Grades, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, college applications,
peer pressure--the hectic life of the average American teen can be stressful.
In fact, the 2013 Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological
Association found that stress was so common in teens--especially during
the school year--that they reported higher levels of stress than adults.
"When someone experiences stress, the body produces a natural response
that floods the bloodstream with adrenaline and cortisol, which increases
heart rate and blood pressure; the pupils dilate, the body starts to sweat
and the person becomes primed for action with an increase in energy," says
Katherine Roberts, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a board-certified pediatrician at
Mission Hospital. "That gets people through tough times, but those physical responses
can cause health problems if stressful situations are ongoing."
If your teen complains about feeling anxious, hopeless or fatigued, can't
manage his tasks, has a negative, irritable outlook, withdraws from social
interactions or can't eat or sleep properly, he may be feeling stressed
out. Here are some things you can encourage your teen to do to defuse stress:
1. Sleep. Generally, teenagers should get about nine hours a night. But teen respondents
in the Stress in America survey said they only averaged 7.4 hours. "A
lack of proper sleep not only makes it harder to function day to day,
but also takes a toll on the body over the long term," Dr. Roberts
says. "If your child's sleep schedule is affected by late nights
of homework, activities or a job, it's helpful to take a long look
at your teen's obligations and see what can be cut back to make more
room for sleep. Kids should also stay away from caffeine and screen time
before bed--they make it harder to fall asleep."
2. Exercise. "This is a good way to release tension for kids," Dr. Roberts
says. "It doesn't have to be a competitive sport, as that can
add to your teen's stress levels. Swimming, jogging, surfing, weight
training, yoga, or even just-for-fun rec leagues--there are many options
for teens to blow off steam."
3. Healthy diet. With their packed schedules, many teens end up eating on the run, which
can mean fast food, energy drinks or skipping meals such as breakfast.
"It's important that you provide healthy food at home--not just
for meals, but also snacks that your teen can take with them to school,
meetings, work or after-school activities," Dr. Roberts says. "And
make sure your teen gets a healthy start to the day by offering a nutritious
4. Fun. "Hours of homework can be tiring for any teen," Dr. Roberts
says. "And if a teen is participating in something because it looks
good on a college application and not for enjoyment, it can be a source
of stress. Look at your child's schedule and carve out some time for
something fun. That could be a trip to the beach, a board game or a movie.
Volunteering can also be a good option because studies have shown it can
boost mood--but again, it should be something your teen wants to do, not
something he feels he has to do."
5. Stress management. "Deep breathing, visualization, stretching--there are several ways
to counteract the physical effects of the body's stress response,"
Dr. Roberts says. "Even just taking a minute for some deep, cleansing
breaths can be helpful, and it can be done anywhere and anytime. Using
relaxation techniques before bedtime can also help your teen fall asleep
more easily for a good night's rest."
6. Communication. "As a parent, you want to be available to your child as a trusted
person he can talk to," Dr. Roberts says. "Sometimes talking
out the problem will help your child navigate through the stress by coming
up with ways to manage it. But remember, part of good communication is
listening--make sure your teen knows you are truly hearing him. Your love
and support are powerful tools in coping with tough situations that cause
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