Research papers, midterms, Advanced Placements course tests, presentations… those are just a few of the deadlines on the minds of teenagers today. Add in waiting for college acceptances, financial aid applications, and making life plans, and you’ve got a recipe for stress.
Today’s teens balance a tremendous amount of pressure and often need help finding ways to deal with the anxiety that comes along with it.
“Our stress level mainly has to do with how much pressure we are put under not only as young adults but as women. We are pressured to keep our grades up, to be involved in after-school activities, to look feminine, to find a significant other, to know where we’re going in life and have an effective plan laid out, to find a job and work, and to live up to society’s expectation of how someone our age should act, all while keeping ourselves in a sound mental state, and getting enough sleep and healthy food,” says Mount St. Mary Academy senior Kristen Gorny.
“It’s nearly impossible to do all of these things, which results in a small mountain of stress and no way to handle it.”
But are today’s teens any more stressed out than high school students 20 or 30 years ago? Yes, says Dr. Davina Moss-King, President of Positive Direction and Associates.
“Social media plays a major role because the students are in constant competition / comparison with friends and acquaintances,” says Dr. Moss-King. “There is more pressure for success than we experienced so intensely years ago.”
As students deal with college decisions and mid-term strain, Mount St. Mary Academy invited Dr. Moss-King to speak with students about balancing techniques.
Moss-King worked with students to identify the emotions they are experiencing related to the stress and recognize that there are positive and negative ways of coping. For example, positive stress management would involve eating nutritious meals and snacks, not using/abusing prescribed drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol, sleeping without electronic devices, doing fun activities not related to school, and communicating often with their parents, family, or school faculty.
“We hope students who have worked with Dr. Moss-King are better able to identify stressors and the levels of emotion they elicit and then deal in positive ways with those stressors,” says Karen Reisch, Director of Guidance and Counseling Department at Mount St. Mary Academy.
At MSM, school counselors work closely with students and families in identifying mental health concerns and then accessing appropriate resources as necessary.
Counselors work with students beginning in their freshmen year to help students be forearmed against the pressures that compound throughout high school. Freshmen participate in a required seminar course that includes a lesson on stress management and warning indicators.
“We talk about good stress and high levels of adrenaline versus excessive stress that is harmful and causes physical illness. We discuss the difference between long-term and short -term stress and the control we have over things,” says Reisch.
Throughout the year, the school offers programs for teachers, parents, and students that address a variety of different topics related to mental health issues. Some of these have included topics such as identifying and treating drug and alcohol use/abuse, the effects of social media on teens, how physical injuries influence the mental health of teens, and depression and anxiety in teens.
These efforts help to insure that parents are vigilant and are prepared to help their children cope. That starts with open communication between teens and their parents.
“I would like for the students to identify the emotions they are experiencing related to the stress and communicate with parents before the student feels overwhelmed or out of control,” says Moss-King.
As for Gorny, she’s hoping that Dr. Moss-King’s stress management ideas could help her alter her perspective.
“In the past, I haven’t handled stress. I just leave it alone and hope it’ll go away. When it doesn’t, I’m left with a pile of stress I can’t get rid of,” she says.
“I’ll try to use Dr. Moss-King’s techniques to help address the situation and get to the root of the stress so I can handle it better.”