Teen Stress: Biggest Triggers & 7 Ways To Cope

Teens are bound to experience some kind of stress. It’s an inevitability, and really, a fact of life. We, as humans, all experience stress. Teens are no exception to that. Unfortunately, many teenagers are left to suffer in silence on the topic. 

In fact, a study found teens’ stress levels rival that of adults. Furthermore, teens identify their stress as unhealthy. As the future of our nation, we want to take a closer spotlight look at what stresses teens nowadays. 

Let’s look at the biggest triggers teens experience. After that, we’ll also show you ways to cope as a teenager.

Common Triggers of Teen Stress

In 2017, the American Psychological Association released a Stress in America survey. After compiling data, they conclusively found many teens struggle with stress that is on par with adults.

Teenagers understand that their stress levels are unhealthy. However, most aren’t aware of how negatively stress impacts both their mental and physical health. We’ll be looking at data from the 2017 survey to see the most common triggers.

What Stresses Teens?

  • First, a whopping 83% of teens report school as a source of stress. 
  • 69% follow up with stressing about what to do after high school or getting into a good college. 
  • An unfortunate 65% report financial concerns within their family. Since stress trickles down, it’s easy to see how teens might absorb stress from other family members.

What are the Results of Teen Stress?

  • 35% of teens report that they lie awake at night from stress. 
  • Meanwhile, 26% find themselves eating unhealthy foods or overeating. 
  • Alternatively, 23% choose to skip meals. All of these habits are a direct result of stress.

The Emotional Backlash from Teen Stress

Stress isn’t just one emotion, either. 

  • 40% of teens feel angry or irritable throughout the day just from the sheer stress of it all. 
  • 36% are either anxious or nervous and another 36% feel more fatigued than anything else. 
  • In the past month before the survey, 31% were overwhelmed by the stress.

This can have more negative consequences than they even realize.

  • For example, 26% report snapping at or being short with classmates in the month up to the survey. That’s directly from the emotions that stress made them feel. 
  • 51% of teens are told that they seem or look stressed at least once a month.

School plays a massive role, too. 

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, teens report an average stress level of 5.8 during the school year. 
  • In contrast, it’s a 4.6 during the summer months. While that’s still not as relaxed as teens could be, it’s a significant decrease from school time.

There are obviously other factors that can play into a teen’s stress levels. 

  • Maybe their expectations at home or school are too much pressure. 
  • They could have too many extracurricular activities, or not feel like they have enough time to themselves. 
  • Friendships and getting into their first relationships can also be sources of stress. 
  • Pay attention to what’s going on in your teen’s life to see if you can find the root of their stress.

This study did not even account for social media which is becoming an increasing source of stress and self-consciousness amongst teens. 

7 Signs of Stress

Be vigilant of your teenager’s emotions. You can be on the lookout for any of these signs that they’re feeling particularly high levels of stress.

Trouble Sleeping

Maybe you wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and notice they’re still awake. Or, they come to you in the morning and tell you they couldn’t sleep or went to bed later than they usually do.

Anger and Other Negative Emotions

They could look panicky, down, depressed, disassociative, unengaged, or even just tired. These are all signs of stress.

Getting Sick

Perhaps they mention headaches, stomachaches, or being tired all the time. Have they been communicating their stress to you this whole time? Pay attention to how often they mention something so you can stay on the lookout for a pattern.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Are they having trouble concentrating? Losing focus at home or school can be an easy sign of stress. They’re not too young to experience emotional exhaustion, so keep an eye out.

Maybe you got a call that they’ve been skipping school or even certain classes. It’s time to find out why.

Changes in Behavior

Another sign of stress is that they could just not be being themselves lately. Have they seemed different? Any different behavior should be noted.

Eating Changes

They could also not be eating well. This includes overeating, eating unhealthily, or skipping meals. Make sure their diet hasn’t become irregular. 

But, how do you resolve a teen’s stress? You can’t just take them out of school. They have to receive an education. Likewise, you can’t magically start hiding all outside stress to ensure they absorb none. 

7 Ways to Help Teens Cope with Stress

Unfortunately, there’s not a one-solution-fits-all kind of answer to this. On the bright side, we’ve got quite a few different ways to help. Let’s look through our list of ways to help your teen cope with stress. These methods would help reduce stress in anyone, but we’ve tailored them to teenagers for this guide.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mental state that is achieved by being fully in the present. While in the present, one can acknowledge and accept their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. 

Overall, it’s a therapeutic technique that’s at the beginning stages for adolescents. There’s mindfulness meditation, training, and other exercises to improve the ability to get to this mental state. 

Though they’re in the early stages of development, we do still have a clinical trial on the subject. The study “sought to establish the efficacy of a mindfulness-based group intervention for adolescents with mixed mental health disorders.”

118 teenagers between ages 13 and 18 were recruited for the trial. Each adolescent took their normal treatment, along with a 5-week mindfulness-training program.

The results saw a significant decrease in mental distress in the teenagers that went through the program. There was an even more prominent at the 3-month mark. Overall, teens that went through mindfulness training found improvement in mental health, psychological inflexibility, mindfulness, and self-esteem.

In conclusion, mindfulness and mindful awareness can help improve mental health significantly. We would recommend it for not just teenagers, but anyone who wants more mental clarity.

2. Get Journaling

When in doubt, write it out. Research has shown expressing oneself through writing can help improve wellbeing and reduce mental duress. For example, writing about positive feelings can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

A good exercise to try is to write what you’re proud of in yourself. Write about what you’re most grateful for. Then, write about how you’re feeling that day. 

Over time, journaling can lead to a lot of mental relief. Jotting down your thoughts with pen and paper will have more of an impact with consistency.

3. Go Outside

Sun exposure helps the brain produce serotonin — AKA one of our happy chemicals. Spending time out in nature is a proven, effective way to improve your overall wellbeing. 

The same can be said for teenagers. A great way to relieve stress is to ensure they’re getting some time outside every day. 

The best place to go is anywhere where you can be surrounded by nature. The greener, the better! Researcher shows people who live in greener places tend to have less stress, anxiety, and depression. 

4. Quality Time

Make sure you make time for both fun and quiet for your teen. Just as much as they need quality time with you, they also need alone time. What brings your teenager joy? 

Try to find a healthy balance between what they enjoy and their responsibilities. A source of stress could be that your teen is feeling unfulfilled and like they’re not getting enough time to themselves.

5. Communication

You’ve heard the age-old saying, communication is key. The same can be said for a teen stressing about any number of things. Talk it out with them! Start young so that they’ll be more likely to open up to you about the more serious things. 

Talking about stressful situations can help your teen put them into perspective. Communication might just be what they need to start feeling better about their current stress level.

6. Get Moving

Exercise is an essential stress reliever for any age. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends exercise. At least an hour a day of activity for children between ages 6 and 17 will do wonders for their stress levels. 

7. Better Sleep

Finally, sleep is an essential part of positive emotional and physical wellbeing. For teenagers, 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night is ideal. Their brains are still developing, so help ensure they’re getting the rest they need. 

One suggestion might be to help limit their screen time at night. Maybe avoid digital devices in the bedroom if your teen struggles with sleep.


We hope you found this advice to help guide stress reduction. Remember these are not one size fits all solutions and what works for some might not work for all. 

Posted in

Adolescent Psychiatry Staff

The information on this page is not intended to be a replacement for treatment, diagnosis, or professional clinical advice. We do not recommend taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger - don't use this site. These resources can provide you with immediate help.

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