Stress: Everyone has it. This includes you, your boss, your partner, and even your kids. While stress is not, in itself, necessarily a bad thing, having too much stress can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, sad, frustrated, and angry. It can also cause someone to develop depression and anxiety in some cases. Adolescents today often have a lot of stress, perhaps more than you had when you were the same age. Read on for information about adolescent stress and to see if your adolescent is dealing with too much stress than is necessary or healthy.
Why Adolescents Have Stress
Today’s adolescent might have just as much stress as adults, who are juggling jobs, bills, homes, and the other stressors that go along with adulthood. Adolescents don’t usually have all of that, but they do have increasingly overwhelming obligations at school, after-school jobs, extracurricular activities, and the task of growing up and figuring out who they are meant to be. In addition, adolescents often skimp on sleep, eat too much junk food, and don’t get enough exercise, all of which contribute to the negative effects of stress and make adolescent stress feel bigger than it is.
Too much time spent online can also lead to stress. Adolescents who spend many hours online each day might be as at-risk of developing depression as those who abuse drugs or alcohol. With most adolescents having plenty of access to the Internet via their smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices, it’s no wonder that they are more stressed than previous generations of adolescents.
When Stress Is a Positive
Keep in mind that stress is not always a bad thing. An adolescent with absolutely no stress is not going to be motivated to get his or her schoolwork done or to get a job. As a parent, you need to be sure that you aren’t solving all of your adolescent’s problems; some adolescent stress can help them strive to take the steps necessary to grow into productive members of society.
For example, if your adolescent feels stressed when leaving a school assignment to the last minute, he or she might learn to manage time better when the next assignment comes up. An adolescent who is upset at having spent all of his or her money on junk food and can’t afford to go to a girls’ or guys’ night out to the movies will learn not to squander it all so quickly next time. And if your son or daughter runs out of clean laundry, he or she will surely remember to take care of it next time! These types of stressors are healthy and help to prepare a child to grow into an adult.
Signs of Too Much Stress
Here are a few signs that your adolescent might be under too much stress.
Your adolescent is not hanging out with their friends – One sign that your adolescent is under too much stress is that he or she is not able to fit in seeing friends at all. Adolescents do need to spend time together and sometimes under times of great stress, a social life is the first thing to go.
Your adolescent is not sleeping enough – If your child is not getting enough sleep because they are doing homework into the wee hours (and not because they are willingly watching YouTube videos!), this could mean that they have taken on too great a course load or that other activities are eating into time that could be better spent on schoolwork.
Some adolescents will take on too much in terms of obligations. This can lead to unhealthy levels of adolescent stress. You might need to intervene and insist that your adolescent decide on his or her priorities and back out of obligations when this happens. If it’s a short-term problem, you can use it as a valuable learning opportunity; your adolescent needs to understand how to set limits and now is a great time to learn that.
Dangers of Too Much Adolescent Stress
In the short term, the dangers of stress can be reversed fairly easily. For example, if your son or daughter is complaining of frequent headaches or stomachaches, this is something that can get better once extra pressures are removed. Your adolescent might have insomnia or episodes of anxiety; these can also often be remedied by cutting back on stressors.
Sometimes, however, the dangers of too much adolescent stress are not as easily reversed. For example, if your adolescent develops an anxiety disorder or depression, he or she will need mental health counseling and treatment. Your adolescent might also develop physical effects. High blood pressure can be one side effect of high stress levels. If he or she isn’t eating well or is not able to find time to exercise, they could also be at risk for developing obesity and its affiliated complications, like diabetes.
Helping Your Adolescent Cope With Stress
If your adolescent is too stressed out, take a look at the following ways that you can help your adolescent relax.
Talk to your adolescent – If your adolescent is stressed out, just talking about it can help. Ask your son or daughter how they’re feeling about their various obligations. Find out if they think they have too much on their plate and try to talk them through the process of paring down obligations, if necessary. Just knowing that they have your support can lower stress levels.
Teach them time management – Secondly, try to find a way to help them improve their time management, if this seems to be an issue. Many times, adolescents make poor choices because they are distracted or because they just don’t know how to prioritize. Get your adolescent a planner and show them how to use it. You can also walk them through making a plan for the week for several weeks; show them how you do it yourself, too.
Help them develop a healthy lifestyle – Encourage them to eat a healthy diet and to get plenty of physical exercise.
Place limits when necessary – Impose a limit on electronics late at night so they are able to get enough sleep. Remember that your adolescent is still learning and growing and that they might need you to place limits on their activities.
As an adult, you undoubtedly struggle at times with stress. This puts you in a good position to help your adolescent handle stress while lowering your own levels, if possible. Modeling healthy behaviors can help your adolescent learn how to handle increasing responsibilities and get them off to the right start as an adult with all new obligations and potential stressors.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.