Stress is the body’s natural response to pressure. When you are in a risky situation, your heart rate increases, your start breathing faster, your blood pressure rises, muscles are tensed, pupils are dilated – in short, you are ready for action. But sometimes the body feels stress in relation to long-lasting events. This ongoing, low-level stress can leave you feeling worn out and overwhelmed. It may even make you more susceptible to illness. Many teenagers experience ongoing stress, frequently because of the demands of schoolwork and exams, but sometimes because of personal relationships or social pressures, too. Here are some ideas that you can introduce to help your teen cope better with stress – and start feeling better.
- Keep active Getting regular physical activity will help keep your teen fit, improve energy levels and boost confidence as well as reducing stress levels. If you really want to encourage your teen to exercise, you’ll need to get stuck into some physical activity yourself!
- Encourage a regular sleep routine (even on weekends) A good night’s sleep is important for maintaining your teen’s health. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, makes it hard to learn and concentrate, as well as contributing to poor diet choices. Consistent bedtimes make it easier to fall asleep, so encourage a regular sleep routine through the week and across the weekends. Don’t be concerned if your son or daughter is going to bed later these days, as sleep patterns really do shift in adolescence, but keep in mind that around nine hours of quality sleep is ideal for teenagers.
- Encourage fresh air on weekend mornings It’s natural for your teen to want to sleep in on the weekends, but try to encourage her to get outside for some fresh air in the mornings. A dose of sunlight will help to regulate her body’s sleep patterns, even if she’s getting up later than she would on a weekday morning.
- Teach time management Poor organisation can lead to overwhelming and stressful situations – like working till dawn to get an assignment in on time. Encourage your teen to tackle the “have-tos” (like homework, personal hygiene and exercise) before moving on to the “want-tos” (including screen time and social activities). Teaching your daughter how to breakdown big tasks into a series of smaller tasks can also help to reduce stress.
- Cut back on the extracurricular Families everywhere struggle to keep up with their weekly routines. It’s important that your teen keeps up with schoolwork and has some regular sport or exercise, but perhaps there are other things that can be dropped from her schedule. Sit down and have a talk to see what can be culled – perhaps just for a term or two.
- Stay in contact A positive relationship with you will do a lot for your teen’s mental health and ability to manage stress. Keep up the conversations in the car, at breakfast and over the dinner table. Schedule some one-on-one time every few weeks or even more. Spending time together will give your teen an opportunity to discuss issues with you if she wants to, and it will also give you a chance to monitor how she is coping with all the challenges of adolescence.
- Get help when you need it If you are worried about your child, or think that your child would speak more freely to an outsider than to you, consider getting some professional help. Speak to your GP for advice, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.