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Helping your Teenagers Cope with Stress-From McHenry and Cary, IL

Mar 1, 2008
All of our teens experience daily stresses and can benefit from learning proven stress management skills. When they perceive a situation as threatening, hard, unpleasant or painful, they often do not have sufficiently mature resources to cope with the level of frustration that results. Consequently, they experience even more stress and the cycle goes on and on. No wonder our kids have so many problems.

Sources of teen stress include:

Demands and frustrations generated by challenges in school or social development,

Self-deprecating attitudes and feelings,

Bodily changes that are viewed as unfavorable,

Conflicts or arguments with peers,

Violence-prone family environments or neighborhoods,

Squabbling parents, either married or divorced,

Severe illness in the family,

Death of a family member, loved one, or peer,

Excessive rates of moving from neighborhoods or schools,

Maintaining expectations that are unrealistic or too high,

Chronic financial problems.

When teens become overloaded with stress and, as is often the case, it is ineffectively managed, it leads to frequent worrying, isolation, acting-out, illness or destructive attempts to cope, such as drug and/or alcohol abuse. When kids perceive a situation as difficult or painful, mental and physical changes take place that prepare them to protect themselves from danger.

This is called the fight, flight, or freeze response. It is characterized by a more rapid pulse, heart palpitations, increased flow of blood to the arms and legs, and/or a piercing sense of dread. However, this same mechanism that turns on this fight or flight response can turn it off as well.

As soon as our kids perceive that a situation is no longer threatening, changes occur which help them to calm down. This is called the relaxation response and is characterized by a decreased pulse rate and a greater feeling of well being. Teens that develop or can induce this relaxation response feel more confident, more effective and have more functional choices from which to choose when responding to stress.

This is how you can help your teen:

Assess whether or not stress seems to be affecting his or her health, school performance or feelings,

Listen carefully for any expressions of overwhelming stress, anxiety or depression,

Model effective use of stress management methods yourself,

Support your teens involvement in athletics and other healthy group or social activities.

To decrease stress, kids should:

Exercise, work-out and eat appropriately,

Eliminate the intake of excess caffeine, which can unnecessarily increase anxiety,

Eliminate the illegal use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco products,

Practice abdominal breathing and the use of muscle relaxation exercises,

Practice the use of assertiveness skills and reduce the use of aggressive or passive styles of communicating,

Rehearse and practice anxiety-inducing behaviors,

Break anxiety-inducing tasks into smaller, more attainable ones,

Reduce the use of pessimistic self talk which predicts failure or bad outcomes out-of-hand,
.
Do not unrealistically demand perfection from either yourself or others,

Take intermittent breaks from stress-inducing activities,

Build a social support network and nurture it.

By using these techniques, your teenager can begin to self-manage stress in a healthy way. In severe or overwhelming cases of teen anxiety, however, get a consultation with a clinical psychologist or other mental health professional to nip any potential self-defeating behaviors in the bud.
About the Author
Dr Shery is in Cary, IL, near Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Marengo and Lake-in-the-Hills. He's an expert psychologist. Call 1 847 516 0899 and make an appt orlearn more about counseling at: http://www.carypsychology.com
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