By: Marquart Doty and Indra Lunder
High-schoolers have been stressed since the dawn of time.
Even adults can vividly recall the perpetual worry and uneasiness about the future and unnecessary drama they went through as a young adult.
But to be a Y2K teen is stressful in ways that no generation has experienced before. In fact, it’s reported that American teens are even more stressed out than adults.
How are high-schoolers coping? Are those methods healthy? And what can both teenagers and their parents do to make sure that teens aren’t falling apart from stress?
We (Indra Lunder and Marquart Doty), two 11th graders in Baltimore, explored this topic to find an answer.
For us, and every generation of teens before us, stress causes us to develop habits we might not otherwise have. For example, our classmate Markus says that he gets stressed when school work piles up. He “sleeps it off, procrastinates, drinks, and smokes weed” to calm himself down.
“When I get stressed out I get frustrated easily and I tend to have tunnel vision where I just think about one thing and I don’t think about other things that I should,” he said.
Another classmate, Megan, says she gets stressed out by ‘parents, and bad teachers. When this happens she ‘smokes, which helps [her] avoid it’.
Both of our peers told us they knew the way they were dealing wasn’t effective, but they consciously keep using counter-intuitive coping skills anyway.
Markus said when he drinks or smokes that “at least temporarily it feels like a burden has been lifted and that he does have to the things that bring stress to his life.
That feeling wears off as soon as he is sober again. He iimmediately starts to become overwhelmed with what is stressing him out. Teens generally tend to want an immediate, short term relief, whether or not it fixes the problem long term.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment when I actually do things and get them done and it feels better than just relieving the stress temporarily, Markus said. “But sometimes I need a quicker relief. It’s not really worthwhile, it just feels good in the moment.”
Clinical psychologist Melanie Greenberg said some students just stop trying.
“They get too anxious, and worry it is hard to let go of,” she said.
We have seen this with our classmates who say they don’t have enough drive to finish schoolwork and that they sometimes procrastinate just because it takes their minds off things and is better than doing work.
Megan said: “a lot of healthy ways to deal with stress that I know of just don’t seem to work for me”.
Many other teams are feeling the same way.
A 2014 study by StudyMode that looked at the habits of 1,000 students, found that 87 percent of high-schoolers and college students said they are procrastinators, and that it’s affecting their performance. Social media was the second leading reason for procrastination.
Social media sites like Snapchat and Instagram are wildly popular among teens, but probably also contributing to angst and stress.
Teenagers know all too well just how addicting social media can be when they’re stressed. Today’s young people are the first generation to have access to things like Google, Amazon, or Instagram. They’re the very first to have infinite knowledge, instant fame, and anything they may need delivered right to their doorstep. Their parents don’t know enough about social media to offer any advice. It leaves teenagers vulnerable to misusing social media.
Teenagers are facing other pressures their parents never had to deal with.
College that is harder to get into and more expensive than ever.A volatile political scene. A constantly changing world.
All this can lead to stress levels many teenagers aren’t prepared for at all.
It’s no surprise that so many teenagers feel they need to slow down, even if it’s in ineffective ways.
We all know that procrastinating and developing unhealthy habits isn’t going to help anyone in the long-run. So, what can teenagers and their parents do to help?
For teenagers, there are many ways to calm oneself down.
Our classmate Alex said that she ‘writes things down, talks to people, and listens to music that calms her down.
Greenberg, the clinical psychologist, also said that looking to friends for support, reminding yourself that you don’t need to be a perfectionist and regular exercise will help reduce stress.
Some students do things that make them more aware of how they are feeling. They may write about their day, take time to process all of their feelings, and do “reality checks” Short naps can also be a good coping mechanism. Additionally, turning the phone off and giving to trusted friend for a bit, can offer a release from stress.
Alex said that even though she uses positive coping skills, that sometimes she feels like she needs to take her anger out on people. Every teenager will face times like this when it seems like a crisis and absolutely nothing helps. However, developing a game plan and practicing better coping habits helps in ways that are immeasurable.
When asked what advice he would give to peers like himself, Markus said “be motivated and just do what you need to do and get used to that. If you are struggling to find motivation focus on the good things that you enjoy doing and go from there.”
It is hard for teens to find interest in the work they are pushed to do by others like parents or teachers so it is important that they have hobbies of their own. When teens feel like they have hobbies that push toward their future they are more likely to have a more positive outlook on life.
For parents, even though it often might seem that the best way to help is to remind one’s child to do their schoolwork, that’s just not true. In reality, almost nothing can help your teen more than modeling healthy stress management behaviors and encouraging them to eat right, exercise, put a good night’s sleep first; and to seek help from you, a psychologist, friends, or the school counselor if they’re feeling overwhelmed or depressed. Even if they’re being a little too angsty to respond, nothing is going to help like encouragement and motivation.
Stress is an increasingly important topic when it comes to teenager and it may be that the most important people to talk to about it are the teenagers themselves. Many feel stressed by the rapidly changing and increasingly demanding climate deal with it by developing bad habits like addictions or procrastination. But no matter the stress level, there are better ways to cope.
*The names of the teenagers were changed because they are minors.
Stress, in Haiku Form
Stress is trying to
make the credits roll before
you shoot the movie
School ought to be a
Trial run for adult life
Not heavy burden
A mixture of self doubt and
A yearning for rest
Songs to embed in (I don’t know how LOL!)
This one is made by two local teenagers explicitly about school depression:
This one is how we personally, as teenagers feel and addresses a lot of stress and drug abuse