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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Helping Stressed Students

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There is a growing concern about the amount of stress our teens are experiencing, although all stress is not bad. Some stress adds challenge and opportunity to life. Without stress, life would be pretty dull but too much stress can seriously affect physical and mental well-being.

Ongoing stress in teens can reduce self-esteem, decrease interpersonal and academic effectiveness and create a cycle of self-blame and self-doubt that is not productive. It is important for health that each person finds the optimal level of stress that can be managed effectively.

Everyone experiences stress differently. People may feel anxious, fearful, irritable or moody. Other people may consider cheating, get very self-critical, lose the ability to concentrate, forget things, or find themselves thinking the same thoughts over and over again. People can also experience a tight jaw, teeth grinding, crying, drinking or smoking in excess, do dangerous things, including having unprotected sex, having accidents or a change in appetite (up or down). Finally, there may be physical symptoms like tight muscles, sweaty hands, trouble sleeping, fatigue, repeated colds, pounding heart, or a dry mouth.

Whatever symptoms are experienced, it is important to manage the stress and learn ways to reduce it. Managing stress can be achieved by remembering to breathe deeply and slowly, getting exercise every day, eating well, sleeping enough and on the same schedule, talking with friends, managing time better, and if you cannot get a grip on it within two weeks, talk to a professional (doctor or counselor) for support.

Parents can help by recognizing stress and helping students identify causes of the stress and listening and guiding while teens talk through the sources of stress and what can be done to reduce the stress, or at least cope with it. It is important that parents not "fix" it or criticize the teen, but provide support and strategies for managing the stress, encouraging counseling if the stress does not go away.

Photo credit: finsec

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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