As an adult, we look back on our teen years and remember a care-free time in our life. Of course, some teens must work and, as parents, we expect them to keep up with their school work. But, for the most part, there are no major bills to be paid such as a mortgage payment, the electric bill or food for the family.
Many teens are expected to do chores around the house but aren’t responsible for the upkeep of your home, such as taking care of a leaky roof. As the responsibilities of being an adult overwhelm us, we yearn for the teen years, when our major concern was whether we had plans for the weekend.
But being a teen is hard, especially in today’s society. The pressure to perform, high expectations from parents, teachers and even the teens themselves, the rising demands of school and family difficulties such as divorce or death all take a toll on a teen’s well being and add stress to their everyday lives. When stress is not managed properly, teens may be at risk for developing an anxiety disorder, substance abuse or physical illness.
The Fight-or-Flight Response
We all experience stress and sometimes it serves a purpose in our life. For example, being nervous before a test can help you stay alert and focused. When faced with a dangerous situation, our fight-or-flight response kicks in; our heart beats faster, our blood pressure increases, our senses become sharper and our adrenalin pumps us up to meet the danger. We all benefit from this type of response – in moderation. When walking down the street and faced with a growling dog, it can help us focus and pay attention to what is going on to manage the situation, when faced with a “pop quiz” it can help us concentrate and remember what we have learned.
Moderate stress is good, but when our fight-or-flight response is activated over and over, it can cause physical problems. Some experts believe that those with anxiety have a overactive fight-or-flight response and it doesn’t turn off once the danger has passed. In other words, those with anxiety stay in high alert, finding danger in situations where there isn’t any. While we want our teens to live a stress-free life, that really shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, we need to help our teens learn to manage the occasional stress and use it to their benefit.
Managing stress begins with the little things. Eating right, getting a good night’s sleep and exercising on a daily basis all help you deal with stress more positively. Some other ways parents can help teens:
Monitor the intake of caffeine. Coffee, tea and colas all contain caffeine, which can increase feelings of nervousness and agitation. Limiting daily consumption of caffeine can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Teach your teen relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga or meditation. These techniques, when used on a daily basis, help reduce overall feelings of anxiety and can also help when faced with a stressful situation.