Kids are beginning competitive sports at an earlier age and playing year round just to stay on even footing with teammates. Qualifying for scholarships and upper-echelon colleges gets harder with each passing day. Over 20 million teens not only go to school, but work at least a part-time job – all of this before you even start to talk about family life, friends and romantic relationships. Is it any wonder teens feel more stress now than ever before?
In a recent national survey, over a quarter of teens reported suffering from extreme stress during the school year. As a result of stress at any level, 40% of teens say they feel irritable or angry with 36% reporting feelings or nervousness or anxiety. Unfortunately, this pattern of stress will oftentimes follow a teen into adulthood.
So the big question is what do you do about it? There are a lot of common sense tips for dealing with the stress in your life:
1. Get enough sleep. Everyone knows the average teen needs 8-10 hours of sleep a night. And every teen gives the same eye roll and argument in response – “I don’t have time to sleep! I have too much homework (or a job, sibling, relationship problem or extracurricular activity, this list goes on and on)!” No matter what the reason is, the fact still remains – you need sleep! One of the easiest ways to get to sleep and get the quality of rest you need is get rid of electricity. No, that doesn’t mean altogether. It means turning off phones, tablets, computers and lights. Giving yourself at least fifteen minutes of dark and quiet before trying to drift off will help your brain shut down and your body prepare for sleep. It also means notifications, texts and emails won’t be waking you up in the middle of the night.
2. Be realistic. It may seem like you need to do everything and be everything to everyone. That is simply not true. If there are too many after school activities, plans with friends or hours at work crowding your schedule, consider cutting back. Make a list of the most important things in your life (one or two clubs/activities or friends who make you feel the best about yourself) and then scale back the rest. The only person who knows how much you can handle is you. Don’t let others dictate the amount of stress in your life.
3. You are what you think. It’s easy to get into the habit of pessimism. One bad grade on a quiz or small spat with a friend can send you into a downward spiral of negativity. Once you’re there, it may take some effort to come back out of it; however, making a conscious decision to replace negative thoughts with good ones can go a long way to lowering your stress level. The more you tell yourself something, good or bad, the more you will believe it. Make sure you’re sending yourself good thoughts.
4. Move! No, not like to another state. Get up and move your body. Whether it’s a quick walk around the block or dancing in your living room, physical activity releases endorphins. These happy little chemicals will help you naturally fight off feelings of stress and sadness. Ever heard of the “runner’s high?” This post-exercise feeling of euphoria is caused by endorphins.
5. Ask for help. This is the probably the most important thing you can do for yourself. No matter what, there is always someone willing to give you a hand – a teacher, friend, counselor or coach. Reach out. Let someone know you are struggling. If they can’t help you directly they will know which direction to point you in.