FEATURES: Teens Dealing With Variety Of Stresses
By Megan Grabowski – Staff Reporter
Tom Poulis, a senior at University High School in Southern California, is really feeling the stress that most teens feel throughout their high school years. Poulis is mainly stressed over applying to colleges, as well as multiple other things including his academics and his extracurricular activities. He is president of the debate club, an officer with Amnesty International, and a student representative on the Associated Student Body Cabinet, among other activities that he needs to keep up with.
For Poulis and the majority of high school students, stress is a something that they have to deal with on a daily basis. Stress can be caused by multiple different things. Some of the big causes of stress in teenagers are school, sports and activities, their friends and family, or a job that they have. Stress can have a big impact on teens.
“At the extreme, and I want to emphasize that this is the extreme, we’re seeing more kids who are engaging in self-mutilation,” said adolescent medicine specialist Kenneth Ginsburg. “It’s a way of taking control over their life when they feel their life is out of control. And I see quite a few kids with eating disorders. It’s kids who just feel like they can’t handle everything they’re doing.”
School alone is a big cause of stress for teenagers. Teens have a constant workload and are expected to somehow get all of the work done on time and done right. According to the American Psychological Association, teens routinely say that their school year stress levels are far higher than they think is healthy.
“You have to be able to perform at a much higher level than in the past, when I was in high school,” said Dave Forrester, a counselor at Olympia High School in Olympia, Washington. “We have so many choices for kids. They need to grow up a little faster about what they want to do and how they’re going to do it.”
On top of academics, many teens participate in after school sports and activities. Even though these activities are supposed to be fun, they usually add extra stress onto the teens shoulders.
Bryce Goldsen understands what it takes to get everything done. He is a junior at Bishop Blanchet, a Catholic high school near Seattle. He has a 4.0 grade point average, takes advanced placement history and language arts classes, plays varsity tennis, and sits on the city’s local youth commission.
“Most of my stress comes from the pressure to perform well day in and day out,” said Goldsen.
A survey by the American Psychological Association stated that just under 60 percent of teens said that having to manage too many activities was a “somewhat or very significant” stressor. Most teens reported that their stress levels affected their performance at home, work, and school. Respondents said that it is tough to keep their grades up, especially when they have a busy schedule after school with limited time to do homework.
Grades, homework, tests, and after school sports and activities are not the only factors that go into teen stress. Teens’ relationships with their families and friend groups cause them more stress than you would think. The struggles of dating, fitting in, and friendship are magnified by social media even when the school day ends.
Today it is rare to find a teen who does not have a phone or Internet access and it is true that this technology can cause them more stress than they already have. With smart phones, instant messaging, and social networks, the social environment of the school has spread into the home. Teens’ social problems follow them home and they cause mental stress while the student should be relaxing or studying.
“It follows them home,” said Tim Conway, who directs the counseling department at Lakeland Regional High School in Wanaque, N.J. “There is no escape anymore.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics considers peer pressure and social life a teenage stress factor. Although teens may have a solid group of friends, their peers may pressure them to hang out instead of studying, break ties with former friends that the group doesn’t consider “cool” anymore, or experiment with alcohol, drugs or sexual activities that go against their morals or family rules.
Family problems can also cause teenagers to feel the stress at home. Arguments with siblings and parents is a big factor in how the teen feels at home. After coming home from a stressful day at school, teens should be able to relax at home and have a way to escape. Stress in teens can come from their parents pressure to do well and be successful.
Teen stress levels are found to be higher than those of adults, so the support from adults is truly what teens need.
“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults,” said Norman B. Anderson, the American Psychological Association’s chief executive and senior vice President. “In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education, at school and at home, at the community level, and in their interactions with healthcare professionals.”
Another major cause of stress in teens is lack of sleep. Teens need about eight and a half hours of sleep every night in order to keep healthy and energized. Not getting enough sleep can cause a teen to be tired and stressed, and being stressed about something can cause a teen to not be able to sleep. It is an unhealthy cycle.
Teens report sleeping an average of seven hours on a school night and sleeping an average of eight hours on the weekend.
This year’s Stress in America survey shows that stress may be interfering with Americans’ sleep, keeping many teens from getting the sleep they need to be healthy. Sleep is a necessary human function and when we do not sleep long or well enough, our bodies do not get the full benefits of sleep.
Teens are more likely than adults to say they do not get good quality sleep and have more trouble achieving their sleep goals. Teens are also more likely to say they feel stressed from a lack of sleep than adults are.
It is very evident that teens feel more stress overall than adults do. As a result, teens need effective ways to cope with stress and to avoid stress in order for them to live a healthier lifestyle. According to the American Psychological Association, it is normal to have some stress in life, but if stress persists at high levels for a long time, it can have lasting negative effects on health.
According to Dr. Henri Roca, a Family Medicine Physician, believes that stress can be avoided.
“No one and nothing can make you feel stressed, said Dr. Roca. “Stress is our natural response to our interpretation of the world.”
Dr. Roca believes that there are three components to coping with stress. You should redefine the circumstance so that it is no longer stressful. Once stress gets into the body, exercise is the best way to get it out of the body. And lastly, in order to reduce the likelihood that stress even arises, it is imperative to create stress management skills.
Some of the best ways to avoid stress in teens is to get enough sleep, exercise daily, eat healthy foods, and stay organized.
According to the American Psychological Association, physical exercise is one of the most effective stress busters. Getting enough sleep is essential to keeping stress levels down. An important way to keep stress down is keeping a balance. You need a balance between school, homework, friends, work, sports, etc.
However, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself, do things you love doing, and be happy.
Tom Poulis was feeling the stress right at the beginning of the school year.
“I’ve been in school for three weeks and already it’s really hectic, because you get thrown into all this college stuff,” said Poulis. “And people are always telling you, ‘Apply here.’ And when are you going to take your SATs? And on top of that I’m taking four AP classes. So already, the stress level is very high.”
However, Poulis says he genuinely enjoys all of his activities and courses in school, which is what keeps him going. That is why it is important for teens to manage their stress and simply have fun with what they are doing.
(Some information courtesy nbcnews.com, drhenriroca.com, apa.org, npr.org, washingtonpost.com, everydaylife.globalpost.com, and livestrong.com)