Stress Relief For Teens: What To Do When You're Feeling Overwhelmed
Experiencing stress from time to time will generally always be a part of life. Learning how to develop healthy coping mechanisms from a young age can set you up for long-term success in this area. If you’re a teenager and you’re not sure what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, consider trying some of the management strategies we cover below.
Stress And Its Effects
Stress is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as "the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors". It refers to how your body and mind react when you’re faced with challenging or overwhelming situations.
When stress kicks in, it can activate your fight-or-flight response which sends a variety of different body systems into action. While this response can be useful in the short term, keeping it ‘turned on’ long-term can result in negative health effects. That’s why stress management can be such an important skill to learn to take care of your mental health.
6 Stress Management Techniques For Teenagers
If you’re consistently stressed out or feel anxious because of something, it may be worth making an adjustment in that area of your life if possible. For example, if your schedule is jam-packed with homework, sports, clubs, and a part-time job and you routinely feel overwhelmed you might want to look critically at your commitments and make it a point to pull back in certain areas. However, maintaining a completely stress-free world is generally not realistic. Developing healthy habits and coping mechanisms can help you deal with this inevitable part of life without damaging your mental health. Here are some strategies you can start developing now, plus tips for how to get started.
Some people prefer everything in their space to be as neat as a pin, while others may feel more comfortable or even find inspiration in a less put-together space. That said, if you’re feeling stressed, doing some tidying up may help improve your head space. One study suggests that people with cluttered homes may exhibit lower moods than those with neater ones. Plus, practically speaking, a tidy space can make it easier to keep track of things you need like school papers or house keys—which is helpful, because losing something important can add to your stress levels. The act of tidying up can also help you feel accomplished and ready to take on the next task on your to-do list. Next time you feel overwhelmed, try taking a few minutes to tidy up and get organized to see if it helps.
One study looked at how the arts can impact stress management. It found that over 80% of participants experienced a “significant reduction in stress” after taking part in one of four artistic activities: art, music, dance/movement, or drama. Having a creative outlet to turn to can be a great way to blow off steam and center yourself. Doing something artistic regularly can also help you express your emotions, build confidence, form or strengthen friendships, and enjoy yourself, all of which can contribute to better mental health overall.
Use Exercise As An Outlet
Research shows that physical activity can lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. If you’re feeling stressed, going for a run, swim, or skate, doing yoga, or engaging in whatever type of physical activity you most enjoy can provide you with some relief. However, exercise can be even more effective for stress management if you practice it regularly rather than only turning to it when things get overwhelming. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise can help you boost self-esteem, sleep better, improve concentration, and decrease tension. So while getting active when you’re stressed can be a great coping mechanism, doing so regularly can be a great preventative measure.
Prioritize Good Sleep
Research shows that many teens report sleeping less than the recommended amount of 8.5 to 9.25 hours for their age range. Interestingly, 90% of teens who reported low stress levels during the past school year say they get enough sleep, while only 48% of those who reported high stress levels during the past school year could say the same. Getting the rest your body and mind need—especially during adolescence—can have a direct impact on how you're able to function during the day. Since good sleep can help you improve concentration, think more clearly, and stabilize your mood more easily, making it a priority in your life can help reduce or stave off stress.
Learning the basics of meditation is easy, and there are plenty of free resources for this online. Working a regular meditation practice or deep breathing exercises into your routine—even just 15 minutes a day—can have positive effects on how you’re able to handle stress. This tactic may be helpful for teenagers especially, since it may strengthen the connection between the amygdala and the frontal lobe. This connection isn’t fully formed yet in adolescents, but meditation and other deep breath practices can speed things up. With regular practice, your brain may become more responsive and less reactive to stress. Meditation has also been shown to help increase concentration, self-esteem, and memory, all of which can help you be better equipped to tackle whatever your day may throw at you.
Meeting with a therapist is usually a smart move for those who are dealing with mental health conditions like depression anxiety, or substance abuse, but you don’t need to have a mental illness to benefit from therapy. It can also work like a maintenance tool to keep you healthy and on track over time. A therapist can help create a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can begin to talk about and work through your feelings. Therapists can also speak with you to identify strategies for managing stress—as well as ways to build self-esteem, polish your communication skills, make sense of your feelings, set boundaries, and learn more about yourself, for instance. Adolescence can be a tumultuous time that’s full of all kinds of changes, and a therapist can help you navigate the stressors and challenges healthily.
The prospect of going to a provider’s office for in-person therapy can seem daunting or intimidating for some. If you’d feel more comfortable meeting with a counselor from the comfort of your own home or sending messages in writing, there are virtual options available. With an online therapy platform like TeenCounseling, for example, you can get matched with a licensed mental health professional with the consent of a parent or guardian, and you can meet with them via phone, video call, and/or chat. Research suggests that in-person and online therapy offer similar benefits, so whichever your personal preference, you can feel confident in choosing the format that feels more comfortable to you.
Common questions found below:
What are 4 ways to relieve stress?
In addition to relaxation techniques used to combat the stress response in your nervous system, there are plenty of other ways of reducing your stress level that might not be as quick, but will have long-term benefits on both your physical and mental health. Here are some healthy ways to decrease your stress levels and lower blood pressure over an extended period of time:
- Eating a balanced diet - having a healthy diet consisting of nutritious whole foods can make you feel more energetic and good about yourself
- Physical activity and exercise - incorporating some physical movement into your daily life and having a consistent routine will decrease stress hormones and keep them at bay and release endorphins instead
- Avoiding substances - too much caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol are the most common ones that you should avoid. While they may be quick solutions to lower stress and anxiety at first glance, they will make things worse and add to your stress in the long run.
- Making time for hobbies - Setting some time for yourself to do the things that you enjoy doing is important for your happiness and well being.
Essentially, you’ll want to avoid unhealthy habits and replace them with healthy ones that reduce stress and add positivity to your life and improve your overall health. These are just some suggestions for self care and people deal with stress in different ways so try to make a to do list and try to figure out areas in your life that could use some adjustment.
How can I relax my mind in 5 minutes?
If you want to find a healthy way to relax your mind and body and reduce your stress levels within 5 minutes, belly breathing is the way to go. All you have to do is take slow deep breaths from your nose and let it fill your abdomen, and gradually let all of that air out.
Repeat the process and you’ll notice that by controlling your breathing, your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension has most likely decreased and your mind feels more at ease. In addition to these physical effects, you’re also practicing mindfulness by staying in the present and focusing on your breathing instead of your anxious thoughts which are causing the stress response in your body. These are by far some of the most popular ways of reducing stress.
How do I stop overthinking and stressing?
To stop overthinking and reduce stress, you’ll want to practice what is known as mindfulness, where you will shift your awareness and attention to what’s happening in the present moment. For example, instead of dwelling on your thoughts, you can simply absorb what’s going on in your immediate surroundings, including your sensory experiences and bodily sensations.
If you have a negative thought pop up, simply accept it for what it is and let it pass through, which is an extremely healthy way of handling things. When we get caught up on the meaning of our thoughts, it can cause us to overthink and react emotionally to them, and over time, this can cause chronic stress which is detrimental to your well being.
What vitamins help with stress?
It’s well-known that a healthy diet full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients will have a positive effect on your mood and well being and can reduce your stress levels over time.
However, if you’re looking for specific vitamins, the B-complex of vitamins, especially B1, has shown to be effective for this purpose. Vitamin D can also be essential too, and it’s part of the reason why getting some sunlight can be beneficial on your stress levels. In fact, a lack of sunlight, has been linked to certain types of depression, such as seasonal affective disorder.
How can I relax my brain?
Some of the simplest ways to be able to relax your nervous system are by using deep breathing and mindfulness. You can try other easy coping strategies like putting on some soothing music, guided imagery, and write your thoughts out in a journal. Any of these can help melt away those stress hormones!
How can I calm my anxiety?
Managing anxiety is a process that takes time and by following the advice in this article, you can reduce stress and anxiety and its effects on your everyday life. Everyone has anxiety from time to time and it’s something that should be worked on, but if yours is chronic and you have an anxiety disorder that’s affecting your overall health, you should consider reaching out for professional help to find additional stress management techniques and coping strategies that you can use.
Counseling and therapy from a mental health professional can provide support that can change your life for the better by giving you the tools you need to cope with stress now and in the future and start taking control over how you feel each day.
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