Managing school stress and extracurricular activities is never easy – but it’s even more difficult after winter break. If your teen is feeling overwhelmed, practice these four stress management activities to alleviate the back to school burden.
Your teen is probably getting back into the school routine after the winter break, but you may have noticed that things aren’t quite right. Maybe your teen seems more anxious or worried than usual, or maybe they’re still having trouble getting up in time to catch the bus in the morning and seem to be dragging their feet around the house more than usual. Maybe your teen seems sad, angry, or overwhelmed.
Why Teens Need Stress Management Activities During the School Year
Going back to school after a break can be stressful. This can be especially true after the winter holiday break, which may not be as relaxing as the summer or spring breaks because of the busyness of the season.
School stress can be hard, especially because teenagers often haven’t yet learned healthy ways to manage that stress. But you can help your teen by encouraging them to engage in some healthy stress management activities.
1. Get Back to Nature
It may sound overly simplistic, but sometimes just spending time in nature can go a long way toward helping with relaxation and alleviating stress. There are many reasons why just getting outside and spending time in nature can help teens feel less stressed. Getting some fresh air and sunshine is always good for a mood boost, especially if your teen has been cooped up while studying for a long time.
If your teen hasn’t been getting much exercise, getting some physical activity in the form of a walk, a run, or playing an outdoor sport can give them an endorphin boost that can lift their mood and help them feel happier. On the other hand, getting outside doesn’t have to mean doing a lot of physical activity.
Just sitting outside while reading a book, playing with a pet, or talking to a friend can go a long way toward helping your teen relax. Being in a natural setting can feel calming and reducing the stress that your teen might feel when they’re inside the school or in their room at home.
2. Practice Gratitude
Sometimes stress management activities can include self-reflection. Encourage your teen to engage in some type of gratitude exercise, like writing down three things they’re grateful for each day or sharing a thing they’re grateful for with the family at the dinner table.
Your teen may resist the idea at first, or not take it seriously. The idea of gratitude exercises can seem silly or forced in the beginning. But it really does work, so keep encouraging your teen to continue. Consciously thinking about things that your teen is grateful for can help them reframe their thoughts.
Instead of thinking about worrying thoughts, they’ll be thinking about the things that are going right in their lives. This kind of thought process can really help put your teen in a better headspace.
Once they get into the spirit of the exercise, encourage them to take additional steps, like writing a thank-you note to someone who did them a favor. They’ll be doing something to make someone else feel good, and that will make them feel good as well.
3. Ask for Help
Make sure that your teenager knows that it’s OK to ask for help when they need it. Teenagers who are feeling school stress may feel pressured to succeed entirely on their own – they might feel embarrassed about asking for help, or feel like it doesn’t really count if they couldn’t do everything entirely on their own.
If your teen is dealing with more social stress than academic stress, they may feel embarrassed about asking you or another adult for help, or they may believe that you wouldn’t understand or know how to help them.
Teens need to know that it’s OK for them to ask for help – not just because they’re teenagers or minors, but because they’re humans, and humans need help from time to time. People need to rely on each other in times of stress and trouble, no matter what age they are.
In addition to making sure that your teen knows that you’re there for them and willing to listen to their problems and help them find solutions, it can help to make sure that your teen has other trusted adults in their life that they can turn to when they’re stressed or worried.
You might prefer that your teen come to you with their problems first, but the reality is that they may not always do so, no matter how caring, understanding, or helpful you are. And isn’t it better that they have some responsible adult they can trust to talk to, even if it’s not you? Make an effort to ensure that your teen has a variety of trusted adults in their life that care about them. That way you’ll know that they always have a safe place to turn to when they have something on their mind.
4. Encourage Your Teen to Take Time for Themselves
If your teen is always surrounded by a group of friends, it can be easy to assume that everything is fine. Parents often tend to worry more about teens who seem isolated or lonely. But being a social butterfly isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, your teen may actually be feeling extremely stressed.
Sometimes the best stress management activities for teens is taking personal time. It’s possible to feel lonely even if you’re the center of attention in a crowded room.
- Social pressures or infighting within a friend group can really take a toll on a teen.
- And even if your teen isn’t dealing with problems within their friend group, they may be using social activities to avoid thinking about things that are stressing them out.
Encourage your teen to set aside some time to be by themselves every now and then. You can teach them to meditate or practice mindfulness exercises during this time to help clear their minds and relax, or just let them know that it’s OK to take some time to themselves doing something they enjoy solo, like reading, drawing, or listening to music.
Adults can sometimes forget just how stressful the teen years can be, but teenagers really do have a lot going on and a lot on their minds. In addition, things aren’t going to get any less stressful as they move into adulthood.
It’s important for parents to be aware of the stresses facing today’s teens and look for opportunities to help them learn stress management activities to ease anxiety in a healthy way.