Teenagers are experiencing stress like never before. Their stress tends to be over many things, including schoolwork, parents, relationships and friends. Often, it feels overwhelming, even paralyzing, and it can lead to isolation, withdrawal, academic decline, aggression and depression.
Perhaps our competitive and technologically advanced society is a part of the problem. The pressure applied by educators, and the message transmitted to students, as well as to their parents, that they must perform to ever rising levels of excellence in order to get into that mythical “good school” following graduation, leaves them in a state of fear, or even panic, that anything less will assure a life of failure and lost opportunity.
Today’s world of social media is another source of stress. Peer acceptance is incredibly important in the teenager’s life. To fit in is everything. But, with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other forms of social media, a teen’s personal information, reputation and social valuation can be tossed to and fro, at internet speed, by anyone with an electronic device and an opinion.
Teens are dealing with increasing responsibilities and heightened expectations, but have not learned how to cope with the stress that accompanies them. Teens learn Algebra and trigonometry, but they do not learn coping strategies. They learn Language Arts and European History, but they don’t know how to deal with their emotions or to problem solve in stressful situations.
As a result, some schools around the country are beginning to realize there is a real need for stress reduction training to be offered in the school setting. In these schools, teens are being taught various tools to help them deal better with stress. Studies show that the practice of meditation, yoga and mindfulness can be quite effective in treating stress. CBT and DBT therapies are specific forms of psychotherapy that teach the re-assessment of one’s thoughts about a stressful situation, about one’s self and one’s life, which in turn changes one’s feelings and emotional state, to that of greater calm, hope and optimism, and allows for more effective problem solving.
Our challenge is to help our teens to deal better with the stresses in their lives. Stress reduction begins with a healthy lifestyle, with adequate sleep and healthy nutrition. It also requires a balance of relaxation and fun to offset the rigors of school and social pressures. But, if they also learn some stress reduction tools that they can apply when life begins to feel a bit overwhelming, these tools will serve them well, through their teenage years and well beyond.