Life’s stresses can be hard to deal with. While stress generally is good for you, keeping you motivated and improving performance, too much or prolonged stress is definitely not good for you. In fact, among other things, it can lead to major depression in people of all ages. And, yes, that includes teens.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking teens don’t experience real stress, but they do.
Life events like the death or illness of a loved one, or long-lasting situations like school or unhealthy family relationships can be very stressful. In teens, life’s stresses may be different from what adults experience. Social media, for example, is a huge part of many teens’ (social) lives. This virtual space can be toxic as people do and say things that they may not when they aren’t hiding behind an anonymous username.
While youth in decades past left their peers at school or on the street, today’s teens are constantly interacting with their age group online. The pressure to fit in or to impress stays with them constantly. This stress (external stimulus) leads to anxiety (internal psychological and physiological reaction), which can be detrimental to their mental health if it continues for too long. You see, there is a system of hormones in the body that regulate emotions, sleep, appetite, energy, and a host of other things.
Prolonged anxiety can cause this system to go out of whack, leading to symptoms of depression. Remember, depression is not simply a burst of “the blues.” It is an extended period of extreme sadness along with other symptoms like low motivation, change in appetite and sleep patterns, and, often, changes in behavior.
Unfortunately, a positive outlook alone may not be enough to deal with stress and stress-induced depression.
Still, there are ways to help your teen deal with stress so that it doesn’t develop into something far more serious:
• Listen to your teen: Knowing someone has their back and is genuinely willing to share their burdens can be cathartic. Encourage them away from negative self-talk and self-labels.
• Encourage your teen to do something fun: We all need a break from work. Even with deadlines upon us, punctuating work with fun activities helps to reduce the impact of stress. In fact, see if you can do something fun with your teen, too.
• Encourage your teen to get moving: Physical activity is not only great for the body, it also burns off excess hormones that can throw things out of balance.
• Make sure they get enough sleep: Sleep is the time when your body rejuvenates. Without enough, your teen’s body will be overworked.
• Make sure they eat good food: We hear this all the time, but a good diet really does help you to improve your health, including mental health.
The important thing is to manage stress, and not let it manage us. It’s a part of life, but it can be dealt with in a healthy way.