In a 2018 study by the American Psycho- logical Association, “Stress in America Generation Z”, it was shocking to read that that school/mass shootings are now a high source of stress for teenagers, with 3 in 4 seeing this as a significant source of anxiety. Worry about the current state of the nation also gives young people great anxiety, as does global warming, the rise in suicide rates, and reports of widespread sexual harassment. That’s a lot to worry about! The overwhelming majority of teens also report symptoms of stress such as depression, sadness, and lack of motivation, sleep, or energy on a regular basis. School has always been high on the list of stressors for young people – exams, tests, deadlines, organization, time management, friends, and money. In fact, an earlier 2014 “Stress in America” survey found that the number one cause of stress was school, with teen girls worrying more than boys by a significant amount.
The good news today is that stressed teens are more in tune with their mental health than ever before and are more likely now to seek out and take advantage of professional help. Here are some additional ways you can manage stress:
Young people now are so heavily scheduled. School all day, often sports in the afternoon, clubs, organizations, fun with friends and then homework. The ideal amount of sleep for an adolescent is at least nine hours a night. Reduce or avoid screen time in the late evening, stop the energy drinks/coffee after 6 and keep your evenings calm. Make your bedroom a quiet, peaceful place that encourages sleep.
One of the very best ways to manage stress is by moving. Explore and engage in activities you really enjoy – yoga, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, tennis – all great options for those who don’t relish team sports. Being part of a sports team can also be a great stress reliever as you both move your body and enjoy fun with friends.
Given there are justifiable concerns about personal safety in school and in social situations, it’s important to have a safe haven. Maintaining family traditions and rituals can bring a sense of calm and connection. Family dinner can be an important habit but, if meals together are impossible, help your family to establish a family movie or pizza night.
A 2017 study published by BMC Psychiatry revealed a higher level of anxiety in girls than in boys, and reported that girls’ friends can be both a source of support and a source of even more stress. It appears that girls with only 1 or 2 very close friends bring less drama into their lives than those who try to juggle 6 or 7. Consider limiting some of the larger group activities if these prove stressful to you.
Social media has exacerbated a ‘frenemy’ culture exponentially and online bullying has exploded. You may not want to totally disengage from social media, but consider limiting your exposure. Share only with your closest friends and give out very limited in- formation – no last names, birthdays or ad- dresses. Encourage connections with friends in the ‘real’ world and remember that ‘defriending’ is perfectly fine. If the cyber bullying is overwhelming, end all use of social networking pages.
Make time to talk to your parents. They care about you and will do all they can to help if they know you are having difficulty coping with all the demands and expectations on teenagers today. If necessary, seek out professional help.