Adolescents and Stress By Victor Chijioke

Feeling stressed is a normal response for anyone who is faced with danger, uncertainty, or a higher expectation for performance.  However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can lead to physical and mental health issues.  Stress can stem from demands of parents, gymnastics coaches, friends, and teachers.  Some might find it difficult to balance these demands.  A teen who feels overwhelmed needs to learn how to manage stress in healthful and appropriate ways; otherwise, unmanaged stress can lead to health issues such as inability to concentrate, sleep and eating problems, irritability, and even anxiety and depression.

As a parent, can you identify the risk factors that make your adolescent more vulnerable to stress?  If you are parenting a gymnast, it is important to note that your child’s stress may not only revolve around the pressure to perform well, but can stem from other factors as well.

Contributors of Adolescent Stress

Some of the factors that may contribute to adolescent stress include:

  • High expectation or feeling of pressure to perform well
  • Academic pressures
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Being taunted/social rejection
  • Family problems

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Signs that teens are experiencing high levels of stress may include:

  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive, unhealthy snacking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Low energy
  • Stomach aches, headaches, susceptibility to illness, and other health problems

How to Deal With Stress

It is important to note that any adult helping an adolescent deal with stress can become overwhelmed, and knowing how to deal with your own stress can greatly assist you in helping your teen.  Some of the tips a parent or a coach can use to help adolescents deal with stress include:

  • Teach coping skills for dealing with life, including interpersonal conflict.
  • Encourage the teen to get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Help youth learn how to express their feelings in a healthy manner.
  • Help them develop effective communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
  • Avoid overloading youth, and make sure they get regular opportunities to engage in leisure activities.
  • Spend time with your teen, and give her your undivided attention.

Adolescents will continue to develop their own skills in managing stress and balancing issues of life.  In the meantime, parents, gymnastics coaches, or any adult involved with the teen’s life should be aware of the vulnerability of a teen to stress and take the necessary steps to help them.  Also, if you feel you cannot provide the help your teen needs, consult a qualified professional.

Victor Chijioke is a doctoral student in the Department of Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX, with an interest and focus on population health.  He is also a registered radiologic technologist and has assisted with health promotion in the US Navy and local communities.