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How mindfulness can help your stressed teen

Everyone take a deep breath. You all will feel better

How mindfulness can help your stressed teen

Even though, unlike adults, the vast majority of teens don’t need to worry about paying bills, graying hair, and faltering health, they nevertheless report more stress than their elders, especially during the school year and of course especially during lockdown. 

Left Brain Buddha’s Sarah Ruddell Beach writes that this is not only normal, it is to be expected, and can best be dealt with through mindfulness.

It’s been around for centuries, but the time for mindfulness has never been better, especially for teens needing to decompress. According to Beach, the two most common methods teens employ to deal with stress are video games and surfing the internet, which can, and often do, make the situation worse, sometimes much worse.

Beach defines mindfulness as “present-moment, nonjudgmental awareness.” Unlike surfing the internet and video games, which require focusing outside the mind and body, mindfulness goes within. She writes: “Research indicates that when teens consistently practice mindfulness, it lowers rates of anxiety and depression, and leads to better sleep, stronger relationships, and increased self-awareness, all of which can go a long way toward ameliorating the impact of stress.”

READ MORE: How to support your teen through the pandemic

First and foremost, Beach says expecting stress is best. “Research shows that people who expect stress are actually less stressed. When we disabuse ourselves of the silly notion that things will always be easy and our day will generally go as planned, we are more prepared to handle the curveballs life likes to throw at us.”

Beach maintains it’s best to let teens know their stress is an entirely normal reaction to a challenge. Among the many helpful suggestions in her article is bringing attention to one’s breathing, which is proven to lower one’s heart rate.

She also notes how you can help a teen realize the extent to which their worry is a story they’re telling, as opposed to an objective truth. She writes: “A big part of what stresses us out is the story we tell ourselves about what’s happening. Encourage your teen to stop when she is stressed, and ask herself, “What’s the story?” Is she telling herself she’ll fail the test, or that no one likes her? Ask if she can drop the story, and just notice what is actually happening.”

As she explains it, “teens, given their intense, developmentally-appropriate focus on the self, often believe the negative stream of self-critical thoughts in their heads.” You can help them realize “thoughts are not facts.”

Among her other suggestions are a tech detox, focusing on music (not always lyrics), and an acknowledgment of teens’ tendency to not realize the impermanence of things. “With mindfulness,” she writes, “we come to understand that no emotion lasts forever. When you pay close attention to it, an emotion is actually a constantly shifting combination of sensations and thoughts and feelings and memories. No two seconds of your emotional experience are identical.”

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