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Stop Freaking Out! How to Manage Teen Stress

How to control teen stress with tips from Dr. OzTo reduce stress, Dr. Oz gives you permission to chill with your friends — in person, not on Facebook. From YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life, by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. Plus, why girls are biologically programmed to “bond” more than guys.

Play. It is important to integrate some play time into the busiest of schedules. Laughing, playing, and relaxing all decrease your stress level. That’s what people mean when they say that laughter is the best medicine; it actually decreases your levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, while distracting you from the source of the stress. Daydreaming can have a similar effect: Imagine yourself on a great vacation with your best friend and all the freedom in the world. It could be on a beach, at your favorite place in a city, or somewhere exotic and unknown. Sound like paradise? It turns out, it’s more than that; that quick mental image actually improves your brain function, keeping your brain flexible and getting those creative juices flowing.

Hang out. Friends are the ultimate destressor. Research shows that one of the most vital elements in reducing the negative health effects of stress is to have strong social networks. It’s mental medicine. And evidence shows that interacting with a good friend actually lowers your blood pressure and makes you more productive. However, there can be too much of a good thing, especially in today’ social-network-driven world. A virtual social life, including pressure to constantly check the latest updates on Facebook, or to tweet or text back in response to each IM, can be a stressor in and of itself. Carving out face time with your friends rather than a constant barrage of Facebook posts may be a better destressor. In women, it has been shown that high stress levels stimulate a surge of the bonding hormone oxytocin from the brain, causing them to want to get together and have coffee — no really, the drive is for them to get together, talk, and destress. When men are stressed, they don’t get the same surge of oxytocin, so there is less drive to get together and talk. Sorry, guys, you may have to cultivate other strategies to destress if your brain isn’t giving you that prod to go hang out.

Try some tricks. In periods of high stress, you need to have a plan that works for you. Exercise and meditation work for some people, and both of them will help you manage chronic stress through the release of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. But in the heat of the moment, at peak periods of high intensity, you should be able to pull a quick stress-busting behavior out of your bag of tricks. Our suggestions:

  • Scrunch your face tightly for fifteen seconds, then release. Repeat several times. This repetitive contraction and relaxation helps release tension you’re holding above the neck.
  • Breathe in, lick your lips, then blow out slowly. The cool air helps you refocus and slow down. If your lips get too chapped, you can just breathe in, hold for three seconds, and breathe out slowly over several more seconds. Sit up tall when you do it. You’re actually getting more oxygen to brain cells that way, and giving your body a nice time out.
  • Cork it. Hold a wine cork (don’t uncork the bottle yourself, bucko) vertically between your teeth.

For more great advice to help your teen, BUY YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Borders, Hastings, IndieBound.

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