Stress is an inevitable part of life. Whether you are dealing with an important project at work, a cross-country move or an aging parent, everyone experiences both positive and negative stress. A manageable level of positive stress can provide the needed motivation to get things accomplished. While adults have had years of practice managing both kinds of stress and have the perspective that things will get better, for teenagers and stress can seem like an insurmountable challenge that they do not have the skills to face.
What Do Teenagers and Stress Look Like?
Teenagers and young adults may go from feeling elated to heartbroken, all in the course of a day. With the demands of school work, social lives, family obligations and after-school responsibilities, teens deal with a lot of stress. Balancing these various obligations is a part of life, but teenagers are still developing their coping skills and, as a result, many teens feel overwhelmed. Stress can manifest in teenagers and young adults in any of the following ways:
- Changes in sleep patterns, including sleeping a lot more or less
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in behavior and/or loss of interest in usual activities
- Changes in school performance, i.e. drop in grades
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Increased anger or irritability
- Health issues, including complaints of headache, stomachache, tiredness or muscle pain
- Crying a lot
- Difficulty concentrating
According to the American Psychological Association which conducted a study of approximately 1,000 teenagers in 2013, stress levels during the school year topped adults’ average stress levels. Some teenagers shared that they felt overwhelmed, depressed or sad because of stress. Although both adults and teenagers experience stress, teens underestimate the possible impact of stress on their mental and physical health. As part of this report, many teens shared that they were not setting aside time to deal with stress or were unsure if they were doing enough to manage their own physical and mental health.
Some teens and young adults may not know how to talk about what causes them stress or they may think they can handle their problems on their own. To cope with negative stress, teenagers may overeat or under-eat, abuse drugs and alcohol, withdraw from their friends or become depressed. When dealing with negative stress over time, teens and young adults may have anxiety or experience various health issues such as headaches, digestive issues, muscle pain, reduced eyesight, a weakened immune system, skin infections or sleep disturbances.
Teenagers and Stress and Getting Help
Seeing your child suffer is excruciating, but there are many resources available to help you and your family. Rest assured that you and your child are not alone. To get help, you can start with your child’s school which may have resources to help your child deal with stress. At Pacific Quest, we’re a wilderness therapy program on the Big Island of Hawaii and we help unravel the knots when teenagers and stress get too tied up.
Founded in the late 1990s, Pacific Quest combines a neurodevelopmental approach to treatment with horticultural therapy, which is a client-centered treatment that combines the art and science of growing flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables with current practices in human behavior, neuroscience and counseling psychology. Through horticultural therapy and this type of experiential learning, students develop a feeling of purpose by focusing on the growth and health of the environment. They can watch the effects of their efforts grow and, as a result, feel a sense of empowerment.
Another crucial component of the Pacific Quest program is individual and group therapy sessions. Each student has an individualized treatment plan that reflects personalized goals and daily activities to help the student reach those goals. These daily activities may include academic coursework, meal preparation, personal reflection, journaling, exercise, community service and wellness education. Students leave the program with an individualized treatment plan to help them integrate the skills they have developed into their daily lives.
Teenagers and young adults experiencing psychosis, violence outside the home or refusal to engage in the medical recommendations of treatment are not appropriate for Pacific Quest. Students with Conduct Disorder, high levels of aggression, going through detox or who have a severe, un-medicated mental illness are also not appropriate candidates for admission.
For many teens and young adults who need help managing stress, Pacific Quest is the answer. Our holistic, individualized approach may be exactly what you and your family have been looking for.