Let’s face it: The teen years can be stressful! Between schoolwork, sports, extracurricular activities, friends, applying for college, applying for jobs, dating, household responsibilities… for a teen, there’s always something to be concerned about. In addition to all of that, the task of growing up is looming for adolescents, and that alone is stressful. If you have a stressed-out teen, it’s important that he or she learns some stress management techniques. Handling stress in a healthy way will pave the way for a smoother ride into adulthood, and it also might help prevent some of the less-healthy ways that some teens deal with stress. Make sure your teenager is aware of the following stress management techniques that just might save the day.
One of the stress management techniques is to exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress for several reasons. First, it helps burn off adrenaline that is made during stressful times. If you’ve ever gotten that feeling that you need to pace or do something when under stress, you know how antsy and uncomfortable extra “fight or flight” hormones can make you feel. A brisk walk or a run can make your teen feel better. Secondly, exercise improves overall health, which makes it easier for us to deal with emotional and physical stress.
Another of the stress management techniques is to get a healthy amount of sleep each night. Teens are notoriously deficient on sleep, partially because their circadian rhythms are changing and their bodies tell them to stay up late. Unfortunately, the alarm clock tells them to get up early for school, so they don’t get all of the sleep they need. Getting enough sleep will help your teen stay on a more even keel when confronted with stress. Encourage earlier bedtimes and allow them to sleep in on the weekends when they can.
#3. A Healthy Diet
Like sleep and exercise, eating healthfully is something your teen should try to do on a daily basis to boost his or her health, including mental health. Eating a lot of salty and sugary foods (which many teens tend to do) can not only cause physical health problems, but they can cause fluctuations in the way we feel and deal with stress. Encourage your teen to eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein and dairy products, and whole grains.
Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breathing for a few minutes. Another popular type of meditation is to use progressive relaxation, where you tighten up and then release each muscle group of the body in a sequence. Your teen might not think of meditation on his or her own, but it can help bring awareness back to the body when the mind is racing. Also, it can slow down breathing and the heart rate, which nips anxiety and panic in the bud. If your teen doesn’t know where to begin, suggest that they check out free resources for meditation videos.
#5. Being Thankful
It might sound cliché, but being thankful for what you have often makes stress feel less, well, stressful. Having your teen name something he or she is thankful for each day can get them into a more positive frame of mind. Try incorporating this into something the whole family participates in — around the dinner table, maybe. Or if your teen isn’t into public declarations of thanks, encourage them to write it down regularly in a gratitude journal.
Speaking of gratitude journals, journaling is a great way to relieve stress. When we write out the things that are weighing heavily on our minds, it gives our brains permission to forget about them for a while. Also, it can be therapeutic to read through old entries and think about how far we’ve come since then. Consider giving your teen an appealing journal and a new pen, and encourage them to make good use of the new items.
#7. Get a Pet
Do you have a furry, scaly, or feathered friend? Pets are great stress relievers. Depending on the type of pet, they might be happy to cuddle when their owner is feeling stressed and blue. Dogs can often detect negative feelings and will snuggle up for a few wet kisses and a warm head on your lap. Even if your pet is a fish or something not quite cuddly, just having something to take care of can relieve stress. If you do have pets, ask your teen to commit to some of their care. Maybe he or she would like to take the dog for a nightly walk or could brush the cat each afternoon. These types of activities can melt away stress and tension.
#8. Fun With Friends
When you’re under a lot of stress, sometimes you just need to forget about it and go see a movie or have dinner with a friend. Your teen is no different! When the burdens of daily life start getting him or her down, encourage them to gather up a few friends at home or for an outing! They might want to play a game of football in the backyard, catch a game on television (or at the field!), have girlfriends over for a nail-painting party, go out for pizza, or go fishing. A few hours away can do wonders for your teen’s mood, and they can come back refreshed and ready to focus again.
#9. Talk to Someone
Let your teen know that you’re always there for when they want to talk. Try to identify a few other adults for your teen to confide in, in case he or she is shy coming to you about a certain problem or for the times that you’re unavailable. His or her other parent, a trusted teacher, or a family friend might be the answer. Remember that professional help can help, too; there’s absolutely no shame in seeing a counselor or therapist when stress starts to get the better of you. Make sure you convey that to your teenager!
Learning these stress management techniques now will help your teen navigate the rough waters of life as they come up. Encourage an open line of communication, and help your teen make healthy choices and find good ways to manage stress. They will thank you for it later when they have these necessary stress management techniques at their disposal to better handle difficult times.