As someone who is in front of a number of children and teens, I’ve learned a lot about the inner workings of their everyday lives. The pressure at wildly young ages to be successful in both academics and extracurriculars. Losing sleep due to long hours of homework, projects, and exams on top of practices and club requirements. Inner conflict when having to figure out who they are and what they are going to do with their lives, all while tip-toeing on the lines of social culture. And now with the help of social media and instant gratification drama with friendships, relationships, and social image have magnified. I have often said I am so grateful to have been born in the year I was in, as I don’t think I would be able to handle the constant pressures of being a teen today. But how high are their stress levels today? And how do they compare to stress levels of generations of the past?
Teen Stress Levels
According to the American Psychological Association’s poll, Stress in America ™: Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits? teens are experiencing stress in patterns similar to adults. And during the school year, those levels are even higher. Teens shared that their school-year stress ranked in at 5.8 on a 10-point scale. That number tops the adult average stress level at 5.1
31% of those same teens also reported feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Furthermore, 30% said they often felt sad as a result of the stress. 36% of them reported feeling lethargic and tired, while 23% reported meal skipping as a means of coping – or simply not having time.
“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults,” says APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D. “It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health.” “To break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors, says Anderson, “we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health-care professionals.”
Generations in Comparison
On average, teens and young adults will admit they do not do enough to manage their stress. Fortunately, they are more likely than older generations to try to engage in more stress relief activities.
- Millennials and Gen Xers report higher levels of stress than Boomers and Matures. This has been the trend since 2012
- Millennials and Gen Xers are more likely to rate money as a significant source of stress
- Millennials are the most likely of the four groups to pinpoint work as a significant source of stress
- Trends show there has been a sharp spike in younger adults who say their stress levels have increased within the past year
- Younger adults are more likely than older generations to engage in stress management coping methods
Quick Tips to Help Lower Stress
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing ourselves fully into the present moment. It encourages us to accept whatever is happening, as it is happening. And it helps to raise your levels of self-awareness and compassion. The most common practices involve connecting with your breath and tuning into your surroundings.
Try our favorite mindfulness practice, “Come to Your Senses” here.
Let Go of What You Cannot Control
There are going to be things that really work you up. The political climate. The actual climate. You can’t solely control a lot of what happens across the world. However, you can control aspects of your own life. How do you show up in your relationships? What kind of effort do you put into your work? What about the internal work? Remember, life isn’t about what happens to us, it’s about how we react.
Take Care of Yourself
Get your sleep. Move your body. Eat in a way that nourishes you and makes you feel good. Take the medications you need. Say no when you are overextended. Drink your water.
They sound simple in theory, but we all know how hard it can be to keep up with taking proper care of yourself when the stress piles up. Take small steps, do what you can, and keep getting back up and dusting yourself off. These habits take practice but are so rewarding once they become a natural part of your life.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help and Support
Counseling can be a helpful tool to help you make the changes you need to live a less stressful life. Sharing your concerns and stress with your therapist can help you find the coping tools you need. Therapy and counseling are safe spaces where you can voice your concerns, develop coping and communication skills, and find the support you need.
Remember, therapy is hard work! It can feel extremely uncomfortable and even exhausting. Having a hand to hold and help guide you will only add to your personal success. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and one in the Robinson area. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you stress less in 2019.