Teen Stress / Childhood Stress
Why Are Kids So Stressed Out Today?

How Can We Deal with
Teen Stress, anxiety & depression?

Childhood and teen stress has reached epidemic levels in today's world. We must work hard to teach children and teens to recognize the causes and symptoms of stress and to counteract them with relaxation techniques and other stress management skills. By teaching youth these skills and abilities, we will be able to prevent the unfortunate outcomes of teenage depression and teen suicide.

We must regularly schedule and make available opportunities to teach children and teens about stress. The following skills can be taught to help children learn how to help themselves:

Deep Breathing - Slow, deep regular breathing relieves tension and anxiety. Draw air slowly through the nostrils until the lungs are filled, and slowly exhale. Continue this exercise for 2-3 minutes, learning to  breathe properly is a key component of dealing with teen stress;

Stretching - Demonstrate simple stretching exercises to relieve muscle tension. If young people learn how to move their bodies mores, teen stress and childhood stress could become a thing of the past;

Progressive Relaxation - Childhood and teen stress can be reduced using this relaxation technique that includes all the different muscle groups in the body;

Imagery - Imagery has a calming effect and enhances positive feelings. To deal with teen stress, ask youth to close their eyes and picture in their minds a special place where they feel happy, comfortable and relaxed. Notice and discuss the sights, sounds, smells and touch of this special place and enjoy the peaceful feelings;

Teach a Strategy for Dealing with Problems - Children and teens who are taught a problem-solving method cope more easily with stressful situations. The seven steps to effective problem solving are 1) relax, 2) think out loud about the problem, 3) consider alternative solutions, 4) be creative in generating possible solutions 5) consider consequences, 6) choose, implement and evaluate a first solution and 7) if it doesn't work, try another solution. Keep up this process until the problem is solved or until new information emerges that changes the nature of the problem into something else.

Peer Pressure - Teens themselves can be a major cause of teen stress. Help children recognize that they have more than one strategy to use when dealing with pressure from friends and to try and find alternatives;

Encourage Positive Self-Talk - Help children and teens to recognize, listen to and evaluate their own "self talk." Encourage them to say, "I can calm myself down," "I have another chance," or "I have done lots of things well," "I just need a little more time to work this out." A well-known quote by Thomas Edison, the person who is credited with the invention of the light bulb and hundreds of other inventions, is as follows:

Edison said, "I have not failed 10,000 times, I have successfully found 10,000 ways that do not work."

If children and teens can be taught to think like Thomas Edison, then childhood and teen stress will likely become much less prominent in our society;

Discourage Negative Self-Talk - Help children and teens to avoid criticizing themselves. Negative statements such as "I can't," "This is driving me crazy," or "I never do anything right," can and do lead to bad feelings about self;

Avoid Using Labels - Labels such as "Klutz, dummy, lazy, careless, shy, selfish, forgetful" stick in a child's mind and children identify with these negative labels. Help children realize we all (adults included) act like this sometimes, but that we act in many wonderful ways too. Point out some of the positive things they do;

Encourage Sharing, Listening and Participating Skills - These skills encourage children and teens to interact cooperatively with others and learn to see things from someone else's point of view;

Assertiveness - Teach children to be able to speak up for themselves;

Creative Outlets - Encourage children to develop their own preferred interests. Hobbies and sporting activities, creative activities (drawing, building things, painting, drama, making up stories) and play help release tension and encourage relaxation;

Share Humor - Have fun, laugh and play together. Collect favorite jokes and cartoons. Share funny incidents from your life. Create a humor scrapbook. Record pictures and descriptions of funny events that have happened in your child's life. Make sure the items in the scrapbook are funny to the child and that they don't stir up embarrassing memories for your child that may have been funny to you and others. Humor helps keep things in perspective when it comes to childhood and teen stress;

Healthy Lifestyles - Children thrive on the security of predictable routines. Provide regular vigorous physical exercise, regular balanced meals, fresh air, and a regular bedtime to ensure sufficient sleep;

Relaxation Techniques - These can help children relax before going to sleep; and

Physical Activity - Some young children need to do something physically active to release pent up tension and frustration, e.g., running, punching a pillow, jumping up and down, throwing a ball. Help them choose appropriate activities. Other children need to be quiet and look at a book, color a picture or just daydream.

Martial Arts Therapy - The Martial Arts Therapy (MAT) Program is a great way to begin eliminating teen stress. It is an exciting, breakthrough Martial Arts based program designed to empower young people to take control of their lives. It helps both aggressors and victims.

The Martial Art Therapy Program (MAT) is an active therapeutic modality that combines the principles of psychosocial rehabilitation with those of traditional martial arts training techniques. The program aims to provide young people with new skills to manage the challenges in their lives.

Adapted from: Ontario Health Promotion E-Bulletin

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