Teenagers are likely to experience stress when they perceive a situation as painful, dangerous or difficult. An inability to cope with the stresses they face may lead to anxiety, depression, aggression, physical illness and poor coping skills, such as alcohol or drug abuse.

Some sources of stress teens often face include:

• Negative feelings about themselves.

• Having expectations that are too high.

• Taking on too many activities.

• School demands.

• Problems with friends or peers.

• Separation or divorce of parents.

• Death of a loved one.

Here are some ways to help a teen that is expressing stress.

First, monitor your child to see how the stress is affecting his or her physical and emotional health as well as his or her behavior.

Listen carefully to your teen. Watch for signs of overloading. Model stress management skills.

Tips for teens to help manage stress include:

• Get regular exercise.

• Eat a healthy diet. Avoid excess caffeine, particularly energy drinks.

• Avoid illegal drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

• Learn to state feelings in a polite, yet assertive manner. For example, say, “I feel angry when you yell at me.”

• Develop practical coping skills. Break a large task into smaller, manageable steps. (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!)

• Learn to feel good about doing a competent or “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection for yourself and others.

• Develop a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.

• Take a break from situations that are stressful. Talking to a friend, listening to music, spending time with a pet or working on a hobby are good “stress busters.”

Stress will always be a part of life. Developing coping techniques early in life can lead to lifelong good mental health. If your teen, however, shows signs of being overly stressed for a prolonged period of time, seek professional help from your health care provider.

For more information, call your local extension office at 453-6803.

Jennifer Russell is an area child and family development agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. You may contact her at 453-6803 or jtb20@ext.msstate.edu.

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