The fall semester is in full swing, and for many students that means midterms are here. Soon students will begin feeling the pressure of projects, papers, and tests. While a moderate amount of stress can motivate us to perform well, too much stress can lead negative health effects, decreased productivity, and even depression and anxiety. Teens and college students today consistently report experiencing a high degree of stress. Learning to cope effectively with stress now will help set students up for success long after school is over.
Managing stress involves addressing multiple areas of functioning. Consider how your teen is doing in the following areas:
Learning to prioritize and value time appropriately is crucial to managing stress. Think about which activities are consuming valuable time. Is it television, internet use, socializing, or extracurricular activities? Ask your teen to review the costs and benefits of each activity to determine where to place limits. Cutting out entire activities may not be necessary, but figuring out limits and developing moderation is essential to stress management.
Getting enough sleep
Research shows that many teens are not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation increases stress hormones and impairs concentration. To combat fatigue, teens will often rely on sugary snacks and caffeine. This quick fix leads to feeling worse in the long term.
Many teens grab something on the run and quickly eat in between activities. Such foods tend to be highly processed food and loaded with empty calories; causing sluggishness and poor focus. One option may be to prepare in advance quick and healthy foods that can be eaten on the run.
It may be tempting to compare your teen to siblings or your friend’s teens. Instead of focusing on comparison, recognize your teen’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to find ways to capitalize on their strengths. Focusing on building strengths will help build confidence and increase motivation.
Using failure as an opportunity to build strength and resilience
Many parents are afraid to allow their teens to fail. This sends the message that failure is shameful, and it also robs teens of the opportunity to learn to cope with failure. College students who have already had opportunities to cope with setbacks are often less anxious about failing, and they experience greater success as a result of this resilience.
Making small adjustments in these behavioral habits and thinking patterns can have a major impact on feelings of stress. Stress will always be a part of life, and learning stress management skills early on will benefit teens in the long run.