Stress is the body's way of responding to any kind of demand or change. When your child feels stressed, his body releases chemicals into the blood. These chemicals provide the energy to fight or to escape. This helps your child focus and increases his energy, if he is in physical danger. But stress caused by things your child cannot fight or escape mean that these chemicals don't have anywhere to go. Your child’s body responds by raising blood pressure and making the heart work harder. This kind of stress can affect your child’s physical and mental health. Many office visits to healthcare providers are for conditions related to stress.
Stress can be caused by both good and bad experiences. Going to school, starting a new job, dating, and facing illness can all be stressful. We all have some stress in our lives, and a little may even be good for us. Some children claim they can get more done if they have a deadline. But too much stress or stress that goes on for too long is harmful.
Anything your child sees as a problem can cause stress. Different things may cause stress for other children. Stress can be caused by everyday matters, such as doing homework or taking tests, as well as by major problems including:
Many stressful events in a short period of time can have a greater effect on your child. Caffeine and some medicines, such as stimulants, can make stress worse.
Symptoms of stress may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and examine your child. Stress can cause common symptoms, such as headaches or digestive problems, that have many possible causes. Your provider will make sure your child does not have a medical illness that could cause the symptoms.
Therapy (individual, group, or family) may offer support, help your child learn more effective ways of dealing with stress, and help reduce fears and worries.
Medicine may be prescribed to help reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety and help your child cope with stress. Medicine may be used for a short time to help until the stress resolves.
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Physical activity boosts chemicals in the body, called endorphins, that help your child feel good. Focusing on playing soccer or doing aerobics can also help your child forget what is bothering him for a while. Exercise can also relieve muscle tension, help your child feel more energetic, and help your child sleep better.
Encourage your child to take up a sport, join an exercise group, or walk at least a mile a day. Find an activity that your child enjoys and that helps him unwind. It won't help if trying to fit in an exercise program makes your child feel more stressed!
Relaxation skills take practice to learn. Learning to relax can:
Relaxation skills include:
Get emergency care if your child or teenager has ideas of suicide, harming himself, or harming others.