Stress Management Techniques for TeenagersShelby Wall
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation faces another crisis. Today’s teenagers report stress levels on par with adults—a new phenomenon in the field of psychology. Why is Gen Z so overwhelmed, and what can we do to help them? Read on for more information about stress management techniques for teenagers.
Teen Mental Health ER Visits Increase Over 30%
Youth mental health has become a public emergency in the U.S. Between 2019 and 2020, emergency rooms saw a 31% increase in visits related to teenage mental health issues. Most were for adolescents aged 12 and 17, with female patients making up the majority. In a report outlining this phenomenon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a few possible explanations:
- Most teens receive mental health services through community agencies, like schools.
- The increase in visits may reflect pandemic-related stress.
- These may be unintended consequences of mitigation measures (social distancing, sheltering in place).
- Modified access to mental health services may have disrupted schedules.
- Many mental health disorders begin in childhood.
- Existing mental health problems were intensified by pandemic stress and changes to routine.
Stress in Teens: Contributing Factors and Consequences
This last point reflects a key concern: when a young person with anxiety or depression encounters a high-stress situation, they may experience a mental health emergency. The pandemic provided a clear illustration of what happens when adolescents live with chronic stress. While schools have returned to in-person learning and concerns about the virus have subsided, teenagers still report high stress levels. What is overwhelming them in 2022?
The American Institute of Stress lists the following factors:
- Low self-esteem and negative self-concept
- Puberty and bodily changes
- Interpersonal clashes with classmates or friends
- Feeling unsafe at home, in their communities, or at school
- Divorce, separation, or parental conflict
- Loss of a loved one
- Finals, midterms, and other tests
- Financial strain at home
- Major life events like moving
- Pressure to perform at school
- Taking on too many extracurricular or collegiate prep responsibilities
Unfortunately, most teenagers struggle to cope when stress levels climb. They may not know how to deal with challenges in a constructive fashion. Overwhelm may manifest in isolation, aggression, or substance use. Some teenagers turn to escapism—they disconnect from their families, stop engaging at school, and drink or use drugs with their friends.
Recognize that this rebellion is rarely just “teens being teens.” It may signal that your child needs support, clinical intervention, and better coping skills.
Effective Stress Management Techniques for Teenagers
Parents can take action in a few key ways. First, remember that you must serve as your child’s advocate and confidant. Monitor their behavior; if they seem to be stressed, encourage them to open up about it. Listen actively and offer options for solving their problems. For example, if football and debate practice prevent your son from completing his homework, you can help him decide which activity to discontinue. No matter what you think, support your child’s decision.
As parents, we can also model a series of healthy, effective stress management techniques. If your teen reports feeling overwhelmed, take the opportunity to teach them one of the following tactics.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Saying “no” to extra commitments
- Clearly explaining their feelings
- Setting boundaries
- Breaking intimidating assignments into smaller pieces
- Replacing negative self-talk with affirmations
- Celebrating little wins throughout the day
- Trying a breathing exercise
- Expecting progress, not perfection
- Stepping away from a stressful situation to calm down
- Listening to music
- Turning off their phone
- Watching something funny
- Avoiding substance use
- Unwinding with a beloved hobby
- Connecting with their community or faith
- Adhering to a routine
- Taking a break from social media or the news
- Walking around the block
- Having a snack
- Exercising for just a few minutes
- Journaling about what happened
- Talking to friends
- Asking for help from parents, teachers, or counselors
Mental Health Treatment for Adolescents
Stress comes in many forms, but one thing is always true: teenagers benefit from professional mental health care. If your child struggles with anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, or chronic stress, help is available. R&A Therapeutic Partners specializes in outpatient treatment and resource acquisition for teens. We also offer family counseling and parenting support as you work through the challenges of adolescence. Contact us to begin healing the whole family.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.