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How can I help my teen who feels overwhelmed?

Teenage years can be an overwhelming time and as parents, it's important that we provide support for our teens. My article offers valuable tips on how to help your teen manage stress and find healthy ways to cope with overwhelming feelings.

Teens can often feel overwhelmed by a variety of factors, including academic pressure, social relationships, family expectations, and personal identity development. Academic demands such as homework, exams, and college preparation can create stress and anxiety. Social pressures, including fitting in with peers, navigating romantic relationships, and dealing with social media, can also be overwhelming. Additionally, family expectations regarding school performance, future plans, and household responsibilities can add to the stress.

Moreover, teens may struggle with finding their identity and purpose, leading to existential concerns and emotional turmoil.

Very often, teens who experience feelings of overwhelm from the life situations mentioned above also experience a sense of powerlessness. Many teens don’t have a realistic representation of their own capacities and may believe they lack the necessary abilities to effectively cope with their stressors.

This feeling can stem from various factors, including a lack of confidence in their abilities and a perceived inability to control their circumstances.

When faced with overwhelming stressors such as academic pressure, social challenges, or family expectations, teens may feel as though they are unable to meet expectations, leading to anxiety and overwhelming feelings.

Additionally, teens may struggle to seek support or utilize coping strategies due to a belief that they lack the skills or resources to address their challenges. As a result, they may become trapped in a cycle of stress and perceived inability to manage their circumstances, further contributing to feelings of overwhelm.

It's crucial for teens to recognize that feeling overwhelmed is a common experience and that there are resources and support systems available to help them navigate their challenges and develop effective coping skills.

What are common signs a teen is currently overwhelmed?

Common signs that a teen may be feeling overwhelmed include increased irritability or moodiness, withdrawal from social activities or isolation, changes in eating or sleeping patterns (such as oversleeping or difficulty sleeping), decreased academic performance, difficulty concentrating, feelings of anxiety or panic, frequent headaches or stomachaches, and a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. Additionally, teens may exhibit signs of stress such as nail-biting, fidgeting, or restlessness.

What can you do, as a parent, to support your teen currently going through overwhelming feelings?

- Offer support by asking your teen if they are currently feeling stressed. Help your teen identify the areas of stress.

Many teens may have difficulty identifying why they are overwhelmed due to several interconnected reasons. Adolescence is a period of rapid emotional and cognitive development, during which teens may struggle to understand and articulate their complex feelings. Additionally, societal and familial expectations can exert pressure on teens to suppress or downplay their feelings, leading them to dismiss their experiences of overwhelm. Moreover, the multitude of stressors that teens face, including academic pressure, social challenges, family dynamics, and internal struggles with identity and self-esteem, can make it challenging to pinpoint specific triggers for their distress. As a result, many teens may feel a general sense of overwhelm without being able to identify its precise origins, making it harder for them to seek appropriate support and coping strategies.

This is why it is important to start by supporting your teen in understanding why they are overwhelmed. Here are 5 areas generally creating feelings of overwhelm:

*Peer drama
*Sports expectations or pressures (competitions, etc.)
*Self-pressure to become a certain person with certain criteria
*Family responsibilities such as chores
*Academic responsibilities such as grades.

-Help your teen identify how they can face the situation by creating a realistic schedule to break the stressful situation into little steps.

Building a realistic schedule is essential for balancing tasks and self-care to prevent overwhelm. By carefully allocating time for academic responsibilities, extracurricular activities, social engagements, and personal well-being activities, teens can create a sense of structure and predictability in their lives, creating a sense of control and power. A realistic schedule allows teens to prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadlines, which can help prevent procrastination and last-minute stress. Moreover, scheduling regular breaks and incorporating self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation, and hobbies ensures that teens have time to recharge and maintain their physical and mental well-being. By striking a balance between responsibilities and self-care in their schedules, teens can reduce the risk of burnout and overwhelm, promoting overall health and productivity. Additionally, learning to adapt and revise schedules as needed helps teens cultivate resilience and flexibility in managing their time effectively.

- Let your teen know the importance of their self-talk, and create awareness for them to delete negative self-talk.

Self-talk plays a crucial role in preventing overwhelm in teens by influencing their perceptions, emotions, and behaviors. Positive and empowering self-talk can help teens manage stress and build resilience by promoting self-confidence, problem-solving skills, and adaptive coping strategies. When faced with challenging situations or overwhelming emotions, teens who engage in constructive self-talk are more likely to view setbacks as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. By reframing negative thoughts and focusing on their strengths and capabilities, teens can cultivate a sense of agency and control over their circumstances, reducing feelings of helplessness and overwhelm. Additionally, self-compassionate self-talk encourages teens to treat themselves with kindness and understanding, fostering greater emotional resilience and self-esteem. Conversely, negative self-talk characterized by self-criticism, catastrophizing, or rumination can exacerbate feelings of overwhelm and contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Therefore, cultivating positive and supportive self-talk is essential for promoting well-being and preventing overwhelm in teens.

Here is an example:

Your teen is dealing with drama from peers in school and is preoccupied by finishing a video game (or any activity currently used to discover who they are) they started. Your teen just realized mid-finals are happening in two weeks and admitted being late in preparing them.

You noticed your teen is quick to anger, especially when asked to do chores (adding on them feeling overwhelmed), is isolating more and having issues keeping up with taking care of their sleep schedule, and hygiene schedule (showering, washing hair, etc.).

How to support in this situation:

Let your teen know you have noticed them showing signs of feeling overwhelmed, and ask if they know why they are overwhelmed. Very often, your teen will not truly know why they are overwhelmed. You are welcome to let them know the 5 categories often overwhelming teens. In this example, the teen is most likely overwhelmed by the approaching exams and feeling unprepared.

Build, with your teen, a day-to-day schedule for your teen to gather the needed academic information and then study for the exams. Also, schedule ahead of time moments for your teen to relax and take part in hobbies for self-care. This schedule might involve your teen canceling sports or volunteering activities until the exams are over.

Provide your teen with a journal for them to keep track daily of their self-talk. Inform your teen of the importance for them to act as a friend and not as an enemy.

This 3-step strategy can help your teen realize they have the capacities needed to face the challenges they are currently facing. Doing this with your teen will also solidify your relationship and cultivate trust. Your teen will see they don’t have to face difficulties by themselves and can come to you for help.

You are also welcome to apply these 3 steps to your own life as an adult if you are currently feeling overwhelmed.

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