Life is Stressful for Today's Busy Teens

| 26 Sep 2012 | 11:22

Society places tremendous stress on teens these days. Keeping up with all the school work, extra curricular activities and expectations is taking a toll.
Rachel Card, a senior at Wallkill Valley Regional High School, is currently enrolled in her eighth advanced placement(AP) class striving to become a national AP scholar—an award granted only to those who receive high average scores on at least 8 AP exams. If she is able to accomplish this, Rachel will be able to graduate high school and skip her freshman year of college altogether, she says.
“Service is the main point in my family,” Rachel said during an interview. Taking cues from her father—who is Chief of Police in Butler, NJ—and her mother, who is currently deployed in the US Army—Rachel spends a good deal of time involved in community service. Volunteering mainly for the Army Reserve Teen Panel, Rachel hops on flights to military bases across the country about one weekend a month with tasks varying from teaching journalism to speaking out on suicide prevention among teens in the army.
Not busy enough? Rachel also volunteers at her school as a student athletic trainer, and is involved with several school clubs. “I like to consider myself a superhero,” she says. Rachel is a member of the “girls advisory group” that helped organize Girls World Expo. She explains her thinking , and her rationale for how she handles so much this way; “if the reward is worth more to you than the stress was painful, then [the stress] was worth it.”
No matter how much she enjoys the rewards, Rachel admits, she also needs some “down time” to relieve her stress. On those Friday night’s when she isn’t flying around the country, Rachel turns off her cell phone, shuts down her computer, and turns to religious services. These personal “de-stressors” are what help her deal with the daily grind that has become so routine for many of our area’s youths, Rachel says.
Not everyone is going to find solace in the same manner, though. Dr. Jane Esposito, school psychologist at Sparta High School, says that many students seek her advice when their workloads become too heavy to handle. “Kids are packed with activities,” she says, adding normal teen angst to Rachel’s list of stressors. “Society is placing a lot more pressure on our kids,” Esposito says, and kids need to “recognize when things are getting too difficult.”
The best way for teens to cope with stress, Esposito says, is to “set healthy expectations for themselves.” Setting reasonable goals, prioritizing time to meet those goals, and having down time for rest and recovery are essential skills for teens in today’s world, Esposito adds. Kids need to “learn how to relax,” she says.
Even something as simple as a warm bath or shower can make a huge difference:
“Simple things that might be taken for granted can really help distress,” Esposito says. She also advises teens that sleep should be their number-one priority.
Even while coping with stress in a healthy manner, problems can still arise—“If a significant issue comes up, teens need to have someone that they trust that they can talk to,” Esposito says. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a professional such as herself, it is important for kids to talk with someone when things start to feel like they’re getting out of control, she says.