Responsibilities at home, heavy workloads, relationship challenges and financial concerns are enough to cause stress in anyone’s life. This is especially true for modern-day teens, who, like adults, find themselves living stressful lives full of societal pressures, familial obligations and personal expectations — without the benefit of years of experience and a fully formed brain.
According to the American Psychological Association, American teens experience stress at levels equal to adults. In fact, stress during the school year can be even greater, with close to half of all high school students reporting they experience significant stress every day and more than 30% saying they feel overwhelmed, depressed and sad due to the pressures they face.
As in adults, stress can impact a teen’s health, from poor sleep, nutrition and mental health to acne, headaches, stomachaches and low energy. Stress can also impede a teen’s academic success and lead to risky behavior, substance abuse and isolation.
While adults are often urged to practice self-care — via meditation, breathing exercises, therapy, massage and more — teens are often expected to “suck it up” and rise to the challenge, often because the adults in their lives are unable to recognize the challenges teens face or too busy trying to manage their own. Unfortunately, sucking it up might do little more than add to a teen’s already excessive struggles.
Instead, parents should encourage their teens to try the following teen-specific healthy strategies for coping with stress, all truly effective and most with benefits beyond reduced stress.
Top self-care tips for teens
Blast some beats
Music is pure magic — it can improve mood, regulate emotions, create happiness, help you relax and get you moving.
Go into nature
Dive into the ocean, picnic at a park or a hike on a trail — a breath of fresh air and a dose of vitamin D can work wonders.
Whether with a team, a friend or family member, in a class or on your own, make sure regular movement — anything from stretching, yoga or a leisurely walk to soccer practice, dance, martial arts or a run — is part of each day.
Call, text or DM a friend to stay connected, even when everyone’s schedules are chock full of responsibilities — an in-person meet-up is even better.
Give yourself an electronics break — this means your smartphone and anything with a screen — and use the time to focus on a task at hand or simply enjoy the peace and quiet.
Pull out the crayons and coloring books, sneak your younger sibling’s slime recipe or go on a photo safari in your backyard — art heals a lot, even stress.
Slumber, sleep, snooze, snore
However and wherever you have to do it, get some sleep. You can even pair this with this list’s earlier tip and take a daytime nap in nature.
Pet your pal
Unlike frenemies, pets are always on your side and offer unconditional love. Spend some time with a furry, scaly, feathery or other type of pet to simply feel good.
Video games are an excellent way to take a break from daily pressures — just make sure you limit the time you play and avoid excessively violent games. Board or card games with family or friends work wonders, too.
Write it out
Keep a journal and write about your challenges, your hopes, what you appreciate and what you need to work on or get creative and write a poem, letter, song or play.
Funny animal or baby videos, fails, a favorite movie or standup comic all do the trick.
Like the Scouts, always be prepared — make lists, keep your own calendar, prepare for the next day’s events, study in advance, start assignments early, make plans with friends for the weekend. Your future self will greatly appreciate the effort.
Most importantly, to reduce stress, parents should avoid comparisons with others and encourage teens to be themselves. Not everyone is an A student in every subject, a starter in every sport or headed to an Ivy League school and comparisons can lead to increased stress and decreased self-confidence.
Remind teens not to compare their lifestyle, classes, car, house, family, grades, vacations, sports skills, test scores, number of friends, weight, height, wardrobe or anything that is uniquely theirs with others. When parents embolden kids to be who they truly are and recognize that success does not look the same for everyone, they all benefit.
Learn more about Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital’s inpatient and after-school programs for children and teens for whom emotional and behavioral issues interfere with daily life.