Teen Stress



Trying to figure out all the pieces isn’t such a fun game.

Mauricio Perez, Staff Writer


Teenagers across the nation cry themselves to sleep and feel that they have to carry the world on their shoulders. Some adults tell kids to just “toughen up” because they think kids don’t know what real stress is. But that’s not the case here, these are real kids with real issues that need a helping hand with how to properly handle their issues rather than just bottling them up inside.

One of the reasons teenagers nowadays are more stressed out than adults is because of school. It has been reported that teens’ stress levels rise higher when they are in school rather than over the summer. “From grades to test scores to applying to college, teens experience high levels of school-related stress,” said Dr. Kathleen Smith, a licensed professional counselor on psychology blog PSYCOM. Many teens worry about meeting academic demands, pleasing teachers and parents, and keeping up with their classmates. Poor time management skills or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work can play into academic stress as well.”

To test out Smith’s statement, I had a group of students take an assessment to see what kind of stress levels they were at. Five out of ten of the students who tested have moderate to strong indications of stress. This goes to show that teenagers have genuine issues with stress during the school year because it is currently October. We’re a quarter of the way through the school year and definitely at the point where stress starts to pick up. 

Some recent Round Lake High School graduates agree that the stress is real for students. Alumni Victor Tovar said, “I feel like our stress levels get higher when school starts because it is a new year at a higher level, so you want to get everything right so you can pass with a good grade for college.”

Another alumni named Bianca Reyna remembers how stressful her high school years were: “I lost hours of sleep because I’d be up doing homework or studying,” she said.

These are great examples of how during the school year students aren’t doing their best because of the level of stress that is put on them.  Standardized tests, placement tests, and the pressure of having a decent GPA in order to increase one’s chances of getting into a good college are all life experiences that put students in a very compromised position. Current high schoolers are putting the weight of the world on their shoulders because they don’t want to disappoint themselves or their parents or peers.

And sometimes that pressure comes at a greater cost than just feeling super stressed all the time. Take Tovar’s experience: “[All the stress] caused me depression and anxiety because I was overthinking things about if it was right or wrong or if it was even gonna give me a passing grade and it caused me to give up on school for a while too,” he said.

Tovar’s experience is far from unusual, according to Dr. Esther Sternberg, a leading stress researcher and the chief of neuroendocrine immunology and behavior at the National Institute of Mental Health. “A little stress is good but too much is bad; you’ll need to shut down and reboot,” Sternberg said in a WebMD article. The WebMD article, written by Karen Bruno,  explains that different types of stress can lead to major depression because stress causes elevated levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” and reduced levels of serotonin, the “feel good hormone,” as well as the neurotransmitter dopamine. Both serotonin and dopamine help people to feel more balanced and happy, so lower levels of both are linked to depression and anxiety.

Staying up late to get homework done and feeling extreme pressure to get good grades and get into school sometimes overwhelms kids so much that they have no motivation to do their work, which creates more stress and perpetuates this vicious cycle between stress and depression and anxiety. 

Since teens have a lot of stress when the school year starts, they should learn different techniques on how to deal with their stress. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry offers some great tips on how teenagers should decrease their stress levels: “Exercise and eat regularly, get enough sleep and have a good sleep routine, avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.” These are great suggestions on how teens can start to deal with their stress. It’s just those little steps that make a big difference in their lives.

Another point that AACAP makes are: “Decrease negative self-talk: challenge negative thoughts with alternative, neutral, or positive thoughts. ‘My life will never get better’ can be transformed into ‘I may feel hopeless now, but my life will probably get better if I work at it and get some help.’”  And lastly, the AACAP recommends that students should learn to be okay with doing a “good enough” job instead of demanding perfection from themselves all the time. All of these examples that were given are great ways to cope with the amount of stress that lands on top of high school students and if they are committed to these routines, they will start to feel less stressed. But if the stress isn’t going away and you aren’t getting any better seek professional help from a trained and qualified psychiatrist or therapist because everyone deserves to be happy.