Stress Awerness Month Empowering Teens To Take Control

Stress Awerness Month Empowering Teens To Take Control

April is Stress Awareness Month, highlighting the prevalence of stress and its impacts, especially among teenagers. With the pressures of school, extracurriculars, family life, and looming decisions about the future, teen stress levels are on the rise. Unchecked stress can take a severe toll on mental health. This month provides an opportunity to raise awareness and equip teens with strategies to cope with stress in a healthy way.

The Teenage Pressure Cooker

Teenagers face a perfect storm of potential stressors, from the academic pressures of coursework and standardized testing to navigating social dynamics and the stresses of graduating soon. For many, middle school and high school open the door to mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profoundly negative impact on the mental health of children and youth, with rates of mental illness among young people skyrocketing to new heights. A study published in 2022 in JAMA Pediatrics showed the number of children aged 3 to 17 years old diagnosed with anxiety disorders jumped by a staggering 29% between 2016 and 2020. The data also showed a 27% increase in depression diagnoses among this age group during the same four-year period spanning the pandemic’s onset and progression. These findings reveal the staggering psychological toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children and underscore the urgent need for expanded mental health support for youth.

Recognizing Signs of Stress

Stress in teens doesn’t always look like stress in adults. Here are some signs to watch for, according to the American Psychological Association:

  1. Irritability and anger: stressed-out kids and teens might be more short-tempered or argumentative than usual.
  2. Sudden changes in behavior that seem out of character, like a usually quiet kid acting out or a typically social teen who now won’t leave their room.
  3. Complaining about being tired all the time, sleeping a lot more than usual, or having a hard time falling or staying asleep at night.
  4. Your formerly responsible, on-top-of-it teen is suddenly slacking off — forgetting assignments, missing obligations, and procrastinating like crazy.
  5. Significant shifts in eating habits, either not eating much at all or eating way more than normal.
  6. Frequent physical complaints with no apparent illness, like lots of headaches, stomach aches, and visits to the school nurse.
  7. They just seem down, anxious, or emotionally off in a way that’s not typical for them.

The key is paying attention to changes in their normal patterns of behavior, mood, and functioning. Those can be red flags that stress is getting to unhealthy levels for that child or teen and may lead to unhealthy coping behaviors like social withdrawal, substance abuse, and self-harm.

Coping Strategies for Overwhelmed Teens

There are many healthy ways for teens to minimize and manage stress:

  • Exercise relieves tension and releases endorphins to improve mood.
  • Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can reduce anxiety.
  • Journaling provides an outlet to process emotions.
  • Maintaining a balanced diet and getting enough sleep is crucial.
  • Unplugging from technology gives the brain a break.
  • Staying organized with a planner can bring a sense of control.
  • Pursuing enjoyable hobbies and activities is an excellent distraction.
  • Talking to a counselor, trusted adult, or friend provides support.

How TN Voices Can Help

When stress becomes unmanageable or leads to bigger mental health issues, teens need to get professional help. Left unaddressed, the effects of teen stress can be long-lasting. By developing healthy coping skills, teens can overcome anxiety, build resilience, and set the stage for positive emotional wellness in the years ahead.

TN Voices offers various free services to help families and youth in Tennessee and across the United States manage stress, address mental health needs, and overcome challenges. The Family Connection program provides family-driven support to caregivers of children and youth with emotional, behavioral, substance abuse, or psychiatric challenges. This intensive in-home program is designed to support families with children and youth with complex needs, helping them navigate the child-serving systems and providing advocacy, support, and therapeutic skill-building​.

TN Voices also offers young adult-focused programs, such as the Tennessee Healthy Transitions Initiative. The organization can partner with young adults and other agencies to provide formal and informal peer support, supported education and employment, support groups, care coordination, and the Statewide Young Adult Leadership Council. They strive to empower young adults to use their voices to create change and decrease stigma within their communities.

Engaging with programs like TN Voices can provide teens and their families with the tools and support needed to manage stress effectively. Participation in these programs can empower teens to take control of their mental health and well-being.

As we raise awareness during Stress Awareness Month about the unique pressures teens face, it’s crucial to equip teens with the tools to manage stress in a healthy way. Chronic stress, left unchecked, can pave the way for more serious mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse down the line. However, by developing positive coping strategies and prioritizing self-care, teens can reduce stress, increase resiliency, and nurture their overall mental well-being.

Though the pressures of academics, social lives, and an uncertain future will always exist, navigating stress is a skill that will benefit teens not just now but in the years ahead as they transition into adulthood. With community support and an emphasis on mental health education, the next generation can break cycles of chronic stress and flourish. This Stress Awareness Month, take proactive steps to help the teens in your life overcome stress today for a brighter, more balanced tomorrow.


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