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Recognizing Stress in Our Teens

Teens and young adults have always faced stress – conflicts with peers, troubles with bullies, academic stressors, changing relationships, and pretty soon they’ll be leaving the house and learning to live independently. However, in today’s society, as we look at the impact that the pandemic had on our teens and their mental health, it’s been a lot harder for teens this decade than in the past.

While it’s impossible to avoid stress in their daily lives altogether, teens need to learn how to deal with these stressors. With our EQ Crash Course, both parents and teens will better understand how to empower themselves to deal with big emotions in a non-therapeutic setting.

Here are some ways you can help the teens in your life while allowing them to be independent.

Learning stress signs. It’s important that your teens learn and recognize the stress signs in themselves in order to be productive and to help themselves learn to deal with stress. When stress hits, it’s normal to feel paralyzed about what’s happening around them, to be unable to make decisions, and to have an overall feeling of uncertainty and unease. Everyone has different signs their bodies will give at these times, but recognizing that these clues are productive can help them cope with the stress.

Untreated stress can take a real toll on the body. Young adults need to learn the signs that may manifest physically.

  1. Frequent feelings of anxiety or depression

  2. Trouble sleeping

  3. Moodiness & Irritability

  4. Loss of appetite or binge eating

  5. Tense muscles in the shoulder and neck

  6. Persistent headaches

  7. Digestion issues and consistent stomach aches

In today’s society, it’s too easy to ignore stress signs instead of dealing with them. When stress increases, it’s easy to use negative coping skills to get by, like eating unhealthily, staying up too late, increasing their screen time, binge drinking or substance abuse, and ignoring headaches and stomach issues. When these symptoms occur, the body may be telling you it’s time to get help!

Sometimes, we recognize the signs of stress in our teens before they do. While you may be unsure about how to approach them, offering solid support can be most comforting. Simply asking if you can be of any help or if they want to talk can open the door so that you can talk about your own coping methods with stress, to not only show them that it’s normal to feel stress but help to give them tools to deal with their own stress in a non-confrontational way.

As you listen, identify the challenges they repeat over and over. Asking them if they want us to just listen or to help find a solution. Sometimes our teens are just looking to vent but other times they want a solution. You can support them without “telling” them what to do by asking them questions to get them thinking through a situation without offering advice. If they want feedback, you can help by giving them suggestions to reframe their perspective. Giving extra support and brainstorming ideas on how to learn from the situation, recognize the silver lining, or how seeing things differently can be helpful in teaching your young adult how to use skills in dealing with stress.

Not all stress is bad. Teens these days want things to be easy – don’t we all? But a little stress is not a bad thing. It can help you be more alert, study more, and be willing to learn new things. Stress can bring on a sense of urgency that can help people meet important deadlines in their personal, academic, and professional lives. Stress can also bring on survival functions in the body that can sometimes be life-saving.

The key is for your teens to learn how to manage stress before they’re living independently from you. They need to know that it’s OK to ask for help from a trusted adult or a professional. Show them that talking to a professional is ok and can help to teach them valuable coping skills to manage their stress and turn it into something positive to help them thrive.

By helping them to recognize the signs of intense stress and knowing where to go for help, you are helping them build an ‘emotional toolbox’ with positive tools so they can gain perspective on relieving their stressors in a positive way and how to deal with challenging situations as they arise.

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