At this time of year, the focus in many household is on the fast approaching exams, whether it’s at second level or college. The time for the mock exams comes around very fast and many teenagers begin to really feel the pressure, or become aware of what they don’t think they know rather than what they do. This is also added to by the fact that teachers are trying to get course material covered and often inadvertently create added pressure because of their own fears for their students. I know, I worked at second level for over 15 years and still deliver programmes in schools annually.
This unfortunately leads to many young people experiencing high levels of stress which is also added to by the proliferation of information in the media and propensity for social media to make us compare ourselves with others. Irritability, sleepless nights, withdrawal into oneself, lack of confidence and giving up, are common outcomes of a teen experiencing high levels of stress.
So, what can we do about it? Below are my top four tips for helping your teenager manage their stress. It’s also a useful list for any of us if we are faced with, or are experiencing, a stressful period in our lives.
Help Them Make a Plan:
One of the most important aspects of preparing for anything is to have a plan. I’m a natural planner and many of you may be yourself but lots of teenagers fail to plan because they are more focused on the now and reacting to what’s happening in the moment, which leads to distraction. Schools are excellent at encouraging students to have a study plan, but I think the plan should be bigger than that. The plan should include time for relaxation, time for dealing with the unexpected, what to do if things go wrong and if things aren’t working. It’s also vital that the plan is realistic. Very often I will work with a client who will tell me that they will study 5 hours a day but when we look at the ecology of their life, time for eating, sleeping, commitments and numerous other things that occur on a day to day basis, they soon realise 5 hours is not possible. It’s also important when creating a plan to understand what is important to focus on, what subjects need most attention and what is best way to go about studying them. This leads me to my next tip.
Help Them Know Their Strengths:
Often when I work with young clients they know what they like and what they are good at, but they have no idea why. If we don’t know how we do something when we do it well then, we have no idea how to recreate that in other areas of our lives. In NLP we call this modelling. In fact, NLP was founded on modelling when Richard Bandler and John Grinder studied the excellence of Virginia Satir and Milton Erikson, among others. If you get your son or daughter to examine what they do when studying and working at their best, then they can start to apply these skills to subjects and areas they are less successful or productive in. If they aren’t sure if this will work then, they can look to someone else who does it well and find out how they do it.
Help Them See the Bigger Picture:
When we get focused on specifics and get caught in a loop of negative thinking we often miss out on what things mean in a bigger context. When we look at the bigger picture we can start to see how things fit in the broader sense of our life and what we actually want. For example, I recently worked with a client who was obsessing over an assignment in which they got a low mark. When we looked at the bigger picture they were able to see how this was good feedback for improvement, it wasn’t going to affect their final results and in the context of what they wanted to do with their life, what they learnt on their course was more important than results at the end of they day. They also realised that in ten years-time no one, including themselves, would probably remember that they had failed this assignment. Focusing on the bigger picture can help with planning studies, choosing subjects to focus on as well as knowing your values and what is really important in life. Remember, as a parent your values can often influence your child, especially if they think failing in anyway will let you down. It’s important they know you love them no matter what!
Help Them Take Control of Their Stress:
As a Meditation Instructor I regularly meet people who know they are stressed but are slow to do anything about it. Stress can be an addictive experience because the unconscious mind likes familiarity. This is why it is so important that stress-management becomes part of a routine so, the habit you have for dealing with your stress is more powerful than the habit of feeling stressed. Obviously, I am bit biased so, I am going to list meditation as my first choice when it comes to stress-management, but I know that meditation isn’t for everyone therefore, help your child, or yourself, find the outlet that suits them. It may be yoga or tai chi, walking, running or a team sport. It’s also important to remember that some things that may seem relaxing at first can be more stressful without us realising it. This is especially true depending on whether we are introverts or extroverts. For example, chilling out with a group of friends might be ideal for an extrovert who feels energised by people, but it could be exhausting of you are in introvert who needs time alone to decompress. Encouraging your child to take up a sport may be useful, but some groups sports are best suited to some extroverts and solitary sport activities are more often suited to introverts. This really is about knowing themselves and their own needs rather than the label, take time to help them find out what works best. It’s always wise to remind ourselves that what we might like is not always the same as what your child might like, or importantly need.
I hope you found this useful? If you have any questions or would like to book a coaching session for your son or daughter, or yourself, then you can PM me via Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +353868373582. I do sessions face to face or via skype.
Thanks for reading. I hope your paths cross in the future,
NLP Mind Coach IAMC, Meditation Instructor IAMI.