It was just a few short years ago my son was a teenager and it became some of the most trying, challenging years for both of us. I realize now what I could have done to be more helpful for his mental health, to create a stronger relationship with him, possibly avoiding some of his rebelling, and save us both from experiencing feelings of sadness and despair.
Did you know that the American Psychological Association (APA) periodically surveys for stress in the American public, and since 2013, teens have reported higher levels of stress than adults? And in another survey, teens reported worse mental health and higher levels of anxiety and depression than all other age groups. Wow! Right?
But it makes sense. Teens take in more of the outside world than children do. Neurological changes occur in puberty that draw their attention outward, beyond the family, and their cognition allows them to ponder big issues in more abstract and sophisticated ways. Because they take in more and more of the outside world, what teens absorb is increasingly stressful. And high schools reinforce that expanding view with curricula on current social events. Yet teenagers have no prior experience and few strategies for dealing with this new level of exposure.
More than two thirds of adults and teens surveyed by the APA said that the future of the country caused them significant stress and that the U.S. is on the “wrong path.” Teens had additional concerns: 75% of them were stressed about gun violence, mass shootings, and school shootings. More teens than adults feel stressed by societal issues like rising suicide rates, climate change, immigration separation and deportation issues, and sexual harassment and assault. More teens than adults worry about work, money, and health alongside more age-relevant issues like bullying, peer conflict, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
On top of what teens are experiencing in the world around them, they have other demands for their time and mental capacity at school, home and work. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resources to cope. Some sources of stress for teens include:
- School demands and frustrations
- Negative thoughts or feelings about themselves
- Changes in their bodies
- Problems with friends and/or peers at school
- Unsafe living environment/neighborhood
- Separation or divorce of parents
- Chronic illness or severe problems in the family
- Death of a loved one
- Moving or changing schools
- Taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
- Family financial problems
With so much going on in their world, how can we as parents and leaders guide and direct the youth so they don’t have panic attacks, withdrawals, aggression, physical illness, or poor coping skills like drug or alcohol use?
First, as parents we need to monitor if our teen’s stress is affecting their health, behavior, thoughts, or feelings. We need to be willing and able to implement helpful, natural solutions to reduce stress levels and increase coping skills so our teens can be happy and successful in life.
Here are 10 Ways to Help Your Teen Manage Stress:
- Start with the Basics of Health. Teens sometimes need a parent to remind them to be proactive in developing healthy habits including: exercise, getting proper nutrition, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep! Physical exercise encourages the body’s production of endorphins, chemicals that improve mood. Exercise reduces the risk of depression, increases self-esteem, builds self-confidence and promotes restful sleep. It also enhances thinking and learning skills and may improve school performance. Find activities they enjoy doing and encourage them to do them regularly.
We are the ones that buy the groceries from the store, so plan ahead by keeping delicious and nutritious snacks around that your teens will want to eat. Eating healthy will make your teen happier because they will have the fuel they need for their mind and body. It will help them focus, give them energy for their favorite activities, keep their immunity strong and even keep their skin clearer. Explain to your teen the importance of healthy diet.
Incorporate daily vitamins into your teen’s diet. We as adults struggle to get all the nutrients our body needs, you can bet your teen does too! Try Lifelong Vitality supplements. They are full of essential nutrients, metabolism benefits, and powerful antioxidants designed to help promote energy, health, and lifelong vitality. And I’d definitely pair the vitamins with TerraZyme and a Probiotic. TerraZyme supports the body’s constant production of enzymes critical for healthy biochemical functions, including healthy digestion of food nutrients and cellular metabolism of nutrients to energy. PB Assist is a proprietary formula of pre-biotic fiber and six strains of probiotic microorganisms that supports healthy functioning of the digestive and immune systems.
When your teen drinks enough water he’ll feel more refreshed and awake, he’ll have more energy and feel less hungry, which means less snacking. His skin will get brighter and look healthier. It will be easier to focus and concentrate. He’ll also have less muscle cramps. Overall, he’ll be happier! So, encourage your teen to drink more water! Buy him his own hydroflask or water bottle to keep with him as a reminder to drink more water. You could even include a bottle of Lemon essential oil. Just a drop in his water will help cleanse the body and aid in digestion. Plus, it’s a great uplifting, positive aroma to keep around.
Teenagers need sleep to maintain a healthy body, keep their immune system working well, maintain good mental health, boost their energy levels, help with learning and concentration and store things in their long-term memory. Lack of sleep can make it harder for your teen to behave well, regulate emotions, pay attention and do well at school, and get along with others. Being tired all the time can even contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Help your teen have a relaxing bedtime routine that limits screen time and sets him up to have a restful night’s sleep.
Consider the Adaptiv Calming Blend Capsules that have GABA as an ingredient that helps enable the body and mind to relax and fall asleep, and sleep soundly throughout the night. The capsules helpempower and encourage when adapting to stressful situations or acclimating to new surroundings and are one of the best tools available to help manage the effects of everyday tension, anxious feelings, uneasiness, and worry.
- Start off Centered. It’s important for teens to practice mindfulness. It improves sleep habits, attention span, reduces levels of anxiety, helps regulate emotions and helps with focus and concentration so theycan focus on homework and perform better on exams. It also helps with self-esteem and memory, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, and helps balance the immune system.
If we as parents are not acquainted with meditation, it’s time to start and be the example for your teen. Teach them how to do it or suggest some apps to download, like “Smiling Mind” that offers meditation for different age groups, starting at age 7, or “Take a Break!” that provides short, guided meditations for all ages with music and nature sounds available.
- Create a Workable Schedule for Home and School. Help your teen create a schedule that has some fun and de-stress time built in. Help them also have focused time to work at school, develop their hobbies and skills or apply themselves to a part-time job. This will give them feelings of being in control, productive and calm.
As you create a workable schedule ask your teen these questions:
- What time of day do you feel most motivated?
- After coming home from school or activities what do need the most?
- What talent would you like to develop next?
- What are the biggest time wasters in your life?
- How much sleep do you need to function your best?
- What is your ideal study environment?
- How would you prefer I remind you to stay on schedule?
- Spend Quality Time with your Teen. It’s important to spend quality time with your teen despite the obstacle of work and everyday life that make it challenging. Studies show teens who spend more time with their parents have better social skills and higher self esteem. This can be especially true when teens spend time with their fathers. Giving your teen regular doses of positive attention will help you maintain a healthy relationship, which can reduce behavior problems and set your child up for success later in life. Spending time with them doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here is a great article that shares 50 ways to give your teen positive attention!
- Encourage Fun Stress Relief/Hands on Activities. As we get older we speak more of productivity and to-do lists then we do about being playful. But there is power in being playful and creative. In Brene Brown’s Book, “Gifts of Imperfection,” she talks about the power of fun and creativity. She says, “Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And, without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lost their meaning.”
Encourage your teens to relieve stress by tapping into their creative side. Here are some fun stress relief activities to explore:
- Refinishing furniture
- Playing an Instrument
- Cooking or Baking
- Building or Construction
- Interactive Board/Outdoor Games
- Go Outside. Stepping outside for even 15 minutes can be so therapeutic for all of us. Suggest to your teen to spend time outdoors. Schedule time to mountain bike, go on a nature walk or just lay out on the trampoline. Being outside can offer us grounding, pulling us outside our head and away from our often-overwhelming thoughts. It can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve mood and boost feelings of happiness and well-being.
- Use Aromatherapy for Stress Relief. Aromatherapy is an excellent way to care for yourself, your family and your environment while offering stress relief. You can use aromatherapy in a variety of ways in your home. Here are a few of my favorite ways:
- Create a soothing aromatherapy bath by drawing a bath and adding Epson salts mixed with 8-9 drops of your favorite essential oil, like doTERRA’s Lavender or Wild Orange. (In case you don’t already know why I always choose doTERRA, here’s why.)
- Put your favorite oil into a roller bottle to take with you wherever you go. When feeling stressed, roll the oil on your wrists and palms of hands. Cup your hands together and slowly breathe in the aroma. A great oil blend is Balance and Serenity Put 15-20 drops of each in a 10 ml roller bottle and fill the rest with fractionated coconut oil. doTERRA has some great roller bottles already made for you too! One of my favorites is the Adaptiv Calming Blend. It helps boost mood, assists in centering, increases feelings of tranquility, soothes and uplifts and reduces feeling of anxiousness and tension.
- Add your favorite essential oils to a diffuser and fill the whole room with the calming or uplifting aroma. Citrus Bliss, Grapefruit or Wild Orange are popular ones to use at our house to lift everyone’s spirits.
- Plan ahead. There is nothing worse than struggling with stress and anxiety and having all your thoughts come at you at equal importance. Teenagers can sometimes feel paralyzed and unable to make a move. Give your teen a planner, notebook or journal. Encourage them to write down everything that they feel like they need to be doing. Writing down things can clear your thoughts and help your teen see what truly needs to be done and to prioritize. Here are a couple ways your teen can utilize their planner or journal for stress relief:
- Do a Brain Dump. Write down everything that is in your head including all the things you need to do. Then sort through them identifying what you want to tackle first, then next and what items are going to move you forward. Then review it in a couple months. It is amazing how just making a decision on something (even if that decision is to not tackle it now) can be so freeing and cathartic.
- Plan Out Your Week. On Saturday or Sunday evening plan out the following week. Put down what you hope to accomplish each day.
- List Your Top Goals for the Day. Another trick is to write down everything you want to accomplish that day. Then just pick 2 goals for the day. This helps especially, if you feel overwhelmed, to focus on just 1 or 2 goals.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. At the end of the day have your teens write down 5 things they are thankful for from that day.
- Make Your Home a Safe-Haven. Every teen needs a place to feel safe from the world. It needs to be your home. Provide a welcoming environment, free from stress and anger to your teen and their friends. If the family dynamic isn’t a good one, make the changes necessary for your children’s well-being. Make sure you have food and activities to keep teens occupied in a healthy way. Refrain from criticizing your teen or making fun of his or her worries or feelings. Turn the TV and phone off and truly listen to what she is saying about school, friends, jobs or anything else, and be as supportive as possible. Resist the urge to over-schedule. Time at home should be free from pressure, or full of deadlines and activities. Teens need plenty of time to chill out in their rooms.
- Save time for friends and relationships. Good relationships are essential to mental health and well-being. The presence of a caring person can buffer the cortisol response. In the presence of a friend, challenges feel easier to navigate. Help him create a bond with people that will lift him up and motivate him to make good choices.
All teens go through similar phases — the need for independence, a separate identity, testing authority. It’s part of growing up; it’s also linked to developmental changes in the brain that will eventually help them become analytical adults.
Make sure to communicate in a positive way with your teen! Give them words of encouragement when they make good choices, when you’re proud and when they do a good job. It’s important to balance that out. Otherwise, it becomes ‘why are you always nagging me, always on my back’ which just creates additional stress for them. As you model for yourself and teach healthy habits for coping with stress, your teenager will most likely make positive choices and move through their challenges feeling much happier as they grow into adulthood. Be their biggest cheerleader, believe in them and most of all simply LOVE them! I promise, you won’t regret it.
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