It’s crunch time! Finals will soon be here and your child is working hard to complete assignments, finish up projects and prepare for upcoming exams. Your student appears anxious, overwhelmed and isolated, and you want to help support them through this time. What you might be noticing is stress, negative stress—that feeling of being so overwhelmed by issues in life that a person is unable to mentally or emotionally cope as well as they have in the past.
SIGNS OF STRESS IN TEENS
Signs of stress can vary quite a bit and can include the following:
- Physical issues such as head and stomach complaints and frequent illness: Stress can decrease a person’s digestion, shuts down the immune system, tenses the body muscles and increases blood pressure.
- Loss of and interrupted sleep: Stress can cause a person to have increased cortisol (a stress hormone), which leads to more stress. Increased stress can also impact how long it takes for a person to fall asleep, leading to less sleep.
- Educational problems and difficulty concentrating: When a person is anxious, this type of thinking takes number one priority. Therefore, other types of learning and concentration “take a back seat,” making it difficult to learn and retain a lesson.
- Increased irritability, isolation and negative changes in behavior: Positive stress can promote growth and allow a person to move forward in life with a goal. Negative stress can impact a person by not allowing them to return to a relaxed state, causing them to stay stressed perpetually. This can lead to anger, frustration and irritability.
Take a deep breath and have comfort in knowing that your child will get through this and there is help!
TIPS TO HELP REDUCE STRESS DURING FINALS
Here are a few suggested self-care tools to help reduce your child’s stress level. These tips can be used for both high school and college students:
- Encourage your child to create a study plan or dedicated blocks of time to study. Scheduling focused time to study allows your child to take control over their learning and to schedule built-in time limits to take breaks.
- Identify a quiet space, free from disruption. Help your child choose an environment that allows them to study without distraction, such as the local library or a quiet space within the home. Suggest they put their phone in another room or across the room so they’re not tempted to pick it up while studying.
- Help your child organize their study area. Creating an area that is clean and well organized can aid in your child’s focus and concentration.
- Encourage your child to schedule break times while studying. During breaks, they should move the body and get the blood circulating, breathe in fresh air and refocus their thoughts. Some easy methods for this include going for a walk, doing frequent body stretches, or simply moving around the house—take a quick jog up and down the stairs, for example.
- Suggest that your child find a study partner or group. Studying with a friend or group of students can help students understand the material from differing peers’ points of view. It can also be more fun than studying solo.
- Remind your child to drink plenty of water and eat healthy. Being well hydrated and eating a well-balanced meal with fruits, vegetables and a protein will give the body the fuel it needs to run efficiently.
- Surround your child with positive affirmations. Grab several sticky notes and have your child write out their favorite motivating phrases, such as: “Keep going… You got this!” “You are so smart.” “You are going to pass this test.”
WHEN STRESS BECOMES OVERWHELMING
If it appears that your child’s stress level has reached a concerning level requiring further intervention, please reach out to your community supports. Below are behavioral and mental health supports available to you and your family.
- Alternative Crisis Line Option – Emergency Services: 911
- Cincinnati Children’s Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) 513-636-4124
- Best Point (Behavioral Health) 513-527-3040
- Talbert House 24/7 Crisis Hotline 513-281-CARE (2273) or text Talbert to 839863
- Hamilton County Mobile Crisis Team 513-584-5098
- Hamilton County Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES) 513-584-8577
- Lighthouse Youth and Family Services Crisis Line 800-474-4129
- Butler County Mobile Crises Team 844-427-4747 or 844-4CRISIS
- 24/7 Crisis Hotline and Mobile Crisis Team 513-528-SAVE (7283)
Warren and Clinton Counties
- Crisis Hotline 877-695-NEED (6333)
- National Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255
- National Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor
- Suicide Prevention My3 App – Search for “my3” wherever you find your apps and look for the app named “MY3 – Support Network”
Editor’s Note: Erica Koe-Krompecher, LISW-S, LICDC-CS, OCPC, CCTSW, also contributed to this blog post. She is an eating disorder therapist in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s, and was previously a social worker in the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Teen Health.