Teens today report feeling as stressed as adults today report. But, when school is in, teens report higher levels of stress that adults today report. Anecdotally, we see the results of this study bearing out in the work we do with teens and families.
The stress adults face today is heavy, ever present, and at times overwhelming. As adults, we need ways to be able to offset the impacts of the stress we experience. Adults work long hours to be able to provide for themselves and their families.
We also see the stress that teens are under. We work with many teens who have longer 'work' days than many adults have. Many teens are up at 5:00 a.m. and are non-stop until they turn their homework in at 11:59 p.m.
When the study into teen and adult stress was conducted it was pre-pandemic. Add the pandemic into the mix and the stress levels of both teens and adults increases. It's no wonder that we are seeing an increase in teens and families seeking therapy.
So, we have adults experiencing high levels of stress and our teens are experiencing stress levels at an all time high. The pandemic has increased the amount of time we are spending together limiting out of home activities where time away would be spent. Can you see where this may end up for any family?
There are approaches that can be used in the home. One approach that has been well researched and studied is mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is accomplished by focusing our awareness on the present moment. We let go of the thoughts of the past or future thoughts and focus on the now.
We will have past thoughts or thoughts on the future pop into our minds. We don't judge the thoughts as good or bad and simply let them float out of our minds. We bring our attention back on the now and the present moment activity.
To practice mindfulness, you can use any of your 5 senses. To start, practice mindfulness for 5 minutes and build from there. One simple example of mindfulness using the sense of taste is as follows:
Take a piece of hard candy of your choice
Place the candy in your mouth
Close your eyes and explore the taste, texture, feel, etc. of the candy as if you've never had a piece of candy before.
Let thoughts about the past or future float through and refocus on the activity of the moment
Do this until the candy has dissolved in your mouth
Then, notice your stress level during and after you have finished the mindfulness activity
The more we practice mindfulness, the more effectively it can help mitigate stress. Mindfulness also helps build resiliency to stress.
Mindfulness With Your Teen
Mindfulness can be practiced not only in solitary activities, but in activities with others. Practicing mindfulness with others not only helps with stress but also helps in our relationships.
Social activities are also another good way to help protect against the effects of stress. When practicing mindfulness with another, you are targeting stress with two effective approaches -- mindfulness and relationship building.
Below are three mindfulness based activities that can help with both the adult and teen's stress. These activities will also help improve the relationship between you and your teen.
Bake a Favorite Dessert Together
When you are baking a dessert together, your attention is focused on the the recipe. There are very specific steps in making a dessert.
During this activity, your minds are centered on the present moment. You may have thoughts of the past or future enter your mind. For a mindfulness activity, it's important to not judge the thoughts and let them float by. Bring your mind back to the present moment and continue the activity.
With your focus on collecting the ingredients, measuring them out, mixing them together your mind tends to stay rooted in the present moment. During this time, you are also communicating with your teen and enjoying the moment together.
Play a Board or Card Game
When playing a board or card game, your attention is naturally focused on the moment. There is a strategy employed by each person who is a part of playing the game.
Each person's goal is to win. To win, our focus has to be not only on the actions we take in the game, but also the action of the others. This provides a natural barrier to outside thoughts that may want to pop in our mind.
If we are intentional in making this a mindfulness activity, we go into the game being aware of any past thoughts or thoughts about the future that may enter our mind. When those thoughts enter our minds, we notice them without judgment, let them float on by, and bring our attention back to the game.
This is a fun way to build relationships, enjoy our time together as a family, and to mitigate the effects of stress. This is also a fun way to build resiliency against stress when we use this opportunity to practice mindfulness while enjoying playing a game with our family.
Exercise is as effective for stress related emotional struggles as medication. When you make exercise a mindfulness activity, this helps to decrease current stress. Mindfulness exercise also helps to build resiliency against future stress.
If you are permitted to go to the gym, you and your teen can go to the gym together. Take part in an exercise class together. When in an exercise class, your focus is on the instructor of the class.
While your focus is on the instructor, notice how the ground feels against your feet. Explore this sensation as if it's the first time you've felt or experienced it.
You can also notice your breathing. Explore the sensation of the air being taken in and your lungs expanding. Explore the sensation of the air being exhaled. Notice how that feels and explore these sensations at a deep level. See if you notice sensations you haven't been aware of before.
Exercise has a triple bonus on stress and emotion. Exercise itself is effective in reducing stress and improving mood. You can use exercise as a mindfulness activity which helps decrease stress and build resilience. And, you are doing an activity with your teen which helps to strengthen that relationship.
Give It a Try
Mindfulness is an activity that is easy to do just about anywhere you are. Give it a shot this week. Plan an activity with your teen that you will both enjoy. It can be from the three things above or you can find your own activity that you enjoy.
As you intentionally practice mindfulness you will see the benefits of this approach. As you practice with your teen, you will be helping your teen with the stress they experience plus enhance your relationship between you and your teen.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling:
Providing Research Supported Approaches in Improving Relationships & Emotional Wellbeing
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, our teen therapy and family counseling specialists use those approaches that are supported by research. Approaches like mindfulness, CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback and others help teens and families heal.
Teens and adults face challenges and stressors today that can lead to other, more serious challenges. Teen depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other emotional struggles are on the rise. Teens are also turning to substance abuse as a way to cope with these stressors and challenges.
You don't have to walk this path alone. There are answers. There is hope. There is a pathway to overcoming these challenges. There are those who dedicate themselves to helping teens and families heal and who can guide you through the healing process.
If you are ready to start your healing journey with the teen counseling and family therapy specialists at Katy Teen & Family Counseling, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Talk with one of our caring teen and family therapy specialists
Start the journey towards restoring hope, happiness, and connected family relationships
Katy Teen & Family Counseling:
Teen Counseling & Family Therapy Services Offered
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we are intentional on the therapy approaches we use. The approaches we use have been supported by research and have been shown to be effective.
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He is a Specialist in Teen Therapy & Family Counseling. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003.
Jason uses CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback, FFT, and Motivational Interviewing. At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, our focus is working with teens and families which allows us to provide the care that teens and families of today need. Resolving the struggles of today can assure a more successful tomorrow.
Proudly serving Katy, Tx and Houston.