While knowing the dangers of chronic stress is essential, it is just as important to know what causes stress. Educating ourselves on common stressors for teens will help us understand what might be troubling them and how we might intervene. It may not come as a surprise, but a 2013 APA survey found that school topped the list of stressors for teens. Just as work is frequently a source of anxiety, pressure, and frustration for adults, school is a major trigger for teens. Frequently school stress is centered around worries about academic performance, learning differences or difficulties, feelings of competition, and fears about failure. Another common stressor for teens is the burden of managing their time or juggling too many activities. Pressure to be successful, well-rounded, and well-liked can spiral out of control when teens are overscheduled and shouldering too many responsibilities.
In addition to academic pressure and extracurricular responsibilities, many teens find navigating family dynamics and peer relationships stressful. The adolescent and teen years are often a time of change and growth, where children begin to explore and develop their role in their family and their identity amongst friends. While there are many positive things associated with this period of personal evolution, it can also feel confusing, overwhelming, and difficult. Although this is not an exhaustive list, other important factors that can impact teens’ stress levels are: being bullied or rejected by peers, persistent or severe illness/injury, perceived social status, romantic relationships, transitions in gender identity and sexuality, awareness of family stressors, moves and school changes, parental separation or divorce, trauma, and loss. In our next installment, we will explore ways of coping with or reducing teens stress.
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