Let’s be honest, being a teenager today is tougher than in the past. With stiff competition for college admissions, social media, and increased pressure to succeed, high school students deal with more stress than ever.
Fortunately, there are strategies that teens and parents can use to reduce student stress and teenage angst. Let’s break those strategies down and how they can help.
|Manage Your Anxiety||Controlling your own anxiety better will stop you from projecting it onto your teen.|
|Limit Grade Checking||Limit checking online grades to once a week & don’t obsess.|
|Limit Teacher Intervention||Work with your teen on figuring out together what’s causing class problems or stress.|
|Constantly Reassure||Constantly reassure them about getting into college and how real life works.|
|Help Normalize Feelings||Help your teen understand it’s normal to feel negative sometimes & help them work through those feelings.|
|Manage Technology Usage||Help them avoid studying distractions by limiting phone and other tech use.|
|Healthy Diet||Don’t skip full meals and cut down on junk food.|
|Sleep||Set aside 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of sleep every night.|
|Exercise||2 hours of exercise a week will help you release pent-up energy and stress.|
|Alone Time||Schedule time in your busy day for an activity that you enjoy by yourself to decompress.|
|Friend Time||Always find time to spend with supportive friends to avoid too much isolation.|
|Prioritizing||Make a list of all your responsibilities and outside activities. Prioritize what’s most important to you and check off what’s wasting time unintentionally.|
|Breathing/Meditation||Slow, deep abdominal breaths will help calm your mind when nervous and improve your overall focus and wellbeing.|
|Laughter||Laughter both releases endorphins and boosts the immune system.|
|Progressive Relaxation||By progressively tensing and relaxing your limbs, the body resets and calms down. Great for helping with sleep.|
Tips for Parents to Use
Helping a stressed teen relax is a team sport; it takes both the parents and child working together on any meaningful strategy to work.
Here then are some activities, in greater detail, that any parent can use to help their teen stay calm and focused.
Manage Your Anxiety – One of the worst things you can do, as a parent, is mirror your child’s anxiety. If they don’t make the varsity sports team or score a perfect A in every class, don’t get frustrated and project it onto them. They’re already feeling their own stress and pressure.
It’s better instead to work through your feelings first, and then help your child process theirs productively. For example, if they didn’t make the sports team, maybe help them look at academic clubs or other activities they have interest in and can join.
Limit Grade Checking – Many school districts now allow parents to check their child’s academic progress online. While this can help your teen stay on top of homework assignments, it can also cause problems.
Your child could feel even more pressure to score high on every single assignment if he or she knows that you’re checking all the time. It’s better to check once a week to get a general idea, and see if there are subjects that your teen needs help on.
Limit Teacher Intervention – If your child is struggling in a particular class, talk to him or her first to get their perspective. Too often parents will go to the teacher first, who will usually only have the hard grades.
What they may not have is the background information that explains why grades are low. Talk to your teen first and establish that trust in them. It will let them know you’re on their side, not the teacher’s side, first.
Constantly Reassure – There is so much pressure on teens today to “get into the right school” that they often feel like if they don’t, then life as they know it is already over. Parents then need to reassure their teens that life is long.
College alone won’t determine how life turns out, so don’t worry too hard about making it into the right school or not. Help reassure your teen to do their best and that life isn’t based on one decision made at seventeen.
Help Normalize Feelings – As adults, it’s difficult to remember how confusing and frustrating teenage life to them. However, your teen doesn’t have that same perspective because he or she is dealing with it for the first time.
It’s important then to validate and normalize their feelings and moods, especially in the age of social media. Discuss and help them understand that it’s ok to sometimes have conflicting feelings, as long as you work through them and know that everyone has them too.
Manage Technology Usage – Mobile phones, video games, social media, etc. are all great ways for your teen to get distracted from studying and finishing homework. The key is laying down guidelines for them to follow, without banning their usage outright.
For example, no video games or playing on the phone until homework is finished and checked. Also, make sure the phone and computer or tablet is off for an hour before going to sleep. That way it will be easier for them to get the physical and mental rest they need.
Tips for Students to Use Themselves
Again, the key to relieving stress is working together, which means that teens have to work too.
The following strategies will definitely help any teen reduce anxiety and make life better.
Healthy Diet – Eating regular, healthy meals provides the body with the nutrients and energy it needs to function at peak performance. Eating too much junk food or skipping meals regularly deprives you of the fuel needed to study well and maintain balance.
Especially since the teenage years are important developmentally, a healthy diet will only strengthen you. A balanced mix of protein, vegetables, etc. is a great place to start creating a diet that works for you.
Sleep – Sleep is important at every age, but especially during your teenage years. The National Sleep Foundation recommends approximately 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of nightly sleep for teenagers.
Think of it like this: sleep is your natural reset mode. All the worries and pressures that you face during the day are let go. The brain and body reset physically, leaving you with a fresh, clear mind in the morning.
Exercise – It’s easy to say, “I don’t have time to exercise, I have too much homework and other extracurricular activities to do.” The truth is you do have enough time to exercise. As little as two hours of exercise a week can positively improve your class performance.
It helps release the stress that the body creates as a reaction to adrenaline, which can lead to sleep loss, stomach issues, headaches, etc. Burning up that pent-up energy will clear your mind and eliminate those physical symptoms.
Alone Time – Constantly doing homework, studying for class, attending extracurricular sports and clubs, plus family and relationship obligations can eat up time fast. Very often, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have any time for yourself to unwind and decompress.
That’s why it’s important to set aside time for things that you can enjoy alone, to preserve your sense of space and calm. Great activities that you can do during this time include reading, going to a movie, working out, etc.
Friend Time – While alone time is necessary, humans are social creatures too. It’s unhealthy to spend too much time in isolation. That’s why you should also find time to spend with your close friends.
Spend time with the people who know you like your family that support and listen to you. Sometimes sharing worries with friends can feel safer than with family. Don’t ignore that outlet, especially with friends who you know have your back when times are tough.
Prioritizing – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything going when getting ready for college. There seem to be so many activities and obligations; each one feeling like it’s the most important thing. A key strategy to use here is effective time management and prioritizing.
Make a list of the things that are most important to you and your success, rank them, and see what else is taking up time but not on the list. Chances are, it’s not as important and can wait. Time management not only reduces stress but makes you more productive.
Breathing/Meditation – Despite sounding too simple, pausing to breathe is helpful and centering. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by what’s going on, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, breathe in deep to fill your diaphragm, and slowly exhale. Focus on the inhale and exhale, and ignore everything else.
This simple activity is the first step to meditation. It’s not about being “deep” but being mindful of the moment you’re in, and slowing your thoughts down to be in it. When it feels like there’s too much happening around you, focused breathing will effectively center you.
Laughter – Believe it or not, a good laugh has a positive effect on the body. The physical act of laughter causes your muscles to relax and a release of endorphins, which make you feel good.
Laughter has also been shown to help boost the immune system, which, in turn, counters the physical side effects stress can cause. Don’t underestimate the power of a good joke or funny story when you’re feeling that teenage angst.
Progressive Relaxation – Think of this last strategy as a part of meditation. To start, pick a hand, tense it into a ball, and slowly relax it back to normal. Do this three times, then move on to the other hand and repeat. Apply this tensing and relaxation exercise to both arms and legs.
What effect does this have? The constant tension and release loosen and relaxes your muscles while giving your blood flow a boost. If you’re having trouble sleeping after a rough homework or test prep session, this exercise can help relax you enough to sleep.
Parents and Students Are In This Together
As we said at the very top, your teen remaining stress-free is a team sport. It relies on both sides to make it work.
A combination of this strategies will not only keep stress away, they will also make everyone involved better people. Always remember too that clear communication will keep all parties aware and engaged in achieving success.
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