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Common Pressures That Can Cause Stress in Teens

Common Pressures That Can Cause Stress in Teens

Being a teenager isn’t easy. Whether it’s pressure from school, friends or family, it’s normal to feel stress or anxiety during this time in life.

Stress is how the body and brain respond to a demand. Our bodies can handle small amounts of stress. Too much stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health. When stress becomes overwhelming, take a step back and pinpoint what’s causing the stress. Find healthy ways to cope with it.

While every teen faces unique challenges and different life events, some circumstances are common to lots of teens. It’s not unusual for these situations to create stress.

School and Social Pressure

Whether it’s keeping up grades, applying to colleges, or deciding what to do after graduation, school-related stress is real. Homework and a heavy academic load can compete with extracurricular activities, social events and sports obligations.

School can bring social stress, as well. It’s natural to want to fit in with friends and peers at school. However, with our non-stop connection to social media, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others constantly.

Teens can also face peer pressure. Sometimes you may feel pressured to take part in activities or behaviors that are outside your comfort zone. This can add to your worries.

Family Challenges

Teens can also face worries at home. Family conflict, divorce, illness and financial hardship can cause stress.

Parents can also add to stress, as they may (often not on purpose) place added pressure or expectations on their teens.

Body Image Issues

Teens go through many physical changes. These changes are usually hard to hide. It’s easy to compare yourself to friends and peers who are going through these changes, too.

It’s normal to feel stressed during this time. You may develop faster or slower than others. This can make “fitting in” feel difficult. This transition may also make you feel like you’ve lost a sense of self, as the body you’ve known for many years starts to change.


It can feel like friends are the center of your world. So it’s easy to feel stressed about the “right” way to respond to their needs. While it’s important to learn how to support others, it can be hard to set boundaries on how their hardships affect our own lives.

Romantic Relationships

As a teen, you may start to feel a new romantic or sexual draw to people. This attraction is normal but can be stressful and confusing. You may feel some self-doubt or a lack of confidence. Many teens also feel added stress if they face questions about gender identity or sexual orientation.

Major Life Events

If you’re a teen or an adult, major life changes can cause stress. Illness, accidents, bullying or abuse can have a huge effect on your stress levels. Family changes, such as divorce or the death of a loved one, can also cause stress as you try to work out how to express your feelings.

Moving and starting at a new school also creates stress or anxiety as you try to form new friendships or learn a new lifestyle. It’s normal for many teens to feel confused with these changes.

Teens can also feel stress when they read about major world events that can be scary or traumatic. These stories are not easy to avoid in today’s digital age. Hearing frightening news, in our own country or abroad, can leave us stressed about our safety and the safety of our friends and family.

You Don’t Need to Face Stress Alone

Stress is a part of life for every teen. Everyone struggles with stress from time to time. If you’re feeling stressed, try these methods for keeping your stress under control. Remember, it’s normal not to feel normal all the time.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a friend, a trusted adult or a teacher. There are people who can and want to help.

Tips for Coping with Stress

  • Treat your body well. Get regular exercise and eat well to help your body work its best. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost mood and reduce stress. When you're feeling anxious, it's easy to eat on the run or eat junk food. But under pressure, you need good nutrition more than ever. Avoid excess caffeine, tobacco and other substances.
  • Get enough sleep. Many teens prefer staying up later at night and sleeping a little later in the morning. If you stay up late and still need to get up early for school, you may not get all the hours of sleep you need. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends teens get 8-10 hours per night.
  • Stay connected. Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way. Knowing that there are people who believe in us raises our ability to deal with challenges. Who are the people in your life you can trust? Ask for help and support when you need it. Share what you're going through, including the good things that are happening.
  • Take time out. Build time into your day for events that you enjoy. Activities like listening to music, spending time with a pet, taking a walk, making art, writing in a journal, reading a good book, and being in nature can all reduce stress. Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
  • Breathe. Breathing exercises are a great way to relieve stress quickly. They’re simple to learn, easy to use, and can be done anytime or anywhere you feel tension. Learning to use mindfulness and relaxation exercises can help keep our emotions in check when under stress.
  • Unplug. The constant exposure to social stressors through social media has great effects on teens. This can sometimes even interrupt your sleep or ability to maintain face-to-face relationships. Seeing “popularity” as likes or shares can create feelings of jealousy, insecurity and fear of missing out. Consider giving yourself a break from these pressures by limiting your exposure to them.
  • Find the upside. Your viewpoint, attitude and thoughts affect the way you see things. What are you grateful for? Practicing gratitude can focus our attention so that we can thrive. A positive outlook can help you make the best of stressful situations and to be open to new life lessons.
  • Be real. Learn to feel good about doing an acceptable or “good enough” job rather than always expecting excellence from yourself and others. While it’s important to push yourself to do your best, remember that no one is perfect.
  • Tune in. Recognize signs in your body that you are becoming stressed, such as increased heart rate, butterflies in your stomach, or feeling like you want to punch something. What do you notice happening in your body when you begin to feel pressure? Being able to identify these internal cues may be our first chance to address our stress.
  • Look around. Think about what things in your environment bring you stress. Having this knowledge allows us to better prepare and respond to these situations, events and people. Consider what things in your environment bring you strength and comfort. Seek them out when you need to.
  • Plan. It’s easier to think about how we will handle stress when we are calm and can think more clearly. Coping skills work best when they're practiced ahead of time, not just when the pressure's on. Knowing how to bring peace and who to reach out to for help can help you act when it matters most.
  • Expect obstacles. Challenges are normal and will come up. They can also be overcome. We can turn our obstacles into opportunities.

Last Updated 06/2022

Reviewed By Sara Hughes

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