Feeling stress is a normal part of growing up. Stress is not always a bad thing—it can be good. For instance, stress can motivate you to study for a test or practice to do well in sports.
Most forms of stress go away quickly, but other forms can last. Long-lasting stress is called chronic stress. Chronic stress can become overwhelming and have an unhealthy effect on your emotions, behaviour, and relationships. This can make it hard for you to function well at home and school.
What are the causes?
Common causes of stress include:
- Pressure from parents and teachers to do well in school and to participate in sports or other activities.
- Pressure from friends to act or behave in a certain way (peer pressure).
- Feelings of not being good enough.
- Worries about appearance or being popular.
- Discomfort from body changes related to puberty.
- Having to make more decisions as you get older.
- Changes in relationships with family and friends.
- Worries about the future.
What are the signs or symptoms?
You may have trouble expressing your feelings about stress. You may feel stress as worry, anxiety, fear, or anger. You may also feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Signs and symptoms of stress can also affect your behaviour in ways such as:
- Avoiding friends and family.
- Arguing with family and friends.
- Engaging in activities that are dangerous or destructive.
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
- Physical complaints, like a headache or stomach ache.
- Abusing drugs or alcohol, or smoking.
- Getting in trouble at school or with the police.
How is this diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may suspect a stress disorder based on your symptoms and behaviour changes. Your healthcare provider may talk with you about your level of stress to find if you want more help. If you would like more help, your healthcare provider will suggest a mental health care provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment.
How is this treated?
Most times, treatment is not needed. Talk with someone to help with the stress you feel. You can also talk with your healthcare provider or mental health care provider if you need help finding the areas of stress that you can change or avoid. Treatments from a mental health care provider may include:
- A type of talk therapy that teaches you to replace negative thoughts and ideas with positive and healthy thoughts and ideas (cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT).
- Joining a support group. Ask your school counsellor about resources.
- Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Include time in your day for an activity that you find relaxing. Try taking a walk, going on a bike ride, reading a book, or listening to music.
- Schedule your time in a way that lowers stress, and keep a consistent schedule. Prioritise what is most important to get done.
- Be physically active every day. This helps reduce stress hormones.
Eating and drinking
- Eat foods that are high in fibre, such as beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Limit foods that are high in fat and processed sugars, such as fried or sweet foods.
- Limit caffeine.
- Get enough sleep. Try to go to sleep and get up at about the same time every day.
- Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your healthcare provider.
- Do not use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress.
- Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your healthcare provider.
- Do your best in challenging situations. Remember or write down what you are good at. Keep those things in mind when you feel stressed.
- Think about what you are grateful for every day.
- Talk with your parents or other trusted adults. Connect with friends.
- Keep all follow-up visits as told by your healthcare provider. This is important.
Contact a healthcare provider if:
- Your symptoms of stress do not improve or get worse.
- You are using drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Get help right away if:
- You may be a danger to yourself or others.
- You have thoughts of death or suicide.
If you ever feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life, get help right away. You can go to your nearest emergency department or call:
- Your local emergency services (999 in the Malaysia).
- A suicide crisis helpline, such as Befrienders at 03-76272929. This is open 24 hours a day.
- Feeling stress is a normal part of growing up.
- Severe or long-lasting (chronic) stress can have an unhealthy effect on your behaviour and relationships. Changes in mood and behaviour can make it hard for you to function well at home and at school.
- You may have a hard time expressing your feelings of stress, but it can affect your moods and cause behaviour changes.
- You can talk with your healthcare provider or mental health care provider if you need help finding areas of stress that you can change or avoid.
- Treatment may include talk therapy and relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your healthcare provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your healthcare provider.
Bhattacharya, A., Liang, C., Zeng, E.Y., Shukla, K., Wong, M.E., Munson, S.A. and Kientz, J.A., 2019, June. Engaging teenagers in asynchronous online groups to design for stress management. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 26-37).
Jennifa, J., Primasari, N.A., Dewi, E.U. and Islamarida, R., 2021. Relationship of Stress Levels in Alcohol Abuse in Teenager: A Literature Review. D'Nursing and Health Journal (DNHJ), 2(2), pp.60-67.
Joompathong, N. and Chupradit, S., 2020. Promoting stress management program for university students: A review. Test Eng Manage, 83, pp.26463-6.
Pandey, M., Jha, B. and Thakur, R., 2020. An Exploratory Analysis Pertaining to Stress Detection in Adolescents. In Soft Computing: Theories and Applications (pp. 413-421). Springer, Singapore.
Rodman, A.M., Vidal Bustamante, C.M., Dennison, M.J., Flournoy, J.C., Coppersmith, D.D., Nook, E.C., Worthington, S., Mair, P. and McLaughlin, K.A., 2021. A Year in the Social Life of a Teenager: Within-Persons Fluctuations in Stress, Phone Communication, and Anxiety and Depression. Clinical Psychological Science, 9(5), pp.791-809.
For more information on teenager stress, visit:
Ministry of Health Malaysia- Mental Health for Teenager
World Mental Health Day: Teens and the pressure to do well in exams
For dietary supplements to help with stress, visit:
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