I recently had an enlightening conversation with a college sophomore. She has a delightful personality and is blessed with a rare blend of analytical and interpersonal skills. Her resume of accomplishments is a mile long. So, can you imagine my surprise when she confided to being totally stressed out about her future? Will she find a job? Would she be accepted into a decent grad school? She doubted whether her 3.97 GPA was good enough.
Although a little stress can be a good thing, too much can be unhealthy and counterproductive. Unfortunately, when it comes to the teen and young adult years, it appears that things are getting out of control for all parties. Teens and young adults are often stressed about:
- School—homework, grades, activities—doing well enough to punch the ticket
- Social life—friendships, popularity, drama, peer pressure
- Future—decisions about college, career, service, and building their resume
- Busyness—over-commitment, time management, lack of sleep/down time
- Family—relationship strains and living up to their parents’ expectations
That’s a lot! With that, here are some helpful stress-busting strategies for teens:
- Keep a healthy perspective. Everyone has stress—the question is how we deal with it. Do we take charge and channel it into a productive plan or do we let it consume us? Do we focus on what we can control and make the best of situations where we can’t?
- Be self aware. Identify the chief sources of your stress and ways they may be prevented or limited. Call out any underlying fears and explore ways to alleviate them. Understand and tap into your most helpful stress busters (e.g., exercise, quiet time, prayer, music/movies, humor, sharing with friends and family, serving others). And, be sure to get your rest, eat well, and confide in your loved ones.
- Focus more on process than outcome. Stress levels rise when we emphasize specific outcomes rather than simply doing our best. Examples include GPAs, admission to specific colleges, dating, making the team, and selecting our career/major. There is no single pathway to success, including which college you attend. And, for most high schoolers, it’s premature to know which major/career is the best fit. Finally, today’s “friend count” will seem silly in hindsight as you preserve a smaller core of loyal friends who matter most.
- Keep balanced and develop good time management skills. Today, busyness, distraction, and over-commitment are interfering with our balance and productivity. Now is the time to sharpen your prioritization skills and to view your time as a precious asset. Manage your pace. And, when deciding which activities to pursue (technology included!), always consider their value and time requirements and your available capacity.
During this incredibly stressful time, teens are feeling a lot of pressure and are pulled in many different directions. We need to rally around them and help them apply the above principles to keep that stress under control.
How do you personally deal with stress? If you have a teen who is stressed about high school or college performance, how have you helped them deal with it?
Dennis Trittin is President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. With world-class leadership experience, passionate advocacy for the next generation, and acclaimed resources and speaking engagements on the topics of leadership, life skills, and parenting, Dennis inspires and equips young people and those who guide them. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!