Stress Management for Teens

Last Updated: December 15, 2023

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Teens go through a significant amount of stress due to school, extracurricular activities, and learning about themselves and the world around them. Learning to manage it can help teens thrive and grow; this may look different for adolescents than adults.

Stress Management for Teens Explained

In today’s changing world, teenagers are more stressed due to global issues, social relationships and personal challenges.

Research shows that because of their high stress levels and feeling overwhelmed, 40% of teens have admitted to neglecting their responsibilities at home, and 21% of young people have said the same for school and work responsibilities. So, what can be done to promote stress management for teens?

How Does Stress Affect a Teenager?

While short-term stress can sometimes be beneficial and even protective, chronic stress tends to be detrimental in the long run.  The impact can be particularly serious for teenagers since early adolescence marks a critical stage in brain development. 

Chronic activation of the stress response not only can cause mental distress but, in some cases, may also lead to mental illness.

When teens experience chronic stress, that can lead to destructive behaviors such as negative thoughts and negative self-talk, abuse of alcohol and other substances, and, in extreme cases, self-harm.

As teenagers, learning and discovering healthy coping skills to manage everyday stress can be instrumental in preventing a range of negative effects.

Possible Negative Consequences of Chronic Stress in Teens

As mentioned, too much stress in a teenager’s life can significantly affect mental and physical health. Without effective management, these negative effects could escalate or intensify, potentially posing greater risks to their mental and physical well-being.  

Effects on Mental Health

Chronic stress can wear teens down mentally. Over time, excessive levels of stress can cause difficulties within personal and romantic relationships, social isolation, altered moods that last for days, decreased productivity, and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Research also shows that the teenage years are critical in terms of vulnerability to substance use disorders later in life. 

Effects on Physical Health

Stress can also impact teenagers physically. Too much stress can lead to physical symptoms and health issues similar to those seen in adults. These may include:

  • chronic headaches
  • digestive problems
  • appetite changes (i.e., eating more or much less than usual)
  • low energy
  • sleep disorders and sleep deprivation (i.e., feeling tired all of the time and sleeping excessively or, conversely, having trouble falling asleep at night and not getting enough sleep)
  • and difficulties with the immune system.

Trouble in School

Stress, especially chronic stress, can alter the brain in terms of reward processing and learning and even lower motivation levels.

When teens feel overwhelmed by stress, they may begin giving up on their most difficult responsibilities: dishes do not get washed, or beds do not get made.

Avoiding responsibilities in the face of stress will start minimal and can slowly lead to avoidance of schoolwork and extracurriculars.

These negative effects will often be noticed first by a family member and will slowly become apparent to friends and teachers at school.

Stress Management Skills For Teenagers

While stress management skills are often -known to adults, teenagers may need to become more familiar with these practices due to potentially having less support or awareness around them.

Investing time in helping teens discover healthy ways to relieve stress can be beneficial at the moment and can have a positive, lasting impact throughout their lives. 

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness, although sometimes difficult to maintain, can help teens relax and reduce stress.

Meditation for stress doesn’t need to be done for a long time; only a few minutes of meditation reduces stress tremendously.

Finding a quiet space, whether at school, home, or in the car, and taking a few deep breaths while focusing only on the present moment can provide incredible stress relief.

With so many types of meditation, it can seem daunting, but when diving into meditation for beginners, teens can realize it is quite simple.

Finding a few minutes to practice breathing and relaxation techniques and elicit a relaxation response can ward off negative thoughts and feelings whenever feeling overwhelmed.

Over time, mindfulness can positively affect and help teens sleep better, increase positive thoughts, promote well-being, and realign the fight or flight response to only occur when necessary.


Yoga for teens has been known to have amazingly positive effects on those who struggle with stress.

Although less well-known to teens, yoga is one of the stress management skills that can help the body relax.

Yoga for beginners is a great way to start; a few simple poses for a few minutes a day while focusing on slow breaths and breathing exercises can elicit all the things one would desire when feeling stressed. Research shows yin yoga is another form of yoga that can be a powerful tool for relaxation and stress when our nervous systems are dysregulated or in “fight or flight” mode. 


Yoga is understandably only for some. Finding an exercise that works for each teen is important to prevent and manage stressful situations.

Physical activity can help get rid of excessive stress hormones and promote a state of relaxation in daily life for most teens. Exercise such as:

  • daily walks
  • running
  • basketball
  • soccer
  • dancing
  • Or biking.

For teenagers, one hour of physical activity daily can have great benefits, such as better sleep, improved school performance, and an improved relaxation response.

Balanced Eating

A healthy body means a healthy mind. Discovering delicious and nutritious foods is key to supporting our physical and mental health

Emphasizing mindful eating is important with teenagers; eating what feels good and will help teens grow and have enough energy for the day is important to lead them to healthy habits going forward instead of negative ones.

Another aspect of intuitive eating that is also important is following hunger cues; learning how to recognize when full and know when to eat something is important to have the right amount of fuel for the mind.

Limited Screen Time

Technology is useful for so many things these days, and it can be difficult to limit screen time, especially for teenagers.

When spending too much time in front of screens, energy can be depleted, and focus can be altered.

These things are certainly not helpful for reducing stress and can quickly lead to some of the negative effects mentioned previously.

Screen time can alter sleep patterns, worsening sleep cycles, fatigue and stress. Screens can put an extra strain on the nervous system, triggering an increase in stress hormones like cortisol.

Reducing screen time, especially before going to sleep, is a good preventative measure to stop worsening stress and mental health problems from developing. Taking these breaks from screens gives the body a chance to recalibrate, which can bring back a sense of balance.

Day Schedule

Creating a schedule can still be quite challenging as teens move toward adulthood. Try setting times for:

  • waking up
  • going to sleep
  • doing homework
  • being with family
  • exercising
  • resting and relaxing.

Allocating time for various activities is not just about managing time; it's about nurturing one's well-being. Structuring the day helps cultivate a sense of accomplishment and reduces the stress of time management and decision-making.


On top of exercising, finding a hobby to enjoy and relax during an activity can benefit those who feel stressed and provide effective stress management.

Reading, dancing, drawing and art, spending time with friends, biking, and outdoor activities like fishing and camping are great hobbies accessible for teens.

These can help teens escape stressful situations and maintain a healthy balance between school and fun. Engaging in these activities helps them manage stress and fosters self-assurance, empowering them to navigate life’s challenges with greater confidence and resilience.

Why Teenagers Need Emotional Awareness 

Emotional awareness is the cornerstone of effective stress management, especially for teenagers navigating the complexities of adolescence.

It involves understanding our emotions—identifying what we feel why we feel that way, and being able to articulate these emotions, a concept known as emotional literacy.

Beyond self-awareness, it also encompasses recognizing and empathizing with others' emotions.

Emotional Check-ups

Regular emotional check-ins form the foundation of emotional awareness. This involves pausing at different times of the day to reflect on and identify emotions and physical sensations.

For instance, recognizing a feeling of nervousness or a physical stress response, like tension in the back.

Understanding this connection between emotions and physical sensations is key to managing stress more effectively.

Slowing Down Technique

Mindfulness, especially the 'STOP' technique, is a powerful tool for managing stress and enhancing emotional awareness.

  • S - Stop: Pause the current activity.
  • T - Take a Breath: Focus on breathing to bring attention to the present.
  • O - Observe: Acknowledge current emotional and physical state.
  • P - Proceed: Continue with greater awareness and calmness.

Gratitude Journaling

Keeping a gratitude journal encourages focusing on positive aspects of life, which can effectively reduce stress.

Writing down things they’re thankful for, especially as part of a nighttime routine, can lead to better sleep and foster a deeper sense of emotional self-awareness over time.

Through these practices, teens can build a stronger foundation of emotional awareness, aiding their stress management and overall emotional and mental health.

When To Seek Help

When a teenager finds that stress is interfering with enjoyable or necessary activities–such as socializing with friends, completing schoolwork, or pursuing personal goals–it might be a good time for them to consider seeking support.

Even before things get too overwhelming, speaking to someone about thoughts and feelings regarding stress is never a bad idea.

Talking to a trusted adult, a counselor, or a mental health professional can offer guidance and strategies to navigate stress and regain balance.

Remember, asking for help is a brave choice that can make a big difference in feeling better, more supported, and less alone.


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The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.