Stress on teenagers is part of life. And, part of life is taking the good with the bad. Sometimes it seems easier to just forget about the bad stuff and focus on the good stuff. But for teenagers, it’s hard to forget when the events of the day have gone badly. And for us, it’s hard to forget when your teen’s mind keeps reliving situations that made them feel embarrassed or hurt.
With all of the many challenges, events, demands and confusion in adolescents’ lives, it is no wonder they sometimes feel overwhelmed. There are days when everything seems to go wrong. Often these days become filled with emotions and thoughts that spin out of control. They can’t stop thinking about how they tripped in front of the popular kids, or forgot the answer to a question the teacher asked in class. Or, being in a bad mood, they might have had a fight with their best friend. Often after something they perceive as negative happens, they start to let these events snowball in their heads.
Too often, the stress that teenagers feel leads to negative self-judgment. They start believing that they are at fault, even when the events are out of their control. As they relive events in their minds, they start adding judgmental thoughts. Not remembering an answer to a question posed by a teacher suddenly has the added thought, “Of course I didn’t know the answer because I’m stupid.” Or when comparing oneself to another teenage friend, the negative thoughts turn to, “I’m fat” or “I’m ugly, so of course no one likes me.”
If your teen has thoughts such as these, then he or she may be falling into a pattern of negative self-judgment. Judgment involves assigning value to situations by defining them as “good” or “bad.” Your teen can reduce a lot of stress by learning to quiet their inner voice and simply accept events as they unfold and not add unnecessary drama.
One way to help your teenager start reducing negative emotions and judgments is to notice the patterns of when and why they occur. Encourage your teen keep a journal and record the events that cause the stress. Have them write what their minds added as commentary to the event. What negative statements did your teen add when recounting the episode with the teacher? What patterns are beginning to emerge?
Learning to let go of negative self-judgments from their inner voices will help lower the stress on teenagers. By noticing the patterns of negative statements, your teen can begin to consider what positive statements could be said instead. Noticing when they say mean things about themselves is the first step to changing the habit and replacing it with more positive, self-confidence building statements.
In the journal, also have your teen write a list of at least 5 things that they enjoy doing with their free time. When they have had a bad day, instead of beating themselves up about it, have them consider what activity from their list they could enjoy that might take them out of being in the dumps. Everyone needs some positive reinforcement sometimes, and learning how to shift negative times into positive outcomes is a great way to reduce stress on teenagers.
Bad things happen. But adding unnecessary negative judgments only makes things worse. This can get in the way of appreciating the positive things that happen and celebrating achievements.