Stress And The Adolescent Brain: A Perfect Storm
As alluded to above, the brain is a major target of the glucocorticoids andthese hormones are known to be potent modulators of many neurobiological processes,including neuronal plasticity .In adults, chronic exposure to stress results in smaller and structurally lesscomplex hippocampal and prefrontal cortical neurons. These morphological changes arealso paralleled by decreases in spatial learning and attention shifting, cognitiveabilities reliant upon an intact hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, respectively.Neurons in the amygdala, conversely, show stress-induced growth in adulthood, alongwith increased amygdala-dependent fear learning . Importantly, these effects of stress on the adult brainare reversible, such that if animals are allowed to recover from the stressors forat least 10 days, then these parameters revert to their pre-stress levels .
Tougher Academics And More Responsibilities
The academic demands increase with every year of high school. Even if kids made great strides in middle school, they know the work will get more challenging. At the same time, they have to speak up more for what they need, or self-advocate.
What you can do: Remind kids of the support they have both at school and at home. Encourage them to reach out to teachers for help. Kids who have an IEP can reach out to the IEP case manager, too, and even ask about having self-advocacy goals included in the IEP. You can also:
What Can Parents Do
As parents, we all want to do what’s best for our children. There are so many things we can do to help reduce a child’s anxiety while building a better parent-child relationship.
- Be aware of your childs behaviors and emotions.
- Build trust with your child.
- Be available and open to talk with your child when he or she is ready.
- Encourage the expression of feelings.
- Teach and model good emotional responses.
- Encourage your child to tell you if he or she feels overwhelmed.
- Encourage healthy and diverse friendships.
- Encourage physical activity, good nutrition, and rest.
- Teach your child to problem solve.
- Remind your child of his or her ability to get through tough times, particularly with the love and support of family and friends.
- Keep your child aware of anticipated family changes.
- Monitor television programs that could worry your child and pay attention to the use of computer games, movies, and the Internet.
- Use encouragement and natural consequences when poor decisions are made.
- Help your child select appropriate extracurricular activities and limit overscheduling.
- Make your child aware of the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol before experimentation begins.
- Monitor your own stress level. Take care of yourself.
- Contact your childs teacher with any concerns and make him or her part of the team available to assist your child.
- Seek the assistance of a physician, school psychologist, school counselor, or school social worker if stress continues to be a concern.
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An Effective Anxiety Treatment For Teens
If the above methods have been tried and the teen still isn’t responding, it may be time to consult a psychiatrist to recommend a medication that is safe for teens. Medications are necessary in some cases where chemical imbalances have become too severe to balance out on their own, and their necessity, if it arises, should not be looked upon as a weakness of character or a failing of any person involved.
The sooner severe, life-impeding anxiety is addressed, the sooner a teen can move on to living the healthy and fulfilling life they want for themselves without anxiety holding them back.
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How You Can Help Your Teen Deal With Stress
None of this advice will seem new or groundbreaking to you. Its mostly common sense but when things get stressful, common sense can go out the window. If your teens stress is causing you so much stress you forget that you already know what to do about it, consult the following list. It will help you and your teenager get back on track.
How to Decrease Teen Stress
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As Pointed Out Above There Is No Set Formula For How Your Teen Will React To Stress
The natural instinct is to fight, flight or freeze when in a stressful situation:
Fight is when your teen may become physical screaming, slamming doors or crying are a few examples.
Flight is where your teen completely removes himself from the source of the stress so he never deals with the stressor or learns how to cope with them
Freeze is where your teen freezes and is unable to respond emotionally. He lets the situation slide in the hope that it will go away.
Teen Stress And Tension Study
Joyce Walker, University of Minnesota, undertook a study and survey to determine the effect of stress and tension in adolescents. The research focused on several situations that teens face and describe how they deal with it. The study also threw light on how stress and tension can cause destructive behavior. The data for the experiment was collected from high school students in 52 rural Minnesota counties.
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Uncertainty About The Future
In high school, kids have to start thinking about what kind of career they want to pursue. They also have to choose a path: college, work, vocational training. Kids with IEPs will go through a formal process to plan that transition. But that alone may not lessen the stress.
What you can do: Remind kids that feeling unsure or worried about the future is normal. Explain that there are many ways to thrive and be happy in life. You can also:
Encourage your child to watch the documentary Being You. Its about three young people who learn and think differently who travel around the country to explore what the future may hold for them.
Category : Problem Solving
Identify and Then Tackle the Problem
Sometimes, when you identify the source of stress, it can feel overwhelming. You may feel unable to address the problem. To get past that feeling, divide it into smaller pieces and manage one piece at a time. For example, you can make lists and timelines, and then identify a strategy from your plan to address each part of the problem.
Avoid What Stresses You Out Whenever Possible
Life is hard enough without having to deal with things that can be avoided. Bypass, rather than confront, problems when it is safe and wise to do so. Avoiding people, places, and things that trigger emotions can be an act of tremendous strength.
Instead of devoting energy to worrying about things you cant change, channel your energy differently. Focus on problems that can be fixed!
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Category : Maintain Healthy Bodies
The Power of Exercise
Stress hormones prepare the body to run or fight. They put the mind into a survival-only mode which makes it hard to focus, think clearly, and problem-solve. When the body is stressed and doesnt get exercise, its left feeling as if it needs to run from danger. Exercise literally runs out those hormones. Exercise is also tightly linked to better physical health and contributes to mental and emotional well-being.
Learning to Really Relax
Sometimes its impossible to run away from a problem. Active relaxation strategies can help the mind regain focus and be a first step to problem-solving. Relaxation, just for its own sake, also contributes to mental, physical, and emotional health.
Good Nutrition and Eating Well
Proper nutrition is essential to a healthy body, a clear mind, and managing stress.
Proper sleep is important to stress management because exhausted people cannot solve problems effectively. Whether a lack of sleep comes from poor sleep habits or stress, the brain and the body both benefit from breaking a cycle of sleeplessness.
How To Help Your Teen Manage His Stress
This next YouTube video shows Temple Universitys shows most recent research into teenage stress and even gives one amazing stress management tip.
Watch it now
Your job as a parent is to :
recognize that your teen is stressed
understand the non-coping mechanisms he may be showing
take the necessary steps to help your teen overcome the stressful situation
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Know The Warning Signs
We scoured reputable websites like those maintained by the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Alliance on Mental Health, and the Centers for Disease Control to find the most common warning signs of adolescent stress. Heres a simplified list, so you dont have to go search for yourself.
Top Ten Signs Your Teen is Stressed
If any of these things are true for your teenager, dont ignore them. Because the stress hormones arent ignoring their body. Theyre circulating. Theyre causing short-term issues that, left unaddressed, could become significant long-term physical and emotional problems.
Good Stress Or Bad Stress
Stress can be good or bad. Some amount of good stress and tension can bring out the best in a teenager. Bad stress can cause headache, nightmares, irritability and fatigue. Feeling stress over prolonged periods leads to distress and this in turn leads to various diseases. It is very important for parents to teach teens the art of handling stress and tension.
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Contributing Factors That Mediate The Adolescent Changes In Stressreactivity
The mechanisms that mediate these adolescent-related changes in hormonalresponsiveness remain unclear. However, it appears to involve both the activationand feedback phases of the HPA response. In the context of activation, experimentshave shown that neural activity in the PVN, particularly in the CRH-containingcells, is higher in adolescent than adult animals following stress . These datasuggest that the prolonged ACTH and corticosterone responses prior to puberty may inpart be driven by greater stress-induced CRH production and release. Along withthese differences in activation, studies on negative feedback have shown thatpre-treatment with the synthetic glucocorticoid, dexamethasone is less effective atblunting a stress-induced corticosterone response in prepubertal compared to adultrats . Thus, theseresults would support the notion that periadolescent animals may show lessglucocorticoid-dependent negative feedback on the HPA axis than adults. Futurestudies will need to address what cellular mechanisms mediate these putativeage-dependent changes in sensitivity to negative feedback, such as differences inglucocorticoid receptor function in the brain and pituitary. To date, however, theseavenues of research have been largely unexplored.
Stressors Common In The Teenage Years
The stressors in the teen years are numerous and difficult to avoid. Almost all teens face some sort of stress each day as they head out to school and work, socialize with friends and attend to their other daily activities. Identifying the main stressors affecting teens helps eating disorder therapists provide the right level of support to promote recovery. Here are many of the stressors that affect teens, though there are far more to consider across all regions and cultures.
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Stress Management Tips For Teenagers
Teenagers often feel stress due to the myriad of changes in their lives.
Its common to feel stressed and anxious. But too much of it can be a cause for worry, and also affect ones health. The most common reason for stress in teens is about their future and the hormonal changes in their bodies. Other sources of stress could be school pressure, negative thoughts, health issues, peer pressure, parents separation, family expectations, financial problems, betrayal from friends, and relationships.
Here are some stress-buster tips for teenagers that they can include in their lives.
Are You Too Busy
If you’re feeling tired and stressed because you have too much going on, like lots of after-school activities, you might feel better if you drop something, even if it’s just for a semester or so. Sometimes lots of activities even if they’re all fun can make you feel stressed by keeping you busy all the time. On the other hand, if problems at home are bugging you, some after-school activities may actually help you relax and feel better.
Getting enough sleep and eating healthy food are two great ways to help handle stress.
You also can use relaxation exercises to get rid of stress. The easiest one to do is to inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this two to four times, but don’t take in too much air too quickly because it can make you feel lightheaded and dizzy.
You can do exercises like this anytime, without anyone noticing. You can even do breathing exercises in class if you’re nervous before a test.
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The Emotional Backlash From Teen Stress
Stress isnt just one emotion, either.
- 40% of teens feel angry or irritable throughout the day just from the sheer stress of it all.
- 36% are either anxious or nervous and another 36% feel more fatigued than anything else.
- In the past month before the survey, 31% were overwhelmed by the stress.
This can have more negative consequences than they even realize.
- For example, 26% report snapping at or being short with classmates in the month up to the survey. Thats directly from the emotions that stress made them feel.
- 51% of teens are told that they seem or look stressed at least once a month.
School plays a massive role, too.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, teens report an average stress level of 5.8 during the school year.
- In contrast, its a 4.6 during the summer months. While thats still not as relaxed as teens could be, its a significant decrease from school time.
There are obviously other factors that can play into a teens stress levels.
- Maybe their expectations at home or school are too much pressure.
- They could have too many extracurricular activities, or not feel like they have enough time to themselves.
- Friendships and getting into their first relationships can also be sources of stress.
- Pay attention to whats going on in your teens life to see if you can find the root of their stress.
This study did not even account for social media which is becoming an increasing source of stress and self-consciousness amongst teens.
How Does The Body Handle Stress
First, here are 2 short definitions.
Hormone: a chemical made by one part of the body that travels through your blood to send messages to the rest of the body.
Nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and all of the nerves. The nerves send messages between your brain and the rest of your body.
The body is a finely-tuned machine that can change quickly to do what we need it to do, like react to stress. The body has two nervous systems. The voluntary system does what you choose to have it dowalk, talk, move. The involuntary system keeps the body running without your even thinking about itbreathe, sweat, digest. The body actually has 2 different nerve pathways in the involuntary system. One works while were relaxed, and the other works when theres an emergency. These 2 systems can’t work together at the same time. Its important to know this because we can shut off the emergency system by flipping a switch and turning on the relaxed system.
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What You Can Do
Even though it is not uncommon for teens to be stressed, it is also not something that you want your teen to live with day after day. After all, chronic stress can be detrimental to your teen’s health and wellbeing.
“Stress that is not dealt with appropriately or in a healthy manner can transform into an anxiety disorder,” explains Kaufman Rees. ” neuropathways in the brain on which unhealthy thoughts continue to run. a state in which fight/flight/freeze response is effectively switched ‘on’ indefinitely.”
If your teen is struggling with stress, it is important that you guide them on how to reduce their stress levels. Here are five things you can do to not only help alleviate their stress but also to help them put things in perspective.
Build A Stress Management Plan
As you begin building a stress management plan, consider how to think realistically about the problem at hand. That way, you can figure out whats stressing you out. And understand there is no stress management strategy more powerful than reaching out for support from others.
Once youve determined the problem, its time to make your plan. A strong stress management plan includes four broad categories. Each category includes different strategies to manage stress. Pick strategies you think will work best for your situation. By clicking through to the different strategies you can learn even more about putting each strategy into place.
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