Stress Management for Teens

stress management for teens

Mental health has been on a lot of minds recently. Our lives were blindsided by Covid lockdowns, and they changed in ways we were unprepared for. Few lives were upended as fully as those of teens. That’s why stress management for teens is such an important skill set to develop. 

We’re beginning to talk more openly about mental health. We’re also beginning to realize that many of us may need some help. That realization is a wonderful thing.

Not all of us are as well equipped to deal with added stress as others are. Most of us weren’t born with the ability to handle stress effectively. It takes work, and the sooner we start, the better. Let’s look at what stress is, the importance of managing it and some techniques that will help along the way.

What is Stress?

We’re all familiar with the term stress and what it means on a basic level—our minds race. We may notice our heart rate and breathing rates increase. But what is stress, really?

When our brains perceive a danger, our autonomic nervous systems release chemicals to help us respond appropriately. In particular, it releases adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones trigger a sympathetic nervous system response, commonly known as “fight or flight.” This may present itself with the increased heart and breathing rate, heightened senses and sweating we’re all familiar with.

Even though these are natural reactions to certain stimuli, they can be controlled. We just need the tools to do so. To be successful in our stress management methods, we need to first understand the three different types of stress. They are:

  • Acute Stress – This type of stress is the heat of the moment variety. Running late for class or getting into an argument with a friend both result in acute stress. We react to that triggering event, but the stress fades relatively quickly.
  • Acute Episodic Stress –  A more persistent type of stress is acute episodic stress. This may occur if you regularly run late for your classes or struggle to meet due dates on assignments. It isn’t overarching but occurs with far more regularity.
  • Chronic Stress – Chronic stress is a persistent form of stress that often accompanies the bigger hardships in life. Dealing with physical or mental abuse or parents with substance abuse issues are common causes of chronic stress in young adults.

The Importance of Stress Management for Teens

Since stress is a natural reaction to certain stimuli, we will never eliminate it completely, nor would we want to. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. If it’s harnessed, it can actually help us perform better in some situations. But if left unchecked, stress can cause physical and emotional problems. That’s because stress hormones will not drop to normal levels until the stressor passes or is managed. If we can’t remove the stressor, the body reacts continually, eventually leading to problems. These can range from things like weight gain and skin conditions to anxiety and depression. 

Managing stress in healthy and constructive ways is essential to our mental and physical health. That’s why it’s so important that we get started while we’re young. Learning stress management skills when we’re young provides us with a lifetime of tools we can use. We’ll find the techniques we learned as adolescents easily transition into stress management techniques for adults.

In the next section, we’ll look at a stress management techniques list. It will give you some valuable tools to help you work through stressors.

Effective Stress Management Techniques for Teens

Managing stress can be difficult. There are lots of causes, and lots of possible reactions to stressors. Stress management for teens can be particularly tough, as they often haven’t developed strong coping skills yet. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that are very effective when it comes to dealing with stress. So, what are the stress management techniques that teens can get behind?

Understand the Things that Trigger Your Stress

The first step in managing stress is developing an understanding of what causes it. Our brains aren’t yet fully developed as teens, and identifying the root causes of stress can be tough. If we can get past that part, we can come up with creative ways of managing stress in healthy ways.

Some common stress triggers among teens include:

  • Being a teen comes with intense changes
  • Balancing work, school, and family obligations can be tough
  • Disagreements with parents cause familial strife
  • Poor time management can lead to acute episodic stress
  • Exams and other deadlines can do the same
  • Dating and relationships are new and involve intense emotions
  • Perfectionism can make us doubt ourselves

Learn to Recognize Potential Stressors and Prepare for Them

Once we’ve learned to recognize the things that stress us out, it’s important that we do something about them. If we see ourselves falling behind in one aspect of life, make time for it. If we know something will turn into an argument, we can try to diffuse the situation. If we can prepare a reaction that reduces the stress we feel, we have less to worry about. 

stress relief for teens

Develop Healthy Habits

Our daily routines have a lot to do with how we feel. Developing and sticking to healthy habits can have profound impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing. Some of these habits involve sticking to a consistent sleep and wake routine, eating healthy foods, and avoiding substances that increase anxiety. 

Get Enough Sleep

Sticking to a healthy sleep routine is a key part of stress management for teens and adults alike. Develop and maintain that healthy routine to give your brain the rest it needs to face each new day with clarity. Many adults don’t get enough sleep each night, and it’s creating a national mental health epidemic. When we learn about stress management in adolescence, we are better prepared to manage it in adulthood. 

Exercise Regularly

It’s not news that regular exercise delivers a host of physical and mental benefits. What you may not know is that the benefits you get are especially helpful in stress management. Regular exercise is known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormone levels. Get your blood pumping and provide your brain and muscles with the oxygen they need to function at their best.

Eat Healthy Foods

Like exercise, a healthy, balanced diet provides the things our bodies need to respond strongly to stressors. On the other hand, eating a diet lacking in nutrition can actually contribute to stress. Giving your body the things it needs to operate efficiently helps to counteract the negative effects of stress. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which can be a significant contributor to stress in teens.

Practicing mindful eating is a great way to promote healthy eating habits. It’s also a wonderful method of stress management for teens. When we stress eat, we often don’t pay attention to what we’re eating, or how much we’re eating. Slowing down and focusing on our foods helps us enjoy the meal more. We chew our food more thoroughly, and that aids in digestion and overall well being.

Avoid Substances Like Drugs and Alcohol

Many people reach for drugs and alcohol with the intention of relieving stress. It’s an all too common method of stress management for adults. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol can actually accomplish the opposite. 

Alcohol and many other recreational drugs are depressants. Adding depressants to an already stressful life can negate methods of stress management for teens and adults. Beyond that, they have negative effects on our bodies. That can ultimately make it harder for us to manage the physical effects of stress. A healthy lifestyle is a much better substitute for substances when it comes to our mental health.

Keep Yourself Occupied with Inspiring Activities

Our anxieties become amplified when we spend too much time focusing on them. A great distraction is to identify activities that we enjoy and that we can feel pride in. If we practice the arts, the outcome is a piece or performance that we can feel great about. If we tinker with small machines, we can bring new life into old things. When we finish each project, we feel pride in showing our accomplishments off to others. When it comes to stress management for teens, don’t underestimate the power of practicing a hobby you love.

Interact with Friends

Hanging out with friends has long been a great source of stress relief for teens. Our friends get us. They understand the things we’re dealing with. When it comes to stress management for adolescents, interacting with friends is often the go-to method. Make sure those interactions are positive experiences, however.

When we associate with people who are negative influences, they can contribute to increased stress levels. If they say hurtful things or do things that don’t align with your values, they are best avoided. If you find a thoughtful friend group, however, those deep and meaningful friendships can be a huge help.

Find Balance in Your Life

Overindulgence in any one aspect of your life will usually cause stress somewhere else. If you spend all your time hanging out with friends, your work and school obligations can suffer. The inverse is also true. Spending all your time working and studying can get physically and emotionally exhausting. Make sure to take time for yourself and do the things you enjoy. Finding balance is a simple method of stress management for teens that can greatly improve your outlook on life.

Try Meditating

Meditating is a time-honored practice that provides numerous physical and mental benefits. In today’s fast-paced world, taking some time to slow things down has never been more important.

Stress often causes rapid, shallow breathing and erratic thought patterns. By taking slow, mindful breaths, you can lower your heart rate and calm your mind. Focus on the present moment. Embrace your emotions and your core values. You’ll find that there’s relatively little to stress about in the grand scheme of life.

Get Help if You Need It

If stress remains overwhelming despite your best efforts, reaching out for help can be exactly what you need. Counselors understand what you’re dealing with and are experts in techniques in stress management for teens. Engaging in stress management activities for adults and teens alike can make a world of difference. Don’t miss out just because you don’t know where to begin.

The National Theatre for Children offers educational outreach programs in K-12 schools that helps students learn proven stress management techniques. Our health and wellness outreach programs promote beneficial behaviors and life skills that empower students and their families to improve their futures. If you’d like to sponsor one in your community, reach out to learn more about our wide array of offerings.

Stress Management for Teens