Meaning, manage your stress by tackling individual problems. So, if academic struggles are troubling you, let A+ give you a helping hand.
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Director Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at email@example.com.