Recognising stress in teenager, the signs aren’t always what you think.
My teenager has recently been pushing the limits. He’s not doing any of the heavy stuff just yet (or at least not to our knowledge) but, he’s being doing “just” what he can get away with, taking more than he’s giving, saying he’s too tired to help out, shutting himself away behind his head phones when he ventures into family territory of the kitchen and staying in his room to chat with his friends (online obviously not in person, duh).
When it got to the point I was frustrated and feeling angry with some choices he was making, it was time to have a family meeting to address all our feelings. My husband was on board, so we spoke about what was going on and what changes were needed. It came to light he was feeling low and was shutting himself away and not interacting, because he needed time to himself. Being happy around friends all day, he was finding exhausting. His laid back attitude and not taking responsibility was a cover up to his negative thoughts and stress. He didn’t understand why he felt this way, because he said he had nothing to be sad about. He had great friends, doing well at school, loved his home and hobbies, but still felt low.
As a counsellor and stress management coach, it’s hard to see your loved ones going through struggles, because a lot of the time they don’t reach out because they know you have ideas and solutions as you’ve seen it a hundred times before. So I resisted offering a solution and just listened. I listened to how he felt. I listened until he was ready to find his solution. I said talk about how you feel, especially if you don’t understand it. There’s no right or wrong way to feel.
What to do
One thing I will say, keep communication open as much as possible, try not to judge what they say. Listen to understand, not to react.
When someone around you has low energy, want to shut away, come home and get into bed. Get them to fully acknowledge that they feel that way, accept and honour those feelings, they have every right to feel that way if they want to. But get them to ask themselves, “do I want to stay feeling like this?”
If the answer is no, then do the complete opposite of what they have been doing.
• Do 10 star jumps
• Put trainers on and run to the end of the street,
• Knock on a neighbours door and offer to cut their lawn or walk their dog.
• Do something active, even if it’s only 10 minutes.
Then ask them to notice how they feel. Sometimes breaking the thought pattern with something random, can be enough to change how you feel.
Make a time to factor this into their day, everyday. Exercise is positive stress, which your mind and body needs to stay strong and well. Go with them, so you’re both enjoying a positive experience. Let them talk, or not talk if that’s what they want. Don’t use it as a time to lecture, deal with your own feelings about the situation with a friend or seek professional help yourself, or book a calming massage. Diffusing Lavender therapeutic blend essential oil, could be what you and your teenager need to calm and refocus.
Stress doesn’t always manifest itself in the way you think it will. The stereotypical white collar worker, at his desk, mounds of paperwork, deadlines, red in the face, on his second heart attack, isn’t the only way stress is shown.
Children feel stress too. They show it in similar ways to adults, shutting down emotionally, feeling tired, over loaded, blaming others, getting angry, sleeping a lot, not being able to sleep, not taking anything seriously and laughing all the time, is also a cover up for how they’re really feeling.
The point I’m trying to make here. How we feel is our responsibility. Your teenager needs to learn that they control their mind and thoughts, their mind doesn’t control them unless they allow it.
If we see negative feeling as weeds, they can take over your garden if you don’t first of all notice them, then do something about them.
Keeping their eye on the prize
Positive thoughts and feelings need love and attention. Keeping your eye on the prize of how you want to feel, what you want in your life and what steps you need to make to get there. It can be uncomfortable recognising this, never mind actually doing anything about it. But the only way to the other side is through. Avoiding or going around it, doesn’t deal with it and certainly doesn’t eradicate it. A personal trainer I know has a great saying “be comfortable with the uncomfortable” using energy to work towards what you do want, instead of using energy putting up with what you don’t.
A lesson for all of us. Be grateful for what you have in your life right now, especially the little things. Be thankful for all your experiences, because they’ve made you who you are today. Use that knowledge to help yourself and others to have the best life they can. Reach out to other people, we’re social being and we need interaction in our lives.
As for my son, we’ve set guidelines in place for him to engage more, no headphones in family areas, communicate and socialise with family, even if it’s not the most exciting part of his day. It’s important to create a neural pathway that siblings, though annoying, are not going away and the more you put into a relationship, the more you get out.
So tonight we’re going to the beach to surf and have a laugh. That’s his happy place, find yours, because you’re worth it.
Be happy – Stress less
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“wherever possible be kind, it’s always possible” Dalai Lama