By Alyssa Ashley
The teenage years can be a time of extreme stress. Know your teens and their feelings; school work, social life, family life–it adds up and can manifest in physical, mental or emotional ways. Talk to your teen about what is bothering them to help identify stressful sources and reduce anxiety.
Teens often skip classes and homework when they feel overwhelmed by stress, compounded by social life and pressures. “Some students don’t ever show signs of stress, and that can be problematic because they are masking how they really feel,” said Horace Greeley High School English teacher Jacqueline Morelli.
Robin Wald of Chappaqua is no stranger to helping people deal with stress. A mother of three and certified yoga teacher, Wald has been teaching yoga to adults, teens and children for eight years at Club Fit, Westorchard Elementary School, Seven Bridges Middle School, Quest Yoga Arts, West Patent Elementary, Fox Lane Middle School, and Bet Torah Hebrew High School, as well as privately to therapeutically heal anxiety, stress, depression, and physical injuries. Wald discussed stresses specific to modern teenagers and her thoughts, as both mother and yoga teacher, about relieving them:
Q: How does your children’s stress affect you?
A: I want my kids to be happy; I want to help them reduce their stress. As a yoga teacher I know stress is unavoidable, but you can change your perspective of things and do things in a calm manner.
Q: What do you think about counseling at an early age?
A: Anything to help cope or to make a child feel good about their self depends on their attitude towards it. If a child feels negatively about what they are forced to do, it may cause more stress.
Q: Which sex do you think handles stress better?
A: As a mother of two sons and one daughter, it depends on the person. If someone is hard on and competitive with their self, they will have more stress. But if someone is more relaxed they will be less stressed. If a teen is bullied or being excluded they may be more stressed, compared to a teen who is socially accepted.
Q: What would you say are factors contributing to teen stress?
A: There are many expectations our culture has of kids. Competition can make teens feel inadequate, that they must be good at everything to be accepted. There’s a lot of emphasis to get into a good college. Parents are demanding perfection, with happiness determined by how successful you are, rather than how happy you are by your success.
Q: How would you say that teens exhibit stress?
A: Many times with fatigue. Teens in high school are often so tired from having no down time, and are unable to relax, are exhausted and feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.
Q: What would you say are ways to deal with stress?
A: Teens have to step back and acknowledge that they are stressed. It is important that kids be exposed to tools and resources they can use to reduce stress and help them feel good about themselves, their bodies and their lives. Yoga, breathing, meditation, and fun, non-competitive exercise and sports are some healthy ways for kids to take a break from the cultural pressure to achieve, compete and succeed. Yoga teaches teens to practice relaxing, regenerating, and feeling calm, so they can call upon these skills when they most need them in stressful academic, social or family-related situations.
Q: What advice would you give parents dealing with teen stress?
A: Be patient, and not react in a stressful way to your teen. Stay calm and have a wider perspective of the situation. If parents get involved in the drama it is hard to change the situation.
So stressed teens and parents take note: recognize anxiety levels and stress triggers, and explore ways to reduce and avoid them. With recognition and action, teens’ stress levels can drop, making the teens, and those around them, happier.
Alyssa Ashley is now a sophomore at Horace Greeley High School.