A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Help stressed teens manage busy schedules

Illustration - open locker filled with books, sports equipment, music instrument and school suppliesHonors classes, sports, theater, volunteering and an active social life sound like a recipe for a well-rounded high school student.

But a busy schedule and pressure to succeed also mean stress.

“These activities can be rewarding and fun, but there has to be a balance,” said Stephanie Kohlbeck, Ph.D., a Marshfield Clinic child psychologist.

Signs of stress

Your teen may not tell you she’s feeling overwhelmed, so look for these signs of stress:

  • Irritability
  • Stomach aches
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sleep problems
  • Procrastinating
  • Lower grades
  • Change in performance in after-school activities

You can help them with these stress-reducing tips:

1. Get organized

Busy schedules are easier to manage if teens know what they need to do and make time to accomplish it.

Kohlbeck recommends using a planner to stay on task and Google Calendar to keep the family informed about important dates.

A clean bedroom, locker and backpack will reduce the stress of a misplaced assignment or uniform. It sounds simple, but it works.

2. Prioritize needs and wants

Talk to your teens about what they need to do, what they want to do and what they’re most passionate about.

Prioritizing will help your teens decide where to focus their energy.

When your child is asked to participate in something new, discuss where it fits in the list of priorities. If it’s low on the list, remind him or her it’s okay to say “no.”

3. Teach teens to say “no”

“Sometimes teens feel if they don’t do everything and respond to everyone, they’re going to miss something,” Kohlbeck said.

It may be time for your teen to say no to activities when stress affects performance.

Encourage teens to start small, with something they don’t need or want to do.

“Once they set that first boundary and discover nothing bad happens, it will be easier to do it in the future,” Kohlbeck said.

4. Work hard, play hard

Remind teens to stay focused when they’re working or studying.

When they’re having fun, let them enjoy the moment instead of bringing up things that need to get done.

“Life can be busy and stressful, so you have to work hard and play hard,” Kohlbeck said.

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