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A mother consoling her stressed teenage daughter.

A Parent’s Guide for Managing Teenage Stress

Stress is something that everyone experiences at some point, but not everyone knows how to handle it. When you’re dealing with a stressed teen, they might look to you for advice on how to manage their stress levels. Use this guide on managing teenage stress so that you can help your teenager cope. Learn what you can do to help as their parent and discover stress management techniques for teens that they can do on their own.

What Is Stress?

Stress is a human body reaction that occurs when the body produces physical and mental responses to outside challenges, also known as stressors.1 When your teen is stressed, they might notice a change in their heart rate, breathing, vision and more.1 The body’s nervous system adjusts how it operates when it’s dealing with stress.1 Stress is a subjective condition, and your teen is the only one that can determine if they’re stressed and to what extent they feel stressed.1

There are two types of stress your teen could be experiencing:2

  1. Acute stress. Acute stress is a short-term stress that goes away quickly. This type of stress helps your teenager manage dangerous situations. Your teen might experience acute stress when they’re trying something new or exciting as well.
  2. Chronic stress. Chronic stress is a more long-term stress. This type of stress usually lasts weeks or months. If your teen is experiencing chronic stress for too long, they might not realize that it’s a problem anymore. Chronic stress can also lead to your teen having health problems.

Causes of Teenage Stress

Your teen experiences stress just like adults do. If they find themselves in a dangerous, painful or overwhelming situation, that can cause them to feel stressed. Other common causes of stressed teens are:3,4

  1. Worrying about homework, tests or grades
  2. Juggling responsibilities between school, home and extracurricular activities
  3. Dealing with peer pressure and bullying
  4. Going through body changes
  5. Feeling self-conscious
  6. Living in an unsafe home or neighborhood
  7. Watching parents go through a divorce
  8. Moving to a new city
  9. Experiencing homelessness
  10. Transferring to a new school
  11. Dealing with the effects of family financial trouble
  12. Getting into college

Signs of a Stressed Teen

Your teen might not tell you if they’re stressed, and they might not recognize that they’re stressed. It’s important to know possible signs of a stressed teen. Some of these signs you should learn to recognize in your stressed teen are:4

  1. Easily angry or irritable
  2. Cries a lot
  3. Withdraws from family and friends
  4. Withdraws from activities
  5. Has trouble sleeping
  6. Sleeps too much
  7. Eats too much
  8. Doesn’t eat enough
  9. Experiences headaches
  10. Suffers from stomach pains
  11. Seems more tired than usual
  12. Has been using drugs or drinking alcohol

Symptoms Your Stressed Teen Might Experience

If your teen experiences chronic stress for too long, they might start experiencing other health issues. Stress can put your teen at a higher risk for:2

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Heart disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. Obesity
  5. Depression
  6. Anxiety
  7. Menstrual problems
  8. Skin problems, such as acne, cold sores or eczema

If your teen already manages a health condition, chronic stress can also worsen their symptoms.2

Stress Management Techniques for Teens

Managing teenage stress can be difficult, so your teen might need your help figuring out ways to relax more. But there’s no need to worry because there are different stress management techniques for teens that you can do with them and that they can do by themselves.

How You Can Help Your Stressed Teen

You can play an important part in helping your stressed teen. Helping them manage their stress levels can ensure they’re taking steps in the right direction to relax more. Some things you can do with your stressed teen are:4

  1. Spend time with them. Take part in your teen’s school activities or extracurricular activities. Invite them to a game, concert, play or other show that they’re interested in. Even if your teen declines your invitation, keep trying to find simple ways to spend time and socialize with them.
  2. Practice active listening. Actively listen to your stressed teen when they vent to you. It’s okay to ask questions when allowed, but don’t interrupt them or assume things that they didn’t say. This can encourage your teen to talk to you and discuss what’s causing them to feel stressed.
  3. Exercise with them. Regular exercise can help stress levels and help prevent other health issues, such as obesity and diabetes. Encourage your teen to exercise by joining a sports team or physical activity at their school. Invite them to do yoga, wall climbing, swimming, dancing or hiking with you.
  4. Buy products that help your teen with temporary stressors. There are over-the-counter products you can buy your teen to help them deal with menstrual problems and skin issues that stress can cause. Creams, like Abreva’s Cold Sore Cream, can help your teen heal cold sores that stress can cause.5 Abreva is indicated for teens aged twelve and older.
  5. Stock your fridge with healthy foods. While stressed teens might want to snack on unhealthy foods, such as potato chips and soda, it’s important to encourage them to eat healthier options. Fill your fridge with veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins. Healthy foods can help stress levels and any issues with high blood pressure or diabetes.
  6. Empower your teen to solve their own problems. It might be hard to see your teen stressed, but it’s important to show them how to manage stress on their own. Instead of trying to solve your teen’s problems, work with them to come up with solutions and let them be the ones to plan the next steps they should take. This will teach them how to manage their stress when you’re not immediately available to help them. 

What Your Teen Can Do to Cope with Stress

Equip your teen with stress management techniques that they can do when you’re not around them. Some stress management techniques for teens are:3

  1. Exercise daily
  2. Eat healthy foods regularly
  3. Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night
  4. Avoid caffeine because it can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation
  5. Avoid using recreational drugs
  6. Avoid drinking alcohol
  7. Practice being assertive when discussing feelings
  8. Challenge negative thoughts by replacing them with neutral or positive thoughts
  9. Build a network of positive-thinking friends who can help with stress levels

Managing teen stress can be difficult, but it can be easier if the proper stress management techniques are used. As a parent, you can play an important part in helping your stressed teen manage their symptoms.

SOURCE

  1. Stress. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress. Accessed 3/23/22.
  2. Stress and your health. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm. Accessed 3/23/22.
  3. Stress Management and Teens. American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Helping-Teenagers-With-Stress-066.aspx. Accessed 3/23/22.
  4. Help your teen cope with stress. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000814.htm.. Accessed 3/23/22
  5. Neuronal hyperexcitability is a DLK-dependent trigger of herpes simplex virus reactivation that can be induced by IL-1. eLife Sciences. https://elifesciences.org/articles/58037  Accessed 6/9/2022.