Recognizing Signs of High Stress in Teens


Is your teen experiencing a normal amount of stress or is it becoming unhealthy?

Some stress can actually be a good thing. Stress can act as a signal to our bodies and minds that we need to act because something is important. When you learn that a midterm test is scheduled for next week and you begin to feel a little nervous, that is an indication that you need to study. A strategy to resolve the nervous feeling is to schedule plenty of time for studying over the week. Stress can become problematic when it begins to build over time and we don’t recognize the toll it is taking on us, making it difficult to function.

So what should you look for in your teen as signs of unhealthy levels of stress?

  • Complaints of frequent stomach aches/headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Becoming easily overwhelmed 
  • Poor sleep
  • Inability to focus
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Sadness
  • Irritability 
  • Outbursts of anger or emotions
  • Poor appetite or overeating

What can you do if you see these signs of elevated stress in your teen? Talk with your teen. Open up a conversation about their life. How are they balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and their part-time job? Does it seem to be too much for them at times? Can they take anything off of their plate to lighten the load? Empathize with your teen about how it can be difficult at times to balance a busy life and give them hope that they can make changes to alleviate their stress. Help them find strategies to relieve their stress, such as exercising, spending time with friends, or doing an activity they find enjoyable, like art or cooking.  Assist them in creating an organization system to keep track of assignments and utilize their time. If you believe that your teen needs more assistance, seek help from a school counselor or a therapist. For more information about treating stress and anxiety, contact me!