Help Your Teen Break Out of the Chronic Stress Loop

Learn the 4 steps to a healthier and happier teen.

Every teen soothes stress in their own unique way. From an adult perspective, your teen’s unwanted behavior or habits might be frustrating. Once you understand that it is just your teen’s way of calming the panic and stress, it is easier to support your teen rather than being annoyed. As a mother of two teens, I know this shift can be challenging, but I can guarantee that your teen will respond better if you are offering support rather than criticism.

Let’s get started breaking your teen out of the Chronic Stress Loop, so they can be happy and healthy in school and beyond.

Step # 1: Help Your Teen Create Their Stress Inventory

Sit down with your teen and have them share everything that is stressing them out. (I find teens are more willing to do this if the adult scribes the Stress Inventory while the teen shares.) While some stressors might seem trivial compared to others, no matter what causes the stress, it negatively impacts your teen and throws them into the Chronic Stress Loop, so it goes on the list. For now, just listen and record. No matter how badly you want to jump in and start problem solving, refrain and keep listening because you want your teen to identify their top stressor not yours.

Step # 2: Help Your Teen Identify Their Primary Stressor

While your teen might have many parts of their life that are stressful, there is usually one primary stressor that is the catalyst for other stress. Once the Stress Inventory is created, give your teen some time to reflect. (I usually do this step on a separate day.) Ask your teen where they hold their stress. Some common places are the stomach, heart, throat and shoulders. When they look at the list of stressors which event makes them feel stress the most. That would be their primary stressor. When the primary stress is reduced, it in turn eases the other stressors. (Need some help identifying stressors? Grab a copy of my Stress Less Guide to see a list of common teen stressors)

Step # 3: Help Your Teen Identify Their Default Habit

When the primary stress is activated, what does your teen do to find relief? Some teens pick fights, try to be perfect or eat when they aren’t hungry. What does your teen do? (Need some help identifying your teen’s default habit? Grab a copy of my Stress Less Guide to see a list of common teen default habits.)

Step # 4: Help Your Teen Develop a Healthy Replacement Habit

This is where lasting change begins. You have identified the primary stressor and the default habit, so it is easier to pick a replacement habit that is sustainable. For example, I worked with a boy who stressed big time about his homework and would often redo assignments numerous times. He then had trouble finishing his homework in a reasonable amount of time, which in turn increased his stress. He was stuck in the Chronic Stress Loop, so we picked a habit that interrupted the loop.

Every time he had the urge to redo something that was already done well, he had to stop, close his eyes and repeat the mantra, “I am already enough and my work is too” three times. Then he had to move onto another subject. While this was a good replacement habit for this boy, it would make no sense for another teen whose top stressor might be homework but their default habit is quitting.

Sometimes finding the right replacement habit takes time. If you and your teen pick one and it doesn’t help, try another one the next week. For example, telling a perfectionist that they can’t redo something might be too big a jump. Some teens might have to start with the mantra and then limiting the time to redo the homework. If you want a copy of my 5 Top Strategies to Stress Less grab a copy of my Stress Less Guide here.

If you would like some personalized support helping your teen stress less, you can book a Discovery Call here. During this call, we’ll discuss your teens primary stressor and the strategies that have worked and not worked so far. Then I’ll give you some examples of topics I would teach, habits that I would work on shifting and ways I would give support, so your child can stress less and feel more at ease while creating healthy habits to last a lifetime.


Originally published at www.claireketchum.com on May 8, 2017.

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