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How To Help Teen Girls Combat Stress

By Pam Dewey • Teen girls mental health, teen girls and depression, teen girls and stress, teen girls and anxiety, teen depression, teen anxiety, stress and teens, depression, anxiety, stress, combatting stress, helping teens with stress • May 12, 2022

Being a teenager can be difficult, particularly for young girls. Their bodies are changing. They’re probably thinking about the future and may be unsure what path to take. Teens are given more responsibility, but they usually still live at home with their parents. The pandemic has further complicated the process of growing up, with limited social interaction and more things to worry about.

A recent study has some interesting findings about how we can help teen girls combat stress.  

Katie McLaughlin is a research psychologist at Harvard University. According to the Greater Good Magazine, “she and her colleagues intensively monitored the lives of 30 girls in Seattle between the ages of 15 and 17 over a year (before the pandemic).” They talked to the girls and had them wear wrist devices to monitor their sleep and cell phone use.

Stress doesn’t have to cause anxiety and depression in teens

The study found girls who experienced stressful events were more likely to experience anxiety and then later, depression. McLaughlin stated, “There was about a one-month lag, so that increases in stress predicted increases in symptoms of depression the following month but not in that same month.” The Greater Good Magazine further states, “This is an important discovery, as it suggests a period of time when teens might be able to ward off depression after experiencing stressful events.” While stress can certainly lead to depression, this study shows this doesn’t have to occur. There are ways to help teen girls prevent anxiety and depression symptoms.

Help them sleep better

The Greater Good Magazine also states, “One of the things McLaughlin and her colleagues found was that when girls experienced more stress in their lives, their sleep was more disrupted—for example, they might have eight hours of sleep one night, but only four the next. This, in turn, was linked to greater anxiety and depression.” So, better sleep can help teens combat anxiety and depression.

Parents can help teens create better sleeping patterns by encouraging them to set a regular sleep routine — like going to be bed by 11:00 p.m. and waking up by 7:00 a.m. every day. You can suggest that they stop using electronic devices an hour before bed or ask them not to bring their cell phone into the bedroom. You should also encourage them to stop drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day. 

Limit their cell phone use and suggest physical activities

The Greater Good Magazine states, “McLaughlin also found that cell phone use went up during stressful times, and that seemed tied to poorer mental health, too.” However, their study didn’t gather information on what the girls talked about, so identifying the trigger related to increased phone time is hard. McLaughlin did point out that if the girls were calling their friends for advice, and their friends weren’t helping them find a solution, that could make them feel more depressed and anxious.

As a parent, you can suggest your teen limits her cell phone use during stressful times. Let them know they can talk to you, if they’re feeling overwhelmed. You could also suggest they engage in a physical activity, even just going for a walk, when they’re feeling stressed. As the weather gets warmer, they can go kayaking, skating, swimming, foraging or hiking. There are many ways you can encourage them to be more active and less in their head. Suggest they have a few friends over for a dance party or play backyard games.

Encourage your child to reflect on the cause of their feelings

Another way to help your teen daughter cope with stress is by teaching her to recognize her emotions. The Greater Good Magazine states, “Interestingly, the girls who were better at differentiating their emotions at the beginning of the study were better protected from developing depression or anxiety in the face of stressors.” Most people know when they’re feeling sad, but your teen might not understand all the factors contributing to their sadness, or what is causing them to feel stressed. Teach your teen to examine what is contributing to their feelings. She might realize she’s feeling stressed because she’s got a big assignment due, she’s worried about college or because she broke up with her significant other. Then help her find some coping strategies.

It’s a stressful time to be a teen girl. But you can help your teen cope with stress by encouraging them to develop better sleep habits, spend less time on their phone, engage in activities and help them understand their feelings.