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Stress and the Teenage Brain

Stress and the Teenage Brain

They can also be bring stress-inducing times such as bullying, peer pressure and increased responsibilities at school and home. The reaction to circumstances in life influences long-term health and wellness.

When our bodies sense stress they kick into fight-or-flight mode. The nervous system responds by releasing the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These physical changes can help us stay focused during a study period, perform well during a speech or make the winning goal. Stress can also boost brainpower, immunity and the desire to succeed. Over time the effects can become chronic and detrimental to our health.

Is Stress Affecting Your Teen?

Stress can manifest in behavioral, physical and emotional ways. Here are some signs stress is negatively affecting your teen:

  • Sudden increase in stomach aches, headaches, irritability and fatigue
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Constant worrying and anxiety
  • Using stimulants to relax
  • Frequent illness

We all react differently to stress. A situation that could be stressful for person may be a situation where another person thrives. Take note of how your teen reacts to stressful events and talk to them about how to recognize and prepare for stressful situations.

Make a Plan

Once stressors have been identified you can start to build a plan to manage them. Consider incorporating these suggestions into the plan.

  • Get your teen talking. If they don’t want to tell you what’s bothering them, encourage them to spend time with friends. Research shows the simple act of talking builds connection and lowers stress hormones.
  • Exercise. Encourage your teen to increase their activity level. Taking Physical Education classes at school are a good start but they aren’t enough. Regular exercise boosts endorphins and requires focus, removing the opportunity for teens to dwell on what is bothering them. Consider going to a yoga class with your teen. Click here for a list of yoga classes for kids and teens.
  • Sleep. Teens require a minimum of nine hours of rest per night. Encourage your teen to put away devices an hour before bed.
  • Practice mindfulness. The art of mindfulness is restorative and rejuvenating. Learn about mindfulness classes offered at El Camino Hospital.
  • Develop an in-depth personal plan for stress management. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a toolkit for building a plan to manage stress.

Getting Professional Help

Nobody knows your teen better than you. If you notice sudden changes in behavior due to stress, seek help from your child’s pediatrician. Your teen’s school may also have support resources that your son or daughter may not be aware exist such as peer programs and counseling.

El Camino Hospital’s After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education (ASPIRE) program provides intensive support for youth dealing with anxiety and depression and teaches the skills and coping mechanisms to become resilient. These skills are important because they will carry over for the rest of the child’s life. Learn more about ASPIRE’s program offerings and schedule.

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