Teen Stress Is Real

Teens are anxious about a lot of things in their lives and, like adults, they need an outlet for stress. If we don’t suggest some options, they’ll likely experiment for themselves, sometimes with unexpected and undesirable consequences.

How pronounced is stress in teens? A survey by the APA (August 2013) showed more than 64% of the teens surveyed experienced moderate or extreme stress in the last month. About 13% of teens say they experienced extreme stress levels. Compare that to the  21% of adults reporting extreme stress levels and it’s easy to draw the conclusion that teens are following in their parents footsteps on the way toward a future of chronic stress and the chronic illness that often follows.

teen stress
Online survey of 1,018 U.S. teens (ages 13-17) and 1,950 adults (18+) by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, August 2013 Frank Pompa, USA TODAY


In a recent study by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, teens cited school, homework, and academic pressures as the #1 cause of stress. Parents/family, social life and relationships, and keeping up with deadlines/managing time and participation in team sports came in next.

 “Teenagers deal with lots of emotional highs and lows. One minute they feel great, the next sad and tearful. Mood shifts are just a part of a changing life. Working to reduce stress helps even your moods and make you feel better.” (Kidshealth.org, 2012)

Being young doesn’t prevent someone from experiencing stress. Here’s a list of common stressors for teens in the 00’s*:

  • school
  • negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
  • changes in their bodies
  • work issues
  • problems with friends and/or peers at school
  • unsafe living environment/neighborhood
  • separation or divorce of parents
  • chronic illness or severe problems in the family
  • concern and worry about their future and direction
  • death of a loved one
  • moving or changing schools
  • sibling rivalry
  • taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
  • family financial problems

*adapted from American Academy of Child an d Adolescent Psychiatry.

Combating stress

Teens need guidance to help reduce stress and massage can help. Often that guidance comes in the form of stress-reducing behaviors. Just like in adults, stress reducing behaviors usually involve taking control of your mental state and substituting a different activity.  The trick is choosing a healthy stress-combating habit. Common teen-stress reducers include:


  • exercise (at least once a week)
  • focus on eating “clean” (good nutrition and diet)
  • talking with a family member or friend about the stress
  • avoiding excess caffeine
  • learning new coping skills
  • listening to music
  • build a network of friends who think positively and are grounded and healthy

Not so healthy:

  • screen time (online, TV, video games)
  • illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco/eCig use
  • lashing out at others (anger, rebellion)
  • retreating from family and friends

If this list looks just like the one adults use to combat stress, you’re right. Stress release is the same as for a teen’s adult counterparts. That means there are opportunities for parents who pay attention to participate in stress-reducing activities WITH their teen. It also means that adults should monitor teens and seek help if stress or stress-related symptoms start to go off the rails.

New trends in stress reduction for teens

When many adults get stressed, they turn to meditation, yoga and massage. Teens are beginning to catch on, taking yoga classes in record numbers. Teens are also learning to meditate. And record numbers of teens and pre-adults are seeking massage as a stress reducer.

Many massage therapy clinics, like ours, regularly work with teens (with parent present and proper waivers signed) to relieve stress in their body, mind and spirits. No longer just an indulgence, teen (pediatric) massage by a qualified massage therapist can help not just with stress, but with focus and attention, helping teens sleep better, and reducing aches and pains for exercise. Parents are also increasingly seeking alternative anti-stress treatments to avoid medication, too.