November’s Emotional Problem of the Month

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It’s normal to have some stress in life.  But, everyone is affected by excessive stress at one time or another, and it can feel overwhelming.  In fact, a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that excessive stress is extremely common among teenagers, especially during the school year.

Here are some things that cause teens to feel stress overload:

  • school pressure and career decisions
  • dating and friendships
  • pressure to wear certain kinds of clothing, jewelry, or hairstyles
  • pressure to experiment with drugs, alcohol, or sex
  • pressure to be a particular body size or image
  • dealing with cognitive and physical changes of puberty
  • family and peer conflicts
  • being bullied or exposed to violence or sexual harassment
  • crammed schedules, juggling school, sports, after-school activities, and family obligations

With the right tools though, you can learn to manage stress before it takes a toll on your physical and emotional health.

Physical activity is one of the most effective stress busters.  That doesn’t mean you have to become an exercise fanatic.  Just find some physical activity you enjoy and go for it on a regular basis.  Sometimes, the best types of activities are those you can do with your friends. Whether you’re into team sports, or prefer something less structured, keep at it and notice your stress levels drop.

Another important factor in minimizing stress has to do with the amount of sleep you get.  Ideally, adolescents should get around nine hours of sleep a night.  Most teens, though, are getting less. According to the APA’s Stress in America Survey, teens say they sleep an average of just 7.4 hours on a school night.  That’s unfortunate since sleep is key for both physical and emotional well-being.

Oh, ya, don’t forget to find the right balance in your life. School is important, but it’s not everything.  When you plan your week, schedule time to get schoolwork done, but also schedule time to have some fun.  Fun is like physical activities, you need to find things to do that bring you joy.  That might be listening to music, going to the movies, reading or drawing.  You might also spend some time doing things you’re good at.  Focusing on your strengths will help you keep your stresses in perspective.

Finally, it’s so much easier to handle stress when you let others lend you a hand.  Talk to a parent, teacher or other trusted adult.  Stress is nothing to be ashamed about.  It happens to us all.  Whatever you do, don’t feel as though you need to walk that stress highway alone.

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