Adolescence today is dynamic and complex. The push and pull of blossoming independence, developing maturity and self-awareness is compiled with worry about the present and the future. It is a challenging path for today’s high school students.
There is a lot of pressure internally and externally to succeed academically, athletically, and socially – in school and on social media. There is a constant concern of failure or not fitting in…and then there is the added pressure of being accepted into the college of their choice.
Most often, the stress high schoolers experience is manifested inside, and not often vocalized – sometimes they may not even realize they are stressed. The stress may appear in the form of headaches, nausea, and abdominal pain as mental stress can often present as physical ailments. When a person is anxious, they may be more irritable, have difficulty concentrating, and experience sleep disturbances. This physical and mental toll can cause them to miss several days of school – which can build on the level of stress when having to make-up what they missed.
To cope with stress your teen needs to first identify they are stressed, then understand the causes and have tools readily available to reduce stress.
Stress Reduction Techniques
Quality sleep is vital
Eight to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot “make it up” on the weekends. The body needs rest each night. Sometimes high school students find it difficult to find that much time to devote to sleep, after a long day of school, homework, and activities. Limiting screen time on weekdays and avoiding all electronics one hour prior to bed may help to increase the quantity and quality of sleep. It is also important to turn off the phone entirely and not just to vibrate while doing homework or sleeping to minimize distractions.
The endorphins that are released during exercise help reduce stress and decrease fatigue. There are many good options, such as running, biking or yoga. Going for a walk outside is also a good alternative to get fresh air and connect with your surroundings.
Talking about the pressures with others can help relate to each other and find a support system. Spending time with family and friends is a healthy way to vocalize stressors.
Unplugging from devices and the internet and interacting with others in the real world helps you experience real life vs. virtual life. The images you see online are typically not real-world moments, nor do they reflect reality. Getting wrapped up in social media sets unrealistic standards that are often unachievable, or aspirational.
Slow, deep, breaths are an effective way to immediately reduce stress. 5,5,7 breathing is a good technique for controlled breathing. Inhale for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and exhale for 7 seconds.
6. Guided meditation
is an effective way to refocus. There are many videos or apps available for guided meditation. The time of quiet and reflection can help to relax the mind and the body.
7. Journaling, drawing, and music can be beneficial modes of self-expression
8. Reevaluate your schedule
How many honors and AP classes can you take, while learning the material well without feeling overwhelmed? Recognize how much coursework is realistically manageable. It is more important and rewarding to do well in a fewer challenging classes than to experience constant anxiety because of too many difficult classes.
9. Stay organized
Try to write an hourly schedule as a general guideline to keep you on track from procrastinating or being distracted. However, be flexible enough with your schedule if things come up and you need to adjust. Try to pack your school bag and lay out your clothes the night before so the morning is less hectic. Writing outlines when you study each night can make it less stressful when it is time to study for midterms and finals.
10. Seek professional help
Mental health is a critical steppingstone to success. It’s ok to seek the help of a counselor or expert. More people than you think work with counselors or psychologists to keep them on a healthy path. Professional counselors can help you learn to identify what you are experiencing, how to identify the sources of stress, how to manage your stress in a healthier way, and how to reduce your stress. It is very beneficial to address this at an early age so that you can apply this knowledge for today as well as in the future.
It is important for our community and families to support teenagers during this challenging time and reassure them and ourselves, that there is more than one path to a successful endpoint. Throughout life, we will learn important lessons through our mistakes. Self-worth comes from within, not necessarily from a “Top 10” school, social media or accomplishments. Teenagers need time to uncover their talents, strengths, and goals. We just need to give them the opportunity for discovery.
Stress Management by Ms. Janice Dawer