Teen stress

Teen stress cannot be ignored.

Today’s teens seem to be facing more stress than previous generations — and we must address it.

The stress that young people face can lead to anxiety, chronic depression, aggression, drug and alcohol abuse, and even self-harm.

A study from the University of Arkansas reported that more than 80% of students admitted they suffered at least one physical symptom from stress in the previous month, while 44% admitted they had experienced three or more physical symptoms of stress.

The stress of school, college admissions, relationships, athletics, extracurricular activities, jobs, family obligations — all of it is taking a toll on us. Society expects us to be overachievers in all aspects of life.

And yet we’re told: “Enjoy your youth!” How are we supposed to do that when we’re also expected to assume adult responsibilities?

According to counselor and writer Kathleen Smith, a high percentage of students are stressed-out about getting into good colleges and achieving their career plans. One in four U.S. teens have jobs they must juggle in addition to schoolwork, college admissions, and extracurriculars.

The American Psychological Association declared in recent years that teen stress had reached epidemic proportions and officially rivals the levels of adult stress.

It’s time to rethink what we are expecting of our teens. We shouldn’t be expected to be perfect. We need opportunities to fail and to learn from those failures. That’s how we build resilience. That’s how we learn to adapt and grow. That’s how we learn to overcome stress in productive ways.

Adolescent development psychologist Dr. Sara Villanueva says parents must have candid discussions with their teens about stress and help them envision their futures. They also must talk to them about setting realistic goals.

Anna Zimmerman is in grade 12 at Garden Spot High School.