Teenagers are barraged with many powerful life stressors, including grades and the pursuit of a college education, puberty, family issues, relationships, lack of sleep, jobs, and extra-curricular activities. It’s no surprise that the American Psychological Association (APA) named teens one of the most stressed-out age groups in the United States.
When we experience a perceived threat – whether physical or emotional – our bodies activate a “fight or flight” response. Historically, this response was triggered only occasionally in response to deadly dangers. However, these days certain chronic situations expose our bodies to extended periods of stress.
For teenagers, this stress is coming at a critical developmental stage – right when their life habits are forming. And they often don’t have the tools or experience to manage it yet.
When a person experiences chronic stress, their body attempts to build coping mechanisms. The problem is that these can be either positive and healthy coping mechanisms or negative and maladaptive coping mechanisms – such as drugs, depression, and even suicide.
What are Coping Mechanisms?
Coping mechanisms are the strategies we use in the midst of stress or trauma to help manage difficult emotions.
Healthy coping mechanisms include:
Support- seek the steadiness of a community, rather than self-isolating and internalizing your feelings
Relaxation- practice meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing techniques
Physical Activity- on the other hand, exercise serves as a natural and healthy form of stress release
Negative coping mechanisms include:
Consuming too much alcohol
Sleeping all day
How Does Yoga Help Us Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms?
Luckily, yoga and meditation are among the many resources that can help both teens and adults develop healthier responses to stress.
Mindfulness techniques give students the capacity to cope with stress, providing a sense of self-empowerment and helping them overcome obstacles that previously would have seemed impossible.
Yoga practice helps redirect attention, improve concentration, and increase self-control.
It reinforces teenagers’ need for independence by teaching them that feeling better is within their control.
Additional Study Results
The results of a long-term study from the University of Cincinnati showed that a regular yoga practice helps people develop long-term resilience to stress. It analyzed 125 at-risk youth over a 10-year period and discovered that the students who participated in weekly, mindful yoga programs developed significantly stronger coping skills.
A study conducted by California State University concluded that participating in yoga classes for two hours each week helped students improve their self-esteem, classroom behavior, and physical health.
An article in Forbes Magazine revealed that yoga increases student retention rates in schools by teaching healthy coping mechanisms against stress.
Many schools and community organizations have begun to implement yoga and mindfulness programs into their curriculums over the past few years. As these continue to grow, they will empower both youth and young adults to identify healthier coping mechanisms as a response to their stress. When they encounter painful emotions or trauma, they’ll have an enhanced ability to regulate their reactions.
I highly recommend that those of you who are parents to teenagers consider enrolling them in a monthly yoga membership if they’re interested. We also offer weekly, candlelit community classes for only $5, which are a great place to start learning the yoga poses and vocabulary, as well as start building a safe, welcoming support system.