Has your teen been particularly anxious lately? Read on to discover the signs of stress -and find out how you can help.
Most of us will feel stress from time to time – deadlines, work pressures, home life and the pandemic are just a few examples of the stressful situations we can find ourselves in. For teens, they have the added pressure of cancelled exams, puberty and the uncertainty around their futures. It’s hardly surprising that 60% of young people feel unable to cope due to pressure to succeed as a recent study by the Mental Health Foundation found*.
LEARN TO SPOT THE SIGNS OF STRESS
Knowing the signs of stress can help you to identify it in your teen in order to take swift action to help them cope and deal with their symptoms. Stress can manifest itself in a number of different ways, but these are some of the most common signs to look out for, plus helpful hints on how to deal with them:
- TIREDNESS OR LETHARGY
Teenagers experience a shift in their circadian rhythm (our body’s internal clock) during puberty which means they naturally tend to fall asleep a couple of hours later than they did pre-puberty. This is perfectly normal, and you can read more about teenagers and their sleep cycles here.
However, if you’ve noticed your teen has a disrupted sleep pattern and is often tired and lethargic, stress could be a factor.
HOW TO HELP:
Encourage good bedtime habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night and taking a few hours of ‘wind-down’ time in the evening to prepare for sleep. Blue light can have a negative effect on sleep, too, so you could put a ‘screens off’ time-limit in place to give your teen a better chance at a good night’s sleep. Read our 10 Ways To Reduce Your Teen’s Screen Time guide here for more helpful hints.
Talk to your teen about anything that might be a cause of stress to help them get their anxieties off their chest. If they’re reluctant to talk, encourage them to write down their worries in a notebook before they go to bed at night to clear their mind of chaotic, fretful thoughts.
- PHYSICAL SIGNS
Stress is a (not-so) funny old thing and can actually manifest as physical symptoms like tummy aches or headaches. Stomach or digestive problems, unexplainable aches and pains, dizziness and a racing heart can also be signs of anxiety and stress. A noticeable change in your teen’s appetite or diet is another warning sign.
HOW TO HELP:
Talk to your teen about ways to reduce their anxieties and encourage them to make their mental health a priority. Whether it’s meditation, a walk outdoors in the fresh air or a warm, relaxing bath, there are lots of ways for your teen to take some downtime to calm their anxieties. There are many apps available to guide your teen through different ways to relax – you can find our five best picks here.
If your teen’s eating habits are a concern, try to encourage them to eat little and often. It’s likely their appetite will come back with a vengeance when they feel less stressed but it’s important to keep an eye on things to make sure your teen is getting enough nutrition. If you’re concerned your child may have an eating disorder, you can find more information here.
Remember, if you are concerned always get your teen’s physical symptoms checked out by a doctor to rule out any health conditions or concerns first.
- IRRITABILTY & MOOD SWINGS
Puberty could be to blame if your teenager is showing irritability or is prone to mood swings, but these are also emotional and behavioural symptoms of stress.
HOW TO HELP:
If you suspect your teen is more irritable than usual because they are feeling stressed-out, find a quiet moment to talk to them, listen find out what could be at the root of the problem. If it’s school-related, you can enlist the help of the school or a teacher to address and rectify any issues. If it’s home-related, can you as a family work together to ease or solve the problem at the heart of the stress? If you need a helping hand – and we all do, from time-to-time – reach out to your GP, a support group or encourage your teen to call a helpline such as Childline on 0800 11 11 to talk to a professional.
- INCREASED WORRYING
If your teen is worrying over what seems to be small inconveniences that didn’t worry them before, they may be struggling with stress.
HOW TO HELP:
Help your child to work through their worries. You can do this by listening to the things that are troubling them and offering solutions, one by one. Alternatively, you can ask them to write them all down and go through each one together, making a simple plan of action for each point. Some worries can seem miniscule or barely important to adults but are enormous to a teen so try not to dismiss even the smallest issues.
- EXPRESSING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Does your teen appear to be more negative about things, expressing gloomy opinions and thoughts on activities or situations they maybe once enjoyed or were indifferent to? Stress can make it difficult to see the positives in life.
HOW TO HELP:
Engage with your teen in positive, life-affirming activities to boost their serotonin levels and encourage them to see the brighter side of life. Any form of exercise, from walking to Yoga, mindfulness, filling in a positivity journal, watching the wildlife in your garden on a sunny day… these are all simple, positive activities to reduce your teen’s stress and boost their mood.
If you’re seriously concerned or suspect your teen may have suicidal thoughts, they may be suffering from depression. Get in touch with your GP to make an appointment with your teen to make sure they receive the help they need. You can also get more help and advice here.