angryteenIt’s the Fall and families are starting to get back into the routine of balancing school, work, extracurricular activities, and family time. When I think back to my own high school years, I’m amazed at the amount of tasks I had to juggle! Everything from household chores, to homework; I was a musician so had practices and performances in addition to a part time job. While most teens are not under the stress of supporting a household, their daily agendas can be just as jam packed as an adult’s. The difference is that teens are still developing their coping strategies for how to manage stress. Teens may hold their stress and emotions in check while at school or work, but home is a safe environment to ‘let it all out.’ Unfortunately, the people who share the house with the teen (parents and siblings) receive the brunt of this emotional release. Fortunately, for the teen, their family is also the group of people who will be most likely to love them no matter how unpleasant they are.

It can be challenging to find the coping strategies for managing stress. Having good time management skills can definitely help teens to feel less overwhelmed by demands. We posted on time management last Fall. They may find that exercise, music, spending time with a best friend, or reading a book alone in their room help decrease stress. In this post, I hope to point out some physical signs of stress and highlight a few deep breathing and relaxation tips that can also help.

Physical signs of stress:

  • fast heartbeat
  • cold/clammy  hands
  • butterflies or a knot in your stomach
  • tight muscles
  • trouble sleeping (especially if your mind won’t ‘shut off’)
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • crying
  • loss of sense of humor
  • for some, they may have headaches, abdominal pain or feelings of panic

Relaxation tips:

Abdominal breathing – Take a deep breath while trying to fill your stomach like a balloon. Place a hand on your stomach to feel it expand while you breath in. Count from 1 to 5 as you breath in, then count from 1 to 5 again as you breath out or exhale.

Mini break- Take a deep breath in. Scan your body for areas that feel tense (forehead, jaw, shoulders, etc) and try to relax and breath into these areas as you exhale. Take 2 or 3 slow deep breaths and imaging blowing away the tension as you exhale. Smile as you breath and tell yourself “I’m letting go of tension,” and “I feel calm and relaxed”

Your teen can also consider meditation, gentle yoga, going for a brief walk, or listening to their favorite music as ways to relax. A key to relaxation is to try to calm the body down (but not so much that they fall asleep) but still remain alert enough to think about their breathing or strategy they’re using.

Do readers have other tips for managing stress that they find helpful? We’d love to hear your suggestions!