Under Pressure: Helping your daughter cope with teen stress

Can you imagine being a teen today? Probably not. Beginning in elementary school, young people are expected to follow a specific track- one that leads to higher education, success, and a good job. Because of this, teen stress can seem almost unbearable. Guiding your teen through this stress is important because teen stress can turn into something much worse, such as depression and anxiety.

A widespread issue

A 2014 national survey found that more than a quarter of teens say they experience “extreme stress” during the school year and 34 percent of teens expected stress to increase within the next year.

Nowadays, teens are pressured by nearly every aspect of their lives, causing teen stress to be at an all-time high. At school, young people feel pressured to look a certain way, perform exceptionally well, and juggle academics with extracurriculars. More and more people are going to university, causing the whole process to become extremely competitive. They may also experience teen stress about their changing bodies, and pressure from peers to begin dating and become more “grown up”.

Some signs that your teen is struggling with their stress levels may be: 

  • Irritability and anger: Teens don’t always have the words to describe how they are feeling and sometimes tension bubbles over into a bad mood. Teens who are experiencing high levels of stress may be more short-tempered or argumentative than normal.
  • Changes in behavior: A formerly laid-back teen is suddenly acting out. An athletic teen now doesn’t want to leave the house. Sudden changes can be a sign that stress levels are high.
  • Trouble sleeping: Stressed teens might complain of feeling tired all the time, sleep more than usual or have trouble falling asleep at night.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: If an adolescent suddenly drops the ball on homework, forgets obligations or starts procrastinating more than usual, stress might be a factor.
  • Eating changes: Eating too much or too little can both be reactions to stress.
  • Getting sick more often: Stress often shows up as physical symptoms. Children and teens who feel stress often report headaches or stomach aches and might make frequent trips to the school nurse’s office.

What causes stress in teens?

  • Academic Pressure: As teens transition from middle to high school, expectations around academics increase exponentially. Pressure begins to mount as they prepare for the next stage in their life, whether that is applying for college or finding a trade after graduation. Many teens worry about meeting academic demands, pleasing teachers and parents, and keeping up with their classmates. Poor time management skills or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work can play into academic stress as well.
  • Social Stress: Peer relationships begin to be the priority as your teen enters their teen years. Their social life becomes their primary focus and they begin to assert their independence from family and figure out what their identity is with their friends. Because these peer relationships are so important to teens, peer pressure is an additional stress during the teen years. In an effort to establish and maintain friendships, teens can engage in behavior outside of their comfort zones to appease their peers.
  • Family Stress: As important as peer relationships are to teens, family dynamics also play a crucial role in their lives. The reality is that anything that affects a family can affect their teen. Unrealistic expectations, marital problems, unhealthy sibling relationships, illness in the family and even financial stress can all trigger stress in teens. 
  • World Events: We live in a world of a 24-hour news cycle and teens today are constantly exposed to scary news both locally and globally. Even more troubling, many teens will come across this news through the internet or social media without parental guidance to help them process what they are hearing. This can leave teens wondering about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. 
  • Traumatic Events: According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than two thirds of children reported experiencing a traumatic event before the age of 16. Traumatic events can include: the deal of a family member or friend, a physical accident, illness, or enduring emotional or physical abuse. All of these experiences can have a lasting impact of teen stress levels. It’s also important to note that dating violence affects approximately 10% of teens. 
  • Significant Life Changes: Change is an inevitable part of life. But just as change can be difficult for adults, teens can also experience stress due to significant life changes. Moving, starting a new school, divorce, or remarriage can all trigger stress in teens. This can be made more difficult for teens because many of them lack the coping and life skills to deal with these changes and the subsequent stress in a healthy way. 

Coping with teen stress

Helping your young girl cope with everyday stress may seem like a difficult task. Here are some things you can do to help them on a day to day basis:

  • Get them to exercise and eat regularly. Becoming involved in sports or some other form of physical activity that gets teens moving allows teens to unwind from their daily stress.
  • Create a sleep schedule. Sleep plays a crucial role in overall teen health and although teens need 8-10 hours of sleep, most teens are averaging 7-7.25 hours of sleep per night. Setting a time when electronics get turned off and they are in a quiet, relaxing place can help their brains slow down and their bodies prepare for sleep. 
  • Teach your teen to break up a large task, such as a project or studying for a test, into smaller, easier tasks over an extended period of time.
  • Allow them to take breaks. By taking some time to relax, teens can reduce stress. You can help them schedule a set time to relax after school before homework, or even some quiet time first thing in the morning before the hustle and bustle of school and the day begins. 
  • Help them learn relaxation exercises such as abdominal breathing, muscle relaxation techniques, and yoga. 
  • Try mindfulness. Mindfulness practices can help teens stay present and observe their thoughts rather than being overrun by them. Mindfulness encourages practitioners to slow down and stay in the moment, which can be very beneficial for teens who get overwhelmed by the “what ifs” in life. 
  • Talk about realistic goals and expectations. We would not expect an adult to be the best at everything they do, so why should we treat teenagers any differently? Support your daughter’s strengths and interests and help her set goals that are specific, measurable, and realistic. 
  • Journaling. Some teens may not feel comfortable processing their emotions verbally, but may benefit from writing those emotions down in a journal. Research has found that expressing oneself in writing can help reduce mental distress and improve well-being. Some research has found, for example, that writing about positive feelings, such as the things you’re grateful for or proud of, can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The best thing you can do to support your teen experiencing stress is to give them your full support. Knowing that you’ll always be there for them is extremely important for their confidence and self esteem.

Therapeutic Boarding Schools for Teen Girls

At a therapeutic boarding school like Asheville Academy, teen girls can receive the support and structure they need to learn how to process and deal with their stress in a healthy way. At Asheville Academy, we’ll develop a plan together to address and correct negative behavior patterns before they lead to more destructive behaviors.  Our nurturing environment and relationship-based community provide an emotionally safe space for your child to heal.  

Once kids feel safe to be vulnerable, we can start to process any previous trauma, anxiety, negative patterns, and academic issues.  Upon completion of the program, your child will develop the confidence and resilience to rebuild strained relationships, advocate for their needs, create healthy boundaries, and face life’s challenges.  

Asheville Academy utilizes a holistic approach towards therapy, as we understand that each student has their own unique needs. One therapeutic method we use in our program is animal and equine therapy. Equine therapy can provide powerful emotional feedback to our students. More than just a friendly face, horses are also very responsive to the posture and emotional state of humans, which can cause students to open up about their troubles by viewing them through the lens of the horse’s response. Many students find the opportunity to interact with horses and other therapy animals to be the most fun and rewarding component of their time at Asheville Academy. Each of these animals adds something unique and special to the animal therapy program, and are loved by our students.

Asheville Academy can help

Asheville Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for young girls ages 10-14, helps girls struggling with emotional and behavioral issues such as teen stress, anxiety, and depression cope with their struggles. With a caring, experienced staff and a personalized academic atmosphere, Asheville Academy can guide your daughter on a path towards success.

For more information about Asheville Academy, please call 800-264-8709.

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