Today’s teenagers are under a lot of stress: Between school, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs, volunteer opportunities, and family obligations, adolescents can find their daily lives to be stressful. That’s not counting the normal stress of navigating the journey from childhood to adulthood, which is often filled with friendship dramas, dating issues, and boundary-pushing as they try to separate themselves from the authority of their parents. If you are a teen or the parent of a teen, take a look at these seven simple stress relief techniques that can help.
1. Practice Good Time Management
One reason that people get so stressed is that they don’t always have the time management skills needed to fit everything they need to do within the confines of the period of time they have to do it in. One thing you could do to provide some stress relief is to take a few minutes to write down everything you need to do over the course of a week and see where you can fit it all in. Get a planner to keep track of assignments, your work hours, sports practice, and anything else that you have committed to.
It’s possible that you will find that you’ve overcommitted and that you can’t fit all of your activities into your week. Don’t beat yourself up; adults do this, too! Talk to your parents about how you can pare down your responsibilities. You might be able to back out of some things now or you might need to wait until a certain period of time has elapsed (for example, if you’re on a football team, you might need to wait until the end of the season).
2. Go to Bed Earlier
Many teens find that it’s difficult for them to go to bed at a time that will allow them the nine hours of sleep they need before the alarm goes off in the morning. Part of this is an issue with a changing circadian rhythm in the adolescent years, and part of it is that most high schools start early in the morning. You need to be sure that you’re getting the sleep you need; sleep deficiency contributes to stress, anxiety, and feelings of overwhelm.
If you are finding it hard to sleep at bedtime, look at your before-bed habits. If you’re using electronics, drinking coffee or caffeinated soft drinks in the late afternoon or evening, or having exciting or upsetting conversations with friends shortly before bed, your sleep routines need to be adjusted. Also, start by going to bed just 15 minutes earlier than you are currently, then gradually moving the time earlier; you probably won’t have much luck if you start trying to go to bed two or three hours earlier than normal.
3. Exercise Each Day
You might think you don’t have time to exercise, but actually, exercise is a stress relief method and can help you cope with stress better. Not only that but getting enough exercise also boosts your physical health and is a good habit to bring with you into adulthood. If you don’t have a lot of time, no worries: You can exercise for ten minutes at a time, three times per day and still enjoy all of the benefits. You might find time to walk around during your lunch break and again after school. If you are in a school sport, practice time counts, too!
4. Spend Time With Friends
If you are finding that you’re running from school to work, then going home and doing homework before watching a television show and falling into bed, you might not be decompressing enough with your friends. Spending time with other people can help with stress relief and give you a chance to relax. Try to find some time each week to just kick back and have fun. Go to the beach, check out a funny movie, or just have a girls’- or guys’-night-in with your best buds. You’ll feel rejuvenated and less stressed out.
5. Spend Time With Yourself
Another pitfall to the super busy lifestyle is not having enough downtime to get to know yourself. As a teenager, your thoughts and views are changing, and it’s important to get in touch with yourself to learn about what you believe and how you’re feeling. Try spending a few minutes journaling each day; this is a great way to get your thoughts out and to have something to look back on and evaluate when you have time. And no, spelling doesn’t count!
6. Try Relaxation Techniques
There are many relaxation techniques for teens that can reduce your stress and improve the way you react to the stress that you do have.
One is meditation: Spend some time in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Focus on one word, sound, or idea. If other thoughts come into your mind, just notice them without judging and then gently bring your attention back to what you want to focus on. Some people incorporate prayer into their medication if that aligns with their beliefs.
Other relaxation techniques for stress relief include:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided meditation
You can find how-to videos on the Internet if you are interested in these techniques. As for yoga, you can take a yoga class or practice on your own in any location you want. If you have only a few minutes or less, consider just focusing on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly; you can also count as you breathe in and out. Taking a few long, slow breaths can help you gain control of your emotions when you are dealing with stress.
7. Get Into the Great Outdoors
Have you ever felt more peaceful after walking through a forest or spending an afternoon watching the waves and seagulls on the beach? It’s no secret that spending time in nature can be cathartic and relaxing. Did you know that the research shows that nature can also relieve stress?
If you live near natural surroundings like the woods, a meadow, a lake, the mountains, or an ocean, then you have the perfect opportunity to soak up some nature. Plan a Saturday picnic or, if you live in a rural or relatively undeveloped area, make it a regular practice to find time to sit or walk around in the great outdoors. You can also make it a practice to look out the window often or to sit out on your porch or deck. You could also get your hands into the soil by taking up gardening or just spending some time each week working on your yard or even in a community garden.
Many people, of course, live in urban or suburban areas where there is not a lot of nature surrounding them. Don’t worry; there are options for you, too. If you can get to a botanical garden, a zoo, or other facility where nature abounds, this is a great opportunity to see foliage and fauna. If you live in the city and you don’t have any nearby or affordable options for seeing nature, even potted plants and trees that are planted in medians can help raise your spirits and relieve stress.
8. Learn to Accept “Good Enough”
Sometimes, teens and adults find that it’s hard to relax because they are bound up in perfectionism. If you are trying to maintain a 4.0 GPA, work a part-time job, participate in an extracurricular sport, and volunteer, you have your plate very full. It’s possible that you need to reduce your volunteer or work hours or cut back on any AP or honors classes you’re taking.
Adults who live lives led by perfectionism often burn out, so it’s important to learn where and when it’s okay to settle for “good enough.” The teen years are an excellent time to start putting this into practice. Talk to a parent or a guidance counselor about ways you can lighten your load. If you can’t seem to get out of the perfectionism cycle, a therapist or your guidance counselor can help you reframe the way you look at things to help with stress management.
9. Seek Help for Stress Relief
If you are still having trouble navigating stressful situations or even just handling the day-to-day stress that you encounter, reach out for help. Talk to your parents, your guidance counselor, or your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a counselor if you don’t already have one. Taking charge of your stress levels now will help you develop coping skills that will be valuable during adulthood. Don’t be afraid to tell an adult how you’re feeling and to ask for help coping with daily stress.