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Show your teenagers that stress is OK

Nurturing

OUT AND ABOUT Spending some family time in the fresh air, on a walk or a hike, can help relieve stress, even for our teenagers.

Dealing with stress is part and parcel of everyday life

Mental Matters
Jannah Walshe

THEY may not have bills to pay or anyone depending on them but that is not to say that teenagers have nothing to be stressed about. Many of our young people are in the throes of exams at the moment so this is perhaps not the best time to mention self-care. After all exam time is generally a time of survival, a time to keep strength up and get through the days as best as possible.
In the APA’s (American Psychological Association) 2013 poll ‘Stress in America: Are teens adopting adults’ stress habits?’ it is reported that teenagers have a higher level of stress than adults during the school year. Many teens also reported feeling overwhelmed and depressed or sad as a result of stress. Can you imagine how their stress levels are now during these exams?
Of course some stress is normal and necessary. After all dealing with stress is what builds up our resilience and coping abilities. Without it we would be vulnerable to the littlest of stresses becoming huge problems. Our teenagers need to be equipped with a strong support network and good self-care techniques to weather the stresses to come in later life.
First things first, we as adults are their role models! This is where they learn about dealing with stress. So show our teenagers that it is okay to take a break, it is okay to have fun even when things are stressful, it is okay to talk about our problems, it is okay to be a little stressed, it is possible to not become overwhelmed by it and it is necessary to have some self-care tools. We need to do these things anyway for ourselves and then they see and learn how to it too.

Don’t worry
If you do become overwhelmed by your stress or you react badly to the stress, don’t worry, this is a perfect time to demonstrate to your teenager about how to come back well from this. Acknowledge what has happened, say you became overwhelmed and practice some immediate self-care. Then look at problem solving to manage the stress.
Encourage your teenager to get out of the house and into nature. Fresh air, exercise and the calming benefits of being in nature can do wonders for stress levels. If you get out together as a family you also have the added benefit of some good quality family time. Go for a bike ride, maybe a picnic, go to the beach or for a hike up a mountain. Make it something different than what you would normally do. A change can also be good for stress levels.
Encourage their friendships because friends are so important, especially to a teenager. With high stress levels and less time because of exams, their friendships will often suffer. This can have a damaging impact on their mental health. Find times to allow your teenager to go out with friends. Invite those friends over or go on family days out. Make it easier for your teenager to see the people they care about.
And lastly, if all this is not enough, find them a counsellor to talk to. They are trained to go more in-depth and will have further coping skills and strategies to teach your teenager about how to deal with stress.

Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.