Earlier this month, The Atlantic Magazine published an article titled “High Stress High School”. The authors began by discussing the pressures associated with teens attending high caliber private schools, and the stressors that come from the need to perform or achieve at a particular level. However, as the authors dove into more specific stressors that are affecting teens today, they concede that even teens attending lower economic class schools are under a great deal of stress as well—stress in more impoverished areas is attributed to fear for safety and physical environment.
Nevertheless, teens are experiencing what we call ‘chronic stress’ at higher levels than ever. We all know a little bit of stress is helpful to motivate us or point us toward greater creativity, but living under chronic stress can lead to unhealthy coping choices or even health/physical problems. A few quick ways parents can identify chronic stress in their teen’s lives are addressed below:
- Drastic changes in sleep patterns or appetite. When we’re stressed, often we over-indulge in food or forget to eat! The same for sleep—we avoid dealing with stress by sleeping or our sleep becomes fragmented and ceases to provide refreshment.
- Beginning to engage in behaviors that are not characteristic—i.e., avoiding spending time with family, isolating from friends, etc.
- Having an increasingly short temper, increased irritability.
- Physical complaints such as chest pain, headaches, stomach aches can all be signs of chronic stress.
Part 2 of this blog series will help parents find healthy ways to encourage their teen to cope with stress.
Sarah (Brookings) Connor, MA, LPC
sconnor @ growcounseling.com