Everyone experiences stress from time to time. There’s no age limit on stress – adults have it, children have it, and teenagers have it as well. This National Stress Awareness Day, learn about the different types of stress seen in teens, and how to reduce it.
Adults sometimes don’t realize that their teenagers have stress in their lives, but it’s important to be aware of it so that you can help your teen learn to manage their stress in a healthy way.
In order to do that effectively, it helps to understand what types of stress teens experience. Stress is not just one thing – it’s a variety of emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical reactions to life’s challenges.
And the type of stress depends both on the type of challenge your teen is dealing with and also your teen’s own temperament and coping skills. Take a look at some of the different types of stress teens commonly experience and how you can help them deal with it.
Eustress is a term that you may not have heard before, but if your teen is going to experience stress, you want it to mostly be eustress. This is a positive form of stress – the optimal type and level of stress that a person needs to experience in order to motivate them to accomplish something. It’s good stress.
You might experience eustress before an event that you’re happy about, but that requires you to put in some work to prepare for, like a wedding or a graduation ceremony. A teen might experience eustress in response to an upcoming exam in a class they feel confident about – they know they need to study and are experiencing the type of stress that motivates them to do so, but they feel confident about it so they aren’t panicking or overpreparing. These types of stress are healthy and it doesn’t hurt your teen to experience it.
Pressure is a very common type of stress for teenagers. It occurs when outside forces place demands or expectations on your teen.
- They might feel pressure from parents – or college admissions officers – to maintain a certain grade point average or level of participation in extracurricular activities.
- They may feel pressure from coaches to win or to perform at ever-higher levels.
- And they may feel pressure from friends and romantic partners to participate in various social activities, some of which may go against their better judgment.
Too much pressure can be harmful to teenagers, especially if they feel unequal to the expectations placed on them. It’s important for parents, teachers, and coaches not to place unrealistic expectations on teenagers.
For example, it’s unfair to expect your teen to get straight As simply because their older sibling got straight As. Not every teen can achieve the same things at the same levels. It’s one thing to have expectations for your teen based on their own potential and their own capabilities, but it’s harmful to hold expectations that they may not be able to meet.
Types of Pressure
Teens may also need help learning how to respond to pressures and expectations that they can’t meet. Adults talk a lot about peer pressure and how important it is to resist engaging in certain behaviors just because their friends are. It can help teens to roleplay standing up for themselves and asserting their own wishes when they’re being pressured by friends.
Teens may also need help learning how to stand up for themselves in the event that they’re being pressured by adults in their lives as well. It needs to be OK for teens to verbalize when they’re being held to unreasonable standards or when demands are more than they can handle, and parents need to be ready to back their children up in these cases.
Frustration is one of the most common types of stress that people experience when they can’t fulfill a perceived need or achieve a desired goal.
- A teen who wants to get an A on the next test and who works hard and studies to achieve that A might feel frustrated if, in the end, they get a B instead.
- A teen who wants to earn a college scholarship and believes that they need a very high grade point average to get that scholarship might be even more frustrated by that B, especially if they don’t believe that college will be an option for them without scholarship money.
Frustration often arises from a sense of helplessness. A teen who’s tried everything they know how to do to earn an A who still ends up getting a B may feel that they’re helpless to improve their grades or to get the funds that will be needed for college. Helping your teen find positive actions that they can take to achieve their goals can help relieve frustration.
For instance, your teen could find a tutor or ask their teacher for extra credit. They could explore different scholarship opportunities, tuition rates at different colleges, or financial aid options.
Because teens have limited life experience, it’s easy for them to feel that failing to achieve their goal the first time, or in the way they expect, means that they’ve failed entirely. As a parent, you can help them learn to look at the bigger picture and find different avenues they can use to achieve their goals. You can also help them understand that sometimes it’s OK to change your goals and that doing so isn’t necessarily a sign of failure.
Distress is a kind of stress that often arises from unpleasant experiences, often those that are beyond the control of the person experiencing the distress. For example, a teen whose parents are divorcing may experience distress. The teen has no way of changing their parents’ relationship or preventing the divorce – there’s no action they can take to prevent the negative feelings and stress that are caused by this event.
Teens who are experiencing stress because of a distressing event or circumstance might benefit from treatment counseling or therapy. It sounds simplistic, but often just being able to talk about their feelings, especially to a neutral party, can bring some relief to a teen experiencing distress.
They can also benefit from finding healthy ways to make themselves feel good when they’re experiencing distress. For example, watching a funny movie might get their mind off of the distressing event, and laughing has legitimate physical effects that can help relieve feelings of stress and tension.
Coping With Different Kinds of Stress
Keep in mind that it’s possible for teens to experience more than one type of stress at a time.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen and knowing what’s going on in their lives can help you identify the type or types of stress your teen is dealing with so that you can help them develop the tools to cope with it.