Three Ways Stress Can Affect Teens and How to Cope

Feeling like you have no time or energy to do the things you need to do is more common than you think; in fact, one in three teens feel overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis.

Teens from a focus group across the country told us that they have all experienced stress and feelings of being overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis. “There is always a time in the day where I feel stressed out,” said one participant. This is completely normal, but it can cause you to experience burnout. To help yourself feel better, you first need to figure out what exactly is causing you to feel this way.

What is Stress?

Stress is discomfort that produces a big rush of hormones in your body that can cause you to feel nervous, afraid, or even threatened. It can make your heart race, your palms sweat, and make it hard to think clearly.

3 Common Causes of Stress, and How to Reduce It

1. School

Homework or studying for tests are important for independent learning as well as keeping up grades, but they can be a common stressor for teens. Some students may learn differently with the use of art, music, or sports, making daily homework assignments difficult and frustrating. A Stanford University study found that 56% of students consider homework a major source of stress while 43% consider tests a “primary stressor.” The students also reported that they struggled to find a balance between homework and other extracurricular or social activities – things that may have helped them reduce their stress.

How to help: Anticipation causes major stress, so try not to wait until the last minute to do your assignments. A teen from the focus group mentioned feeling a “snowball effect.” “Sometimes one thing will set me off, and then everything that stressed me out from that week will just pile on top of that.” Don’t be afraid to get started. Just adding your name to the top of the page or opening your textbook can help. You can update your calendar or planner with your assignment due dates and designated time to do work to help better manage your time. Find a quiet space to work, free from distractions. Consider turning your phone off so you can focus. If you think you’re struggling or falling behind, talk to a friend, trusted adult, or a teacher so you can work through issues you may be facing.

2. Friends

From gossip to overthinking social media posts, friendships can sometimes be hard to navigate when you’re a teen. One focus group participant said they felt stressed out and anxious when their friend ghosted them on plans. It made them worry that maybe they didn’t want to be friends or see them anymore. Try your best to surround yourself with people who want to give what you give in a friendship; time, energy, or confidence. 

How to help: If a friend is acting less “friend-worthy” than you’d hope, talk to them about what is bothering you. Communication is crucial in friendships to make sure that you are both being heard. If you feel you can’t talk to your friends or they aren’t being honest with you, then you may want to re-evaluate whether or not you want to continue the friendship. For more tips on what to look for and what to avoid in friendships, check out this piece.

3. Your Environment

Stress can come from anywhere. Is the mess in your room piling up? Does your schedule feel jam-packed? Are you concerned you’re missing out on parties or hangouts with friends? It can be difficult to stay positive when you are feeling overwhelmed, but there are ways to avoid or address these feelings. 

How to help: Make sure you make time for yourself. Self-care can go a long way. And self-care doesn’t just mean doing a face mask or taking a hot shower. Allow yourself to do the things you feel like you never have the time or energy to do. If you feel overwhelmed by your messy room but have no motivation to clean, try starting with the “junebugging” method of cleaning that helps you get something done. FOMO (fear of missing out) can cause serious feelings of anxiety for many teens. If you feel left out, try talking to your parents or friends about how it makes you feel. Others may be able to share a perspective that helps you realize that it’s okay not to be taking part. 

Stress management is extremely important for young people, so check out our stress management plan for teens. It will guide you to build a personalized plan to help recognize, break down, and find solutions for the things that make you stressed on a regular basis. You’ll likely experience various stressors throughout life. But there are steps you can take and habits to form to help combat and reduce these feelings when they arise. 

This article was written by Sarah Ann Lundquist. Sarah received her masters and undergraduate degrees in Public Health at La Salle University. Her academic interests include Maternal Health, Reproductive & LGBTQ rights, and Mental Health awareness.

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CPTC is fortunate to receive editorial contributions from a range of multi-disciplinary experts, journalists, youth, and more.

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