January 2, 2020 by thewashingteenian
By Jay Trovato, Young Adult Librarian
One thing I’ve frequently seen and heard since I began working in the Young Adult Department at the library is that teenagers and young adults are often burdened with stress. Recently, during a meeting of the Teen Library Council (which publishes this blog), I decided to talk more in-depth with the teens at the table to find out where their stress is coming from, how it affects them, and what they do to deal with it.
An eighth grade student went into great detail about the stress she felt from the demands placed upon her at school. She takes advanced classes in a magnet program with high expectations from the school (and from her parents) to maintain a very high level of achievement. Participating in the school band means she misses some classwork and homework, which she later has to make up. She feels that her parents don’t really understand how badly her stress affects her and that she constantly feels behind in her work. All these demands force her to stay up late doing schoolwork, cutting into her sleep time – and even when it is time to sleep, the pressure she is under keeps her from getting good rest.
Another eighth grade student at the table agreed that the academic demands are high, but the main stress she feels comes from the other students in her school. She finds that most of her peers are immature and do not offer stimulating or helpful conversation. The gestures of friendship that other students have made towards her are not genuine, and therefore she finds herself avoiding contact with other people. This feeling of peer isolation is something she has experienced for a long time, and the only thing she can hope for is that high school will be better.
A teen boy at our meeting had a very different perspective. He said he did not feel a lot of stress in his life. He said that life is not primarily about being happy, and that we have to accept that bad things will sometimes happen. The key is in his optimistic outlook on life: he says that things may be bad now, but later they will be better. One source of strength and confidence for him is relying on what he called “traditional values” and that he has learned to trust in God.
An older teen who no longer attends school has more adult things to worry about: work, money, rent, and exploring the possibility of going to college. He also faces significant challenges when dealing with his family. In addition to feeling stress related to lack of money, another Teen Library Council member gets anxious when her house is too messy, or when too many politics-related news stories come on TV or through social media. Interestingly, another teen found social media to be a way to relieve stress, since it can be a source of entertainment and connection with others.
The teens who contribute to this blog (and people of all ages) experience a certain amount of stress coming from school, interpersonal relationships, and money. How do they fight back? Some of the strategies they mentioned were playing games, watching TV, drawing, taking a walk, talking to friends, taking a walk, writing in a journal, and coming to the library where they can expect a positive atmosphere.
How about you? What in your life makes you feel stress? How do you handle it?