Helping Your Teen Cope With Stress During the School Year
When summer ends and the school year begins, you can practically hear a symphony of teenagers simultaneously groaning. Who can blame them though? They need to wake up during the early hours of the morning, study for exams, complete homework for several different classes, balance extracurricular activities, maintain a social life – and in the midst of all of that, take care of themselves.
That’s a lot on a young person’s plate! As a parent, you can expect them to be incredibly stressed out at having to manage everything all at once. Teens have a heavy amount of stress because not only do their high school years prepare them for college; they also begin to develop their individuality, learn how to be responsible, and get a taste of adulthood.
To help your teen have a more productive semester and reduce their academic anxiety, here’s how you can help them cope with stress during the school year:
Encourage them to focus on their well-being, first and foremost
Believe it or not, simple self-care methods such as taking showers, self-grooming, and relaxing can pushed aside in exchange for dedicating more time to school work. However, one never feels their best when they don’t take care of themselves! While your teen’s ambition is admirable, they should always consider the state of their emotional and physical well-being. Your teen should also always make time for hobbies and passions that make them happy as well. School work may take up most of their time, but they need to remember their personal needs and happiness is just as important.
Inform them of healthy coping mechanisms
There’s a huge difference between dealing with stress in a healthy way versus an unhealthy way. Unhealthy coping mechanisms cause more stress and do more damage. Examples include suppressing emotions, purposely hurting others, self-harm and so forth. In the long run, unhealthy coping mechanisms can lead to your child developing depression, anxiety, and even an addiction to substances later on life. Factually, 1 in 8 Americans are alcoholics, and your teen does not need to be a part of that statistic, nor endure mental conditions that can be avoided. To prevent that, and many other unfortunate circumstances, inform and educate them on how to properly handle their stress with healthy coping mechanisms such as journal writing, articulating feelings to a trusted individual such as you or a friend, and meditation.
Help them establish a set schedule
With so many obligations that need to be fulfilled, your teen will get overwhelmed on where to focus most of their attention. Have them sit down to schedule a wake-up and sleep time, set aside specific parts of the day for studying, and adhere to it. However, they can be flexible on the weekends for friends and personal time. Fun is needed too! By following a schedule, your teen will be able to handle their responsibilities and live their life in an organized matter, rather than feeling lost or frazzled with what to do first.
Go grocery shopping for healthy food and meal prep
A healthy and well-rounded diet affects a person just as much emotionally as it does physically. When overwhelmed with an endless list of things to do, it’s normal for a teen to eat whatever is available and neglect their diet. Educate your teen about healthier food choices, teach them to cook, and encourage them to prepare their meals ahead of time. If they meal prep healthy food, they never have to worry about spontaneous fast food purchases or unhealthy cravings! Over time, your teen will also naturally gravitate towards healthy food in general.
Encourage your teen to exercise
With stress taking a toll on both a mental and physical well-being, teens need a therapeutic outlet to release it! Exercise is one of the best methods of stress relief due to its ability to pump endorphins – nature’s pain-killing chemicals – throughout their body. Additionally, exercise helps stabilize their mood, improves overall brain function, and keeps them feeling energized and ready to take on the day. Regardless of the exercise they choose to do, such as weight training versus yoga, all exercises will contribute the same positive benefits. If your teen is up for it, suggest taking up an exercise together!
Tell them to take a break
When your teen needs a break from vigorously studying, offer to take them outside for some fresh air or remind them that it won’t hurt to relax for a few minutes. Despite sounding counter-intuitive, taking a break is actually more beneficial than harmful. The more your teen forces themselves to work, the less productive they become. With overexertion, they lose the ability to focus on tasks, become easily irritable, and rarely sleep. Some examples of breaks include spending fifteen minutes on the couch doing what they please, meditating, and even catching up with you about what’s been going on in their lives. By stepping back from the required readings and math notes, teens seize this moment to replenish their energy to study efficiently, absorb information, and demonstrate what they have learned onto their exams.
Remind them that stress is a part of life, and they will get through it just like everything else
Stress is inevitable. Truthfully, at times, it feels like it lasts forever – but that is never the case. Remind your teen that stress is always going to be a part of life, but they don’t need to fear it. What really matters is taking of themselves and always doing the best they can to succeed.
Contributor: Trevor McDonald