Help them stop stressing

The hope is that youth is a stress-free time of life. The truth is, it’s not. With the daily demands of school, activities, relationships with friends and family, romantic issues…it can all get overwhelming. In fact, in a survey by the American Psychological Association, adolescents reported stress levels similar to those of adults.

Your de-stressing toolkit

Some degree of stress can actually be beneficial. For example, fear of failing an exam can motivate children and teens to study for it. However, when they’re constantly overwhelmed, worried, or fearful, they can overtax their response system. Showing kids a range of ways to cope will provide them with a toolkit of valuable life skills. Here are some ideas:   The Big Three Sleep. Exercise. Diet. Often changing even one of these can have a huge impact on both psychological and physiological wellbeing. Start a conversation around their daily routine and to uncover stress-causing culprits. Proactive. Not reactive. Kids often can’t see the value of planning ahead to avoid threatening situations—which can result in negative reactive behavior. Help them see how being proactive—getting a tutor, being prepared—can minimize daily stress. Recognizing Codes Sometimes the words kids use are code for deeper feelings. Help them recognize their cues for stress. For example, ‘angry’, ‘feeling sick’ or ‘stomachache’ may actually be masking acute stress. Help them understand the differences. Leverage their Strengths Counter negative thoughts they may have about themselves by reminding them of their strengths, talents and special qualities. Help them find ways to apply those assets to the cause of their stress.

What to do

Encourage them to keep close with family, friends, teachers—and you. Remember that everyone’s ability to problem-solve is different—and that cognitive and social capabilities change rapidly during adolescence. Don’t make assumptions about how they’ll react to things. Gather as much information about a problem as possible. Consider different options and points of view for resolving conflict. Walk through upcoming challenging situations. Role-play what might happen—like presenting in front of the class or taking the SAT test.

When to get help

If you notice them beginning to withdraw, or suspect they’re using drugs or alcohol, pay close attention. Are they constantly worried? Or avoiding activities and people? If their actions seem beyond everyday stress, they may have an anxiety disorder which should be addressed by a professional.

The Bigger Picture

Statistically, levels of stress and anxiety for young people are approaching those of adults. Even though not diagnosed as anxiety disorder, the negative impacts of stress can be just as significant. Help them learn skills to cope, and support them in using these skills. It’s imperative to healthy development—especially during a time when they’re already navigating an overwhelming crush of changes. Listen carefully. Respond even more carefully by avoiding these easy-to-fall-into responses: “That’s not such a big deal.” “Everyone feels that way.” “If only you’d do this…or change that…”

From The Blog

The Chroncile of Evidence-based Mentoring

What is toxic stress and why does it matter for youth mentoring programs?
Toxic stress differs from tolerable stress in two ways. One, stressors that engender toxic stress responses tend to be very severe, frequent or long-lasting. These could include traumatic experiences such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, exposure to violence at home, in school, or in the community, persistent poverty, homelessness, or neglect. Two, toxic stress responses are likely to occur when a child goes through severe or pervasive traumatic experiences that are not buffered by the presence of a loving, caring adult. That buffer can be provided by a parent, grandparent, or even a formal or informal mentor. To read more, click here.