How To Help Teens Deal With Stress
With final exams, state testing, and the SATs, it’s no wonder teenagers are overwhelmed. Not to mention juggling homework, extracurricular activities, and social lives. Add in the parent-induced pressure to do well in school and peer pressure to be cool, and you’ve got a recipe for stress. To cope with all that tension, some teens may be tempted to turn to unhealthy strategies like smoking, binge drinking, or overeating.
Luckily there are things you can do to encourage teens to pick positive de-stressing strategies. Here are some suggestions to make them feel less overwhelmed:
1. Help them prioritize. Procrastination can be difficult to overcome, but with a little help, it can be managed. Encourage teens to break up assignments into smaller tasks and set a schedule for each. This will make the workload seem less overwhelming and put them at ease. You can even schedule your own tasks at the same time and reward yourselves together once you’ve finished. Pro tip: Make sure cell phones are far, far away. It can take up to a half hour to regain focus after checking your phone!
2. Ask them to take well-deserved breaks. When teens are stressed with too much on their plates, it can be easy to forget to take breaks. Let them know breaks a totally justifiable—especially when they have a lengthy to-do list. It can help increase their attention span, fight fatigue, and clear their mind. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of reading or listening to music, the break can help put them at ease.
3. Make sure they get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is always important, but it’s particularly crucial for teens. Teenagers should be getting 8 to 10 hours each night. A good night's sleep can improve their mood, memory, and concentration. Share our tips for the ultimate snooze!
4. Boost their mood with the right foods. The foods teens eat affect how they feel. Maintaining a nutritional, well-balanced diet can help them de-stress. When it comes to snacks, make sure they limit sugary munchies. Potassium-rich foods like bananas and avocados can be particularly helpful with stress, because they regulate blood pressure. They should drink tons of water and limit their caffeine intake. Caffeine can actually make anxiety worse.
5. Encourage exercise. Regular exercise helps to naturally decrease stress. Yoga is a great option because it can easily be done at home and at different intensities. If working out isn’t their thing, a brief walk can help clear their head and boost their mood. Listening to music can be soothing and flood the brain with feel-good hormones like dopamine, so be sure they have a playlist of their favorite tunes while they exercise.
6. Show your support. Talk to your teen about how they’re feeling. Are they feeling overwhelmed? Do they feel agitated or nervous? Let them know that you know what it’s like to be stressed and that you’re there for them. Just talking out loud about feelings can help improve them.
7. Suggest writing. Talking is great, but sometimes writing down feelings can be even more cathartic. Whether it’s in the form of fragmented lists or an essay, inspire teens to pick up a pen and paper to jot down whatever they’re feeling.
8. Meditate together. Meditation is a great way to fight stress, improve mood, and increase energy levels. Luckily for your busy teen, it only takes a few minutes! It can be a great way for both of you to take a moment to focus on yourselves. If neither of you knows how to meditate, start by sitting or lying down comfortably with your eyes closed. Breathe naturally, but focus on how your breath affects your body. Observe your chest and belly and try not to think about anything other than your body and breath. You can do this for as little as two minutes and still make a difference in both of your moods!
9. Put things in perspective. Never let teens think their feelings aren’t justified, but let them know that things may not be as bad as they imagine. Ask questions like, “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “How will this affect you in a week from now? A month? A year?” Sometimes things seem like the end of the world in the moment, but thinking long-term can help teens realize a situation isn't as a big of a deal as they think.