How Stress Affects Adolescents and How to Manage it

Stress, in the right amounts, is necessary for growth and well-being. For example, exercise is a form of stress, and it’s beneficial effects are indisputable. Deadlines, too, exert their own unique pressures, but would we be as committed to handing in work (or homework) without them? However, over-exercising can lead to injury and rhabdomyolysis (break down of muscle fibres) and too many deadlines pave the way to exhaustion and burn-out. Stress can soon becomes distress.

The human brain continues to mature throughout adolescence, and is particularly sensitive to stressors. Studies show that the negative effects of stress last longer in the adolescent brain, and elicit a stronger response. In 1F0D0D7B-C976-4E6C-9BDE-FADB56EE4183animal studies, these effects were also linked to compromised emotional and functional skills. The brain of a 15-17 year old, when compared to that of an early adolescent, and adult, is much more vulnerable to stress. Children and adolescents can experience many chronic sources of pressure, such as: social media, parental expectations, peer pressure and exams. In a recent survey of 1,000 schoolchildren, 61% of the respondents said teachers managed stress well, 29% said children and 10% said parents.

It is clear that children and parents could use some help in learning to manage stress, as the stressors themselves are unlikely to go away. Children often look to their parents as role models, yet one survey found that most feel that their parents are “not there” as they spend time on their phones instead. As a parent, addressing the anxieties of offspring can be difficult, particularly as they face novel forms of tension. This in turn causes the parent to become distressed, with knock-on effects on workplace performance, as well as increasing the potential for emotionally fraught confrontations with their child(ren).

Osteopathy and massage may be beneficial for not only parents, but also children in addressing the physical manifestations of stress. Some find yoga, alongside pranayama (breath exercises) to be helpful. Parent coaching can empower parents to develop skills to help and guide their children. Lorraine Thomas is the Chief Executive of The Parent Coaching Academy,  has over 20 years’ experience of working with executives within the corporate, public and voluntary sectors, and holds a first-class honours degree in education from Cambridge University. Lorraine works from The Vale Practice and can be contacted on: 

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Written by Jackie Tan, Osteopath at the Vale Practice 

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