As anyone who remembers their own teen years knows, being a teenager can be very stressful. From nerves over first dates to pressure to get into good colleges, teens are dealing with a variety of new situations and life stressors during a time when relaxation is the last thing on their minds.
It’s a lot. And today’s teens have a number of pressures and stressors that their parents and grandparents spent little or no time worrying about.
From worrying that their most thoughtless or embarrassing moments could be caught on camera and broadcast to the world via the internet to worrying about the possibility of a mass shooting occurring in their community – or even in their own school – today’s teens have a number of valid and relatively new concerns. It’s no wonder they’re stressed out.
While you may not be able to solve all of your teen’s problems for them or protect them from every possible source of stress, you can help them learn to relax. Too much stress can make it difficult for your teen to function – which is likely to just create even more stress.
Learning how to put things in perspective, perform self-care when appropriate, and relax is an important skill for dealing with challenges in the teen years and beyond, and it’s not necessarily a skill that comes naturally.
Take a look at some relaxation tips to share with your teen to help them learn to manage their own stress.
1. Deep Breathing
Teaching your teen some deep breathing exercises can help them instantly find some calm in any situation.
When feeling anxious, people often unconsciously begin taking short and shallow breaths. This increases the heart rate and raises the feelings of stress even further.
Teach your teen to take several slow, deep breaths when they notice feelings of anxiety. They should breathe in deeply, hold the breath for a beat or two, and let the air out slowly, concentrating only on their breathing.
This helps slow the heart rate and can decrease feelings of stress quickly. Your teen doesn’t need to change position, close their eyes, or do anything other than breath, so it’s a handy technique to use when your teen is feeling anxious in a classroom or public place.
Aromatherapy is another helpful relaxation technique that requires little instruction or practice and can produce a calming effect quickly.
As a sense, smell is often undervalued or taken for granted, but if you’ve ever felt soothed by the scent of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven or cheered up by the scent of pine needles in December, you know that scent can have a powerful effect on mood.
Some of the scents most commonly used to produce a calming effect include:
- Lemon balm
Scents like orange, peppermint, and grapefruit can boost the mood and provide an energizing effect.
A few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball can be enough to help your teen relax and improve their mood.
Meditation takes a little more work and preparation than deep breathing or aromatherapy, but it can be very beneficial for people who need a calmer and more focused mindset, especially if done regularly. Taking a few moments to meditate can also help teens relax in times of acute stress.
Meditation can be difficult in the beginning, and teens who are used to multi-tasking and trying to focus on multiple things at once may find it hard to clear their minds. But with practice, teens can learn to use meditation to help manage stress and promote relaxation.
Have your teen begin by sitting in a quiet place in a comfortable position with their eyes closed. Teach your teen to focus only on breathing normally. If it helps, they can repeat “breathe in, breathe out,” to themselves to help keep their mind concentrated only on their breathing.
Your teen will probably not be able to clear their mind of all other thoughts at first, but teach them to simply acknowledge the thought and let it pass through their mind, then to return their focus to their breathing. With repeated practice, they’ll experience fewer intrusive thoughts while meditating.
Your teen doesn’t need to meditate for long periods of time – as little as a few minutes a day can help them develop a calmer mindset and return to their daily activities feeling more relaxed.
Listening to music can affect the body’s nervous system.
Many bodily functions, like heartbeat and breathing, operate on a rhythm, and they can respond to external rhythms as well. Fast-paced music can increase the body’s own rhythms, and slower-paced music decreases it.
For that reason, listening to calming music can help the body slow down and relax, which promotes mental relaxation as well.
Music also affects brain activity and the levels of cortisol – otherwise known as the stress hormone – in the brain, which means that listening to music often improves the mood and reduces feelings of anger, frustration, and aggression.
Encourage your teen to find soothing music to listen to in times of stress. Adding relaxing music to their phone, digital music player, or another portable device is a good way for your teen to ensure that they have a relaxation tool handy wherever they happen to be.
Exercise can help your teen run off nervous energy. They may also feel less stressed and sleep better if they’ve exercised during the day.
Almost any type of physical activity can function as a form of stress relief, but it’s important to realize that team sports and competitive sports can make some teens feel pressured, actually increasing their stress.
Encourage your teen to find low-stakes, low-pressure opportunities to exercise. Playing soccer in the backyard with siblings or neighborhood friends may be more relaxing than playing for the high school’s soccer team, for example. Solo activities like swimming, skateboarding, or horseback riding can also be great for relaxation and reducing stress.
The ability to relax and self-soothe is an ability that your teen will be able to use not only now, but during the rest of their lives.
Taking the time to teach them how to relax effectively and in a healthy way is a lifelong gift to your teen.