Stress in Teens

  • Change is a normal part of life, but it results in stress.  The question is - what is stress and how does it affect us?

    Stress is a negative or positive reaction to life events.  Stress can help some people perform well under pressure; however, intense stress can result in the "fight or flight" response.  Hormones, released by the body's nervous system, increase our strength and stamina, boost alertness, and intensify our ability to focus and concentrate.

    The response to stress can be good or bad.  If the response is good, it helps a person perform better.  Some examples of good stressors include making a presentation, taking a test, trying out for a play, or passing a driving test.  This kind of stress is of short duration and the body's stress response quickly returns to normal. 

    Problems occur when the stress response overreacts, lasts too long or doesn't turn off.

    Examples of types of stressors that can elicit such reactions are: 

    • Being teased or bullied
    • Exposure to violence
    • Injury or illness
    • Family conflicts
    • Difficulty with relationships
    • Death of a loved one
    • Loss of a friend
    • School
    • Being too busy
    • Traumatic events like natural disasters, assault, rape
    • Moving to a new school
    • Divorce
    • Poor self-esteem
    • Financial difficulties    

    The symptoms of stress may be exhibited as emotional anxiety, panic attacks, depression, irritability, or moodiness.  Physical symptoms include insomnia, headache, stomachache, or eating disorders.  Behavioral problems, drug and alcohol use/abuse can also be the result of too much stress.

    Ways to keep stress under control:

    • Keep goals realistic
    • Don't spread yourself too thin over many activities
    • Make time for yourself
    • Get enough sleep
    • Learn to relax - do something enjoyable, take a warm bath, read for pleasure, listen to music
    • Get regular exercise
    • Eat regular, nutritious meals
    • Avoid drugs and alcohol
    • Try to be optimistic, believe in your own success
    • Practice solving small problems, study your options  

    Develop resilience:

    • Think positively about change as a challenge
    • View setbacks as temporary
    • Believe in solving problems and practice solving them
    • Build strong relationships
    • Have a support system
    • Ask for help when needed
    • Make time for relaxation
    • Do things for pleasure
    • Believe in yourself