Teens and Stress Teenagers today face multiple stressors on a daily basis. From school, to friends, to family, they have stress coming to them from every angle, sometimes it can seem too overwhelming to handle. Having that much stress in your teenage years, especially at such a chronic level, can cause severe health problems, both […]
Teens and Stress
Teenagers today face multiple stressors on a daily basis. From school, to friends, to family, they have stress coming to them from every angle, sometimes it can seem too overwhelming to handle. Having that much stress in your teenage years, especially at such a chronic level, can cause severe health problems, both physically and mentally. Our teenage years are so critical for human development that stress of that amount can cause serious problems that can follow you into adulthood.
Page and Coutellier (2018) did a study on female and male mice that focused on the amount of stress they received in their teenage years and how it affected the mice later in their adult years, specifically anxiety-related behaviors, emotional maturation, and cognitive functioning. They found that chronic stress during adolescence caused over activation of the amygdala, the brain system that is responsible for processing emotions and linked to fears and pleasures, which caused an unregulated emotional response along with heightened anxiety behaviors in adulthood. (Page & Coutellier, 2018) They also found that stress during adolescence caused impaired cognitive functioning which sometimes show during adolescent years but often manifests later in adulthood. Along with this, they found a sex difference where female mice were more resilient and demonstrated less of an effect on their cognitive functioning in adulthood whereas male mice had more stress-induced cognitive dysfunction in adulthood. (Page & Coutellier, 2018)
The study shows us that stress has different effects on different people based on different factors including their age and sex. Stress does not look the same for everyone. Stress can manifest in different ways but yet everyone who is experiencing chronic stress in their teenage years are at risk for emotional disorders like depression and anxiety in adulthood.
Since stress is inevitable, especially in high school, here are some ways that teenagers and parents can help decrease stress and reduce higher risks in adulthood (The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019):
- Get enough sleep and have a good sleep routine
- Exercise and eat regularly
- Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques)
- Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite, firm, and not overly aggressive or passive ways: (“I feel angry when you yell at me.” “Please stop yelling.”)
- Decrease negative self-talk: challenge negative thoughts – with alternative, neutral, or positive thoughts. “My life will never get better” can be transformed into “I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help.”
- Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress.
- Learn and model stress management skills.
- Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.
- Listen to your teen. For example, in disagreements, when it comes to their mental health, and overall just being a good resource for them to come talk to.
By Rebekah McGlasson, M.A. Candidate, University of Denver, Counseling Psychology
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2019, January). Stress management
Page, C. E. & Coutellier, L. (2018). Adolescent stress disrupts the maturation of anxiety-related
behaviors and alters the developmental trajectory of the prefrontal cortex in a sex- and age-specified manner. Neuroscience, 390, 265-277.