Stress is a top cause of health, psychological and relationship troubles. And while stress often is considered an adult issue, the truth is that it affects teenagers, too. In fact, according to the latest Stress in America survey from the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association, more than a quarter of teenagers (27 percent) say they experience extreme stress during the school year, and 34 percent expect their stress will increase in the coming year. Summertime doesn’t mean teens are free and clear – 13 percent of the survey respondents said they also suffer stress over the three-month break.
So just what is it that has America’s teens stressing out? Research by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Center for Adolescent Health identified five top stressors for today’s teens:
- School work – 68%
- Parents – 56%
- Friends’ problems – 52%
- Romantic relationships – 48%
- Drugs in the neighborhood – 48%
Unfortunately, many teens are having trouble coping with their stress. Young respondents said that stress routinely causes them to neglect home responsibilities (40 percent) or schools responsibilities (21 percent); experience headaches (32 percent) or changes in sleeping habits (26 percent); or snap at their classmates or teammates (26 percent).
In recognition of April as National Stress Awareness Month, Project SOS offers these tips for managing teen stress:
1. Mind your health. Exercise helps to boost your body’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, cerebral chemicals that lend a relaxed and happy feeling. Also adopt a nutritious diet, drink plenty of water and get adequate sleep.
2. Manage your time. Prioritize your school work and household chores, nix procrastination and be sure to schedule time for relaxing and having fun with friends.
3. Ditch the drama. Choose friends wisely, avoiding those who gossip, complain or lay on the peer pressure. This is critical both in your face-to-face relationships and those developed on social media sites.
4. Ask for help. Everyone needs a helping hand, a bit of guidance or simply someone to listen now and then. While you friends can certainly help, don’t discount the experience and wisdom of the adults in your life, including your parents, teachers, school counselors or clergy.
5. Be of help. Psychological studies show that helping others can give you a deep sense of happiness, which is also associated with longer and healthier lives. If you’re a math whiz, tutor a fellow student who is struggling. Help an elderly neighbor with household repairs or weeding a garden. Walk or play with pets at your local shelter. Volunteer opportunities are endless.
Need a little extra help with issues like managing stress, setting goals and establishing boundaries? Visit the Project SOS website to learn more about our life coaching services or talk with your school’s administration about hosting a Project SOS assembly, discussion or instruction session.