Teens dealing with stress

High School students have to deal with a lot of stress.  And stress leads directly to anxiety. Teens have been experiencing stress for generations, but today we have data to back up our concerns and give us a clearer picture of what’s going on among today’s teens, in part thanks to a recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada.

The study done by CAMH  gave us some interesting observations. Despite the thinking that kids today have it worse in some ways than previous generations, the study found that, reports of bullying have been steadily declining for several years, as have reports of teen gambling and opioid use. Social media has not created an apocalypse in the realm of teen psychology.

The one area that has not improved >>> teen stress. According to the CAMH study, 34% of teens report experiencing moderate or severe stress — an increase of ten percent over 2013.

ONE IN THREE TEENS experiences enough stress that those around them should feel concerned.

Know thyself
A central part to maturing and growing up, is learning how to cope with stress. Some people, especially younger people struggle in learning and finding ways to deal with stress.  For teens feelings can feel powerful, even overwhelming, and difficult to master. It’s important, to learn to recognize the signs of stress when they appear. Look for physical symptoms and behavioral changes.  Parents should not be the only ones looking for signs.  Parents should be working with their teens, to teach them how to look out for areas of concern, and to speak up if the stress is too much.

Failure happens in life
Teens might find that failing an exam is traumatic, but when you take a step back… it really isn’t.  We are not saying that these feelings need to be disregarded.  Feelings are feelings, and teens have a right to have them.  But they need to understand, in learning how to process, that some things are not the end of the world.  A test is just a test. Grades are important, as are assignments and presentations and all the other steps on the journey to graduation, but students should understand that failure is a part of life, and a crucial life skill is being able to pick oneself up off the floor, brush off the dust and get on with life.

Feelings are responses to reality, they’re not reality itself
Stress happens to everyone.  It’s a response to one’s interactions with the world, it’s not the world itself. In other words being a teenager applying to university, preparing for the SAT or ACT, waiting for responses to applications — well, it’s perfectly natural to feel stress in response to all these things. But that stress, however justified, is still just a feeling. It shouldn’t be allowed to alter one’s perception of life itself. If it is allowed to do so, then life can seem mighty dark and unhappy indeed. In practical terms, this can have many negative effects on health and happiness, as well as making it harder to succeed in life. Acknowledge feeling as feelings and don’t let them take over.

 Do some good, it might help
One of the worst things about stress and anxiety is the feeling of being out of control, of an absence of independence, even of agency. But some studies point to an unusual way to tackle that feeling: helping others. According to Michael Ungar, director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University, helping other people can be an empowering experience. “One of the best things you can do with kids if they are anxious,” he says, “is not just ask them to do things for themselves, but ask them to do things for others.” A bit of volunteering, mentoring or coaching might help a stressed teen.

Get some sleep!
Seriously, sleep is a crucial component not only of mental development, but of mental health. Getting a good night’s sleep as often as possible is one of the most important things anyone, of any age, can do for themselves. Sleep. No joke!

Get more exercise
No, this isn’t about being thin. It’s about getting the heart pumping and working the old muscles a bit. Playing a sport, going for walks, swim, climb — it doesn’t matter. Exercise works wonder for stress and always has. It doesn’t need to be intense; even a moderate, gentle workout can really help in relaxation. Be careful, of course — don’t risk injury. But try moving around, it’s likely to help.

The key to handling stress is to be open about it, acknowledge it, and be methodical about tackling it. No one should feel any shame or embarrassment in being stressed. Indeed if left alone it can be very harmful, both physically and mentally. Learning healthy ways of dealing with it while still young can be a fantastic, empowering skill that will reap great rewards for decades to come.