Seventeen-year-old Marissa is juggling many roles. She has a demanding part-time job, plays two varsity sports, is studying for the SATs, and is trying to decide where to go to college and how to pay for it. She also has a term paper and an Internet project due this week, needs to find a date and a dress for the prom, is worried that she has gained five pounds, and is afraid that her best friend is mad at her. While Marissa used to feel confident and excited by life's challenges, she has recently been feeling overwhelmed, out of control and "stressed out."
Marissa's story is typical of the daily pressures teens face.
"Stress" is defined as the way our bodies and minds react to life changes. Since adolescence is a period of significant change, including physical, emotional, social, and academic changes, many teens are under more stress than at any other time of life.
Teenage Stress Factors
It is very important for teens to learn to handle stress, as long-term build-up of stress that is not handled effectively may lead to problems, including physical illness, anxiety or depression, which call for professional help.
Teenage "Stress Overload" Signs:
Our body's natural reaction to life events that we perceive as overwhelming is the "fight or flight" response, which may produce a faster heart rate, increased blood flow, shallow breathing, a sense of dread and a desire to escape. However, teens can teach themselves to perceive life challenges as being within their control and can even change their body's reactions to such events, promoting a lower heart rate, deeper breathing, clearer thinking and feelings of calmness and control. There are many stress management skills that promote the relaxation response.
Stress Management Skills for Teens
Source: This article was originally published in Rhode Island Family Guide.