Help Teens Conserve Energy to Manage Stress
By supporting our teens to develop strategies that let them manage problems in their lives, we help them successfully transition towards adulthood. One strategy to consider using is a comprehensive stress management plan. The plan includes problem-focused strategies that help teens to:
2) Break problems into manageable steps;
4) Conserve energy to more efficiently tackle challenges.
This piece focuses on helping teens conserve energy to efficiently tackle challenges.
People who waste time worrying about things they can’t change don’t have enough energy left to address problems they can fix. Wasted energy trying to fix things that cannot be affected leads to powerlessness, frustration, and anger.
Not every problem is worth attacking. Some problems may upset us but ultimately don’t really matter. Other problems (like bad weather) may be annoying, but we are powerless to change them. We need to teach our teens to let go of problems they can’t fix in order to conserve energy for things they can handle.
On one level, this advice flies in the face of optimism — that high energy belief that if we put our hearts and minds into something we’ll succeed. The problem is that it may not always be true. There are some things that can’t be changed, and we run the risk of wasting precious energy and focus. If we see the glass as “half-full” we might think it’s good enough when it’s not. But, if it’s seen it as “half-empty,” we may feel powerless. We must encourage our teens to see the glass as it is. Then determine if it satisfactorily meets what’s needed. If they are thirsty, it does not. After realistically assessing the situation, they can then determine the best course of action. “Where is the sink?”
We do best when we maintain confidence in the ability to get ourselves what we need. What are we promoting to our teens? A realistic assessment and a hopeful approach. One that shows if you put your mind to something, and draw appropriate supports, you likely can handle the situation.
People who focus on things they can change gain a sense of control. Calm focus is a critical step to problem-solving. Sharpened focus allows us to gather our resources and spend our energy addressing a challenge.
Let’s use an example that raises an uncomfortable, but important, subject. Some young people receive low expectations about their potential for success. Those undermining underestimates could be based on gender, race, or community. Such low expectations should produce frustration or even anger. And that anger can be defeating. On an individual level, they may not be able to confront some of the larger issues that put them into a box. What they can do, however, is be their best selves. Double down on proving themselves fully capable. We must model for our children how to do this.
We hope that young people never have to confront challenges that threaten their survival. We hope that the problems they face are ones they’ll overcome and that will build their strength. Unfortunately, life threatening challenges do exist. Survivors of those ultimate challenges often point out two things that helped. First, reaching out to others. Second, conserving energy so they could focus on those things they could control and let go of those things out of their hands.
It Couldn’t be Said Better
The ideas discussed here are best summarized with the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Teach Through Modeling
We can offer our tweens and teens some stress management strategies through exposure. For example, help them learn the benefits of artistic or written expression as a form of emotional release. Other strategies require both modeling and teaching – like the benefit of exercise and conserving energy.
The lessons that we need to get across here can be raised in real-time discussions as our children confront obstacles. But the most effective way to help them understand the necessity of conserving energy is to model it through our own behavior. Occasionally share aloud the thought processes behind our actions.
We demonstrate that we advocate strongly for change. We problem solve whenever we can. And sometimes, we simply choose to move on.