Teenagers are facing a host of pressures these days, academically and socially. Dr. Pilar Bradshaw says providers at Eugene Pediatric Associates are seeing more stressed-out teens than ever before.

“Not only did the pandemic add to a normally stressed time of life but coming back to school for a lot of teens has also been challenging,” she says.

Signs of stress
Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. If stress goes untreated or is not released, toxins build up in the body and create sickness and disease. Signs of stress in teens include:

  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Sleep issues
  • Sudden decline in grades or poor attendance
  • Increased irritability
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A sudden withdrawal from friends and activities

“Be sure to tell your teen that there are things they can do to feel less stressed,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “Because the worst thing in the world to them is to feel like they don’t know what to do to help themselves.”

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment for stress relief. However, Dr. Bradshaw offers parents and teens these suggestions:

  • Create a routine and organize your day. This includes planning ahead for big tasks and projects and breaking them down into manageable pieces, instead of waiting to tackle the whole thing at the last minute.
  • Spend time outside every day. Being present in nature significantly reduces cortisol, which is a stress hormone and boosts endorphin levels and dopamine production, which promotes happiness.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever that can help your teen start to feel more relaxed within minutes. Encourage them to find an activity that they enjoy, which will help ensure they continue to do it.
  • Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep makes it harder to manage stress.
  • Explore meditation apps or videos. These readily available tools can help create calm using breathing techniques and guided imagery.

“One of the most important things you can do when your child is stressed or struggling is to just be there for your child,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “Tell your teen how much you love them. You may not have all the answers right away for how to help them feel unstressed, but you can certainly reach out and make that connection. Let them know it’s going to get better. This isn’t how they’re going to feel forever. That’s very reassuring for a kid.”

It’s hard to see your child stressed out but try to avoid solving their problems for them. Instead, work together to brainstorm solutions and let your teen come up with ideas.

Keep an eye on your teen
Stress symptoms lasting more than two weeks could be a sign that your teenager may have an underlying mental health problem, like depression or anxiety. If you need additional support, talk with your pediatrician.