Adolescent Stress Management Techniques
Adolescents face multiple stressors, as they balance the demands of school, sports, and friendships. They are also undergoing developmental changes and beginning to separate from their parents. The teenage years can be especially stressful because of brain changes that cause an increase in the hormonal responses to stress, according to a 2013 report in Current Directions in Psychological Science (1).
Given the fact that the teenage years can bring stress, it is important that adolescents find effective ways to cope with the stressors in their lives, as unhealthy coping mechanisms can lead to depression, anxiety, and even substance abuse. Fortunately, there are proven ways that teens can manage their stress, and in an increasingly technological world, there are even mobile phone apps that can reduce distress.
Physical Activity for Stress Reduction
Getting regular exercise can help adolescents to cope with stress in a healthy manner. A Norwegian study (2) found that compared to teens who exercised one time or less per week, those who were physically active at least two to three days per week reported less stress and more happiness. Encouraging teens to find a physical activity that they like, whether it be running, lifting weights, or playing basketball, can buffer the negative effects of stress.
Promoting Healthy Sleep Habits
The National Sleep Foundation Reports that teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, but many of them do not get adequate rest (3). Prioritizing sleep is vital and can make life’s stressors more manageable for teenagers. In fact, researchers writing for a 2018 publication of the Journal of Adolescence found that teens who got more sleep after a stressful day recovered better from the stress and were able to return to a more positive mood state the following day (4).
In addition to prioritizing sleep, mindfulness interventions may be useful for reducing stress during adolescence. With mindfulness, people become aware of what they are thinking and feeling, as well as what bodily sensations they are experiencing, but they do not judge these thoughts, feelings, or sensations (5). When teens learn to become mindful, they are able to focus on the present without judgment instead of worrying about what has happened in the past or what may come in the future. A recent study conducted through the University of North Carolina and the University of Tennessee found that a mindfulness intervention that taught teens to show more compassion for themselves reduced feelings of stress (6).
Apps for Stress Management
Some teens may wish to use mobile phone apps to help them manage stress, and there are a variety of apps that have been found to be effective. Mental health professionals working with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America have reviewed and rated mental health apps that teens can use for stress management (7). The following are useful options:
- Breathe2Relax-This app can teach stress management breathing techniques to teens; it has been found to be effective and easy to use, and there is strong research evidence supporting its effectiveness.
- Headspace- Also effective and easy to use, this app teaches meditation and mindfulness skills that can be used for adolescent stress management.
- Mindshift- While there has not been as much research done to support the use of Mindshift, it is tailored to meet the needs of adolescents and can help them to manage test anxiety and social stressors. It teaches coping skills and relaxation techniques that can be useful for stress management.
With mental health apps and healthy lifestyle habits such as prioritizing sleep and exercise, many teens can learn to manage their stress so it does not become unhealthy. On the other hand, some teens may struggle with stress to the point that it interferes with daily functioning, leads to depression, or causes them to use unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug and alcohol use. In these cases, it is best to consult with a mental health professional to determine what intervention is needed.