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How is Stress Affecting your Teen?

How is Stress Affecting your Teen?

December is one of the most stressful months of the year. With the biggest holidays of the season coming up, you may be feeling the pressure to get things done.

It seems like everyone in your family can feel the pressure. While you prep your grocery lists and gifts, your teen is gearing up for the end of their semester. 

With last minute assignments and exams looming overhead, it’s natural for there to be a spike in the stress your teen may feel this month.

As stress adds up for everyone in your home this December, it’s important to know how stress can affect your teen. What may come off as tiredness or teenage mood swings may be a sign they’re feeling the pressure of stress.

Pam Stoelzel, a community health specialist for CoxHealth, tells us that stress is anything our bodies may perceive as a demand or a challenge. This perception can cause our bodies to react in ways to help overcome the situation.

In these situations, our brains will release chemicals into our bloodstream to make us stronger and more alert. This can be helpful in avoiding dangerous situations. However, it isn’t as helpful if the problem your teen is facing is emotional or psychological. If this is the case, then your teen will likely be left with a large amount of pent-up energy. 

In some cases, your teen may release this energy by going after their goal harder. Other times, they may need to release it in other ways. In these moments, it’s important for you to remind your teen about healthy coping skills. Encourage them to get some exercise, read, or talk things through with you.

While stress seems to be something that everyone should want to prevent, some stress is good. You can help your teen find a healthy balance between positive and negative stress.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, positive stress keeps us alert, on task and gives us drive. Bad stress comes when a person doesn’t experience a break or chance to relax between the cycles of their stress.

When this happens, your teen may try to find an easier solution to ease the anxiousness they’re feeling. For some, this can mean trying to use substances, like alcohol, to relax.

According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, while drinking alcohol may make them feel better temporarily, it won’t help in the long term. The more a teen uses alcohol to feel relaxed, the more dependent they will become.

This means that over time, the initial amount of alcohol that helped your teen feel relaxed won’t be enough. They will need more and more of it to feel good. This can become a dangerous spiral of dependence and abuse.

The National Survey of Drug Use and Health found that December was one of the highest months for teens to try alcohol for the first time. This spike in experimentation may be caused by the increase in holiday parties or the extra free time at home out of school. Another reason could be the cramming for school that happens every December.

To help your teen with the coming school deadlines, remind them of the healthy ways they can handle their stress. You can also keep a close watch for signs that they are over stressed. The American Institute of Stress encourages people to watch for frequent headaches, fidgeting, poor sleep, and higher frequencies of intense emotions. These can all be signs that someone may be dealing with an unhealthy amount of stress.

If you think that your teen might have too much stress going on this month, take some time to talk with them. Help them to put what’s going on back into a healthy perspective.

You can also practice some of those healthy coping skills with them and be productive at the same time. Put a holiday radio station on and have them help you wrap gifts. Quiz them for their next test by using candy canes as an incentive when they get questions right. Put electronics away for a Friday evening and roast marshmallows in your fireplace.

There are lots of ways you can help your teen manage stress this holiday season. By helping them know what stress is doing to their mind and body and how they can manage it, you can make sure that your entire family gets to enjoy many wonderful holiday seasons together.

Kaitlyn Inman
kaitlyn@missourisafeandsober.com
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