Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

Teen Stress: How Much is Too Much?

Stress Warning Signs for Teens

"Beep, Beep, Beep..." "Just a little longer." Sami thought as she reached across the bed to hit snooze.  It was 5:30am and Sami had another busy day awaiting her.  After three cycles of the "snooze" she rushed to get ready and out the door to school she went.  When she arrived, she scurried to her locker, grabbed her books and slid across the room into her seat just in time.  "Ring" there goes the tardy bell.  "Whew, I made it again." she thought. 

All of her honors and Advance Placement (College Level) courses kept her extremely busy.  By the end of the day, her agenda was packed with projects, assignments, tests and quizzes.  On top of that, college deadlines were quickly approaching, not to mention she had several scholarship applications due by the end of the week.  

The dismissal bell rang, at last, classes were over for the day, but there was still much to do.  Sami raced to the locker room to get ready for volleyball practice as the team was heading to regionals.  After that, an hour long youth group meeting before finally making her way home.  Sami opened the door to her house and breathed a sigh of relief.  Unfortunately, she couldn't stop now, she still had a paper to write for AP Literature and a test to study for in Honors Physics.   At midnight she finally collapsed...

"Beep, Beep, Beep..."  It was the beginning of another day.   "Just a little longer." Sami thought as she reached across the bed to hit snooze. 

Sami's schedule is like way too many teens today.  It's no wonder teens are stressed to the max.  Is our societal "go, go, go..." rubbing off on our youth?  Are we pushing our kids too hard for "bigger and better"?  Take a look at the signs below and see if your teen might be stressed.

5 Signs your teen may be doing too much:

1.  Your teen doesn't have time to have a social life.

2.  Your teen is staying up late a lot, just to get schoolwork finished.

3.  Your teen is constantly saying things that indicate they're overwhelmed, such as "I've got too much to do." or "I can't get it all finished."

4.  Your teen is an overachiever and freaks out if things are not done "perfectly".

5.  Your teen has a schedule that is busier than yours (school, sports, clubs, jobs, church, etc.).

So, what's got your teen so stressed?  Why not ask?   If you're able to get it out of them, odds are you'll hear them mention something along these lines:    

1.  Academics

2.  Social Pressures

3.  Post-Secondary Plans

4.  Financial Concerns

5.  Family Problems

Okay, so if you suspect your teen is feeling too much pressure, what do you look out for?  Here are some warning signs that might indicate a potential problem. 

10 Signs your teen may be stressed:

1. Poor sleep

2. Frequent headaches and/or gastrointestinal problems

3. Anger outbursts

4. Lack of concentration

5. Increased levels of anxiety and/or panic episodes

6. Overeating/Undereating

7. Increased sadness

8. Social withdraw

9. Irritability

10. Lack of motivation

You know how stress makes you feel.  Now, imagine being a teen going through the same thing. 

According to the American Psychological Association's 2010 Stress in America survey, nearly 1/3 of children reported experiencing physical symptoms that are frequently associated with stress.  About 38% said that they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.  Do they talk to their parents about what's bothering them?  Are you kidding?  Only about half said they did.  Yet 61% of parents reported asking and talking to their kids about stress.  So, clearly there's a mismatch in what kids are experiencing and what their sharing with their parents.

Even more concerning, tweens and teens were polled about how they cope with stress, their response was that they listen to music, play electronic games, or watch TV.  All of these are sedentary behaviors.  According to the APA using sedentary behaviors to cope with life stress can lead to serious health problems.  One of these problems is obesity.  According to the Center for Disease Control 16.9% (12.5 million) of children and teens ages 2-19 years are obese.  (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog - The Importance of Teen Exercise.)

 Just look at all of the things that a teen has to juggle and it's no surprise they're stress out.  There are simply not enough minutes in the day to get everything done.  So, they react by cutting into important times such as social interaction and sleep.  Our fast paced, fast food, society is taking its toll on our teen generation. 

While multi-tasking seems to be a hot pop word, it simply doesn't work.  We aren't wired to do our best at multiple things at once.  We are not machines but rather humans who are going to quickly expire if we don't get a handle on our stress.

As adults, it's time we intervene and teach our teens how to maintain a healthy balance between work and play.  We need to help them prioritize and put first things, first.  Are you putting first things, first in your life?  If not, it's a good time to start. 

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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