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Feeling stressed

A girl sitting at a computer looking stressed.Schoolwork, chores, dating dramas, fights with friends, and more — so many things can stress you out! But what exactly is stress, and how can you handle it? Keep reading to learn more.

What is stress?

Stress is what you feel when you react to pressure. The pressure can come from events in your life, from other people, or even from yourself. Things that cause stress are called stressors.

What are ways to handle stress?

You can do lots to deal with stress. Click through our slideshow below for more info.

  • A girl on a skateboard

    Put your body in motion 1/11

    Physical activity is a great way to beat stress. It can clear your head and lift your spirits. Physical activity increases endorphins , which are natural "feel-good" chemicals in the body. You may like games of football, tennis, or basketball, or you may prefer walks with family and friends. Whatever you choose, get up, get out, and get moving!

  • A girl eating a salad

    Fuel up 2/11

    When you take a car for a long drive, you fill up the gas tank first. You also need to fuel your body each day.

    Balanced nutrition gives you the energy you need to handle hectic days. Don't be fooled by the jolt of energy you get from sodas and sugary snacks. The boost is short, and when it wears off, you may feel even more tired. Start the day with a healthy breakfast. If you don't feel like eating when you wake up, grab a healthy snack like a banana, string cheese, or nuts so you can fuel up on the go.

  • A girl laughing

    LOL! 3/11

    Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it sure can help. Lots of laughing can help your body make natural "feel-good" chemicals called endorphins. And the good feeling can last after the giggling stops. So, beat stress with a funny movie, cartoons, or jokes.

    We all do things we think are pretty silly or stupid at times. When you do, try not to get mad at yourself. Instead, see if you can find the funny in what you did.

  • Girls looking at a laptop together

    Have fun with friends 4/11

    Being with people you like is a good way to ditch your stress. Get a group together to watch a movie, shoot some hoops, listen to music — or just hang out and talk. Friends can help you remember the brighter side of life.

    Wish you had more friends? Check out our tips for making friends.

  • A mother and daughter

    Spill to someone you trust 5/11

    Instead of keeping your feelings bottled up, talk to someone you trust about what's bothering you. It could be a friend, a parent, a teacher, or a friend's parent. The person may have some great advice or a different way to look at things. Plus, just getting support can feel good. Remember, you don't have to handle stress alone!

  • A girl leaning against a bookcase and reading

    Take time to chill 6/11

    Pick a comfy spot to sit and read, daydream, or take a nap. Listen to your favorite music. Work on a relaxing project like doing a puzzle or making jewelry.

    Stress can sometimes make you feel like a rubber band pulled tight. If this happens, take a few deep breaths. If you're in the middle of an impossible homework problem, take a break! Taking time to relax after (and sometimes during) a hectic day can make a big difference.

  • A girl sleeping

    Catch some zzz's 7/11

    Being stressed out can affect your sleep, which can make you feel cranky or fuzzy-headed. Being tired can mess up schoolwork, sports, friendships, and more. All that can add to your stress!

    Sleep is a big deal for teens. Because your body and mind are changing, you need more sleep to recharge for the next day. Most teens should aim for a little more than 9 hours of sleep each night. Get tips for better sleep.

  • A girl writing in a notebook

    Keep a journal 8/11

    Having a hard day? You can write about what's going on and how you feel. Writing is a great way to get things off your chest. You also can write a plan for how to handle problems and responsibilities. Then, you might go back and reread what you wrote a couple of weeks later to see how you got through a tough time. You can create your own journal.

  • A girl wearing a backpack and holding notebooks

    Get it together 9/11

    Feeling overwhelmed or forgetful? Being unprepared for school, practice, or other activities can make for a very stressful day. Having a plan and getting organized can really help. You can learn ways to manage your time well. Get tips on getting organized.

  • Girls volunteering in a park

    Lend a hand 10/11

    Helping someone can help you feel capable and strong. And it can remind you that everyone faces some kind of challenge at some point. Helping others also is a great way to find out about talents you never knew you had!

    You can help in simple ways, like smiling at someone who looks sad or helping an older neighbor with packages. If you want to join a volunteer group, try contacting a local recreation center or after-school program.

  • A girl trying to calm down

    Learn ways to better deal with anger11/11

    It is totally normal to be angry sometimes. And as a teen, the changing hormones in your body may make you feel mad for what seems like no good reason. The important thing is to deal with your anger in a healthy way. If you do, you'll feel calmer, and your relationships can be a lot less stressful.

    When your anger starts to boil, try to cool down with some deep breaths. Try to think about what exactly upset you and some possible solutions to the problem. Learn more smart ways to settle down.

What causes stress?

Different people are stressed by different things. For example, you might get very stressed about a test, but your friend might feel fine. Your sister might think moving is terrifying, but you may think it's exciting. There are no right or wrong things to stress over.

Some things that might cause stress include:

  • Schoolwork
  • Changes in your body or weight
  • Problems with friends or other relationships
  • Being bullied
  • Living in a dangerous neighborhood
  • Peer pressure to dress or act a certain way, or to smoke, drink, or use drugs
  • Feeling like you don't fit in
  • Desire to please your parents or other important adults
  • Sick family member
  • Changing schools
  • Conflict at home
  • Taking on too many activities at once

Of course, other things may cause stress for you that are not listed above. Even fun things, like starring in the school play or starting to date, can get you stressed.

Some things that cause stress are the same things that cause grief. These include things like your parents getting divorced or the death of someone you love. Read more about grief and how you can handle it better.

Sometimes, people have a lot of stress because of money worries. If your family is having money problems, you can look together at a website about ways to cope during tough financial times.

Is stress always bad?

A little bit of stress can help you. During a sports competition, stress might push you to perform better, for example. Also, the stress of deadlines can get you to finish work on time.

A lot of stress or stress that lasts a long time can hurt you. It can cause problems for your physical and emotional health, like stomach aches, sleep problems, and trouble concentrating.

If your stress is getting to be too much, take steps to tackle it. Check out our tips on how to handle stress. Also, turn to a parent or another adult you trust for advice and support.

Don't try to lower your stress in unhealthy ways. Things like taking drugs, drinking, cutting back on your sleep, or eating a lot or very little will only cause more problems. Treat yourself with the respect you deserve.

What are signs of being stressed out?

In a recent survey, 1 out of 3 teens said their stress went up during the past year. 1 out of 10 teens said they never set aside time to manage stress. And during the school year, teens report more stress than adults. If you want to do better — and feel better — try some stress-busting tips.

Sometimes, stress just comes and goes. But if you are facing a lot of pressure or problems, you may start to feel like you're often too stressed out.

Signs that you are getting too stressed may include:

  • Feeling down or tired
  • Feeling angry or edgy
  • Feeling sad or worried
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Having headaches or stomach aches
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Laughing or crying for no reason
  • Wanting to be alone a lot
  • Having tense muscles
  • Not being able to see the positive side of a situation
  • Not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling like you have too many things you have to do

Some of these signs can also be signs of depression, which needs treatment. Learn more about depression and how to get help.

How does my body act when stressed?

Your body has a built-in response to stressors. Your palms may sweat, your mouth may get dry, and your stomach may twist. This is all normal! Of course, stress doesn't feel very good. When your body is hit by stress, try to calm it down. Taking some deep breaths can help. You also can try yoga, going for a walk, or some other physical activity.

Can stress lead to more serious problems?

Stress that's too much for you to handle may play a role in some serious problems. These problems include eating disorders, hurting yourself, depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, and even suicide. If you are facing any of these problems, talk to an adult you trust right away! You also can get support by phone, text, chat, or email from a special helpline for teens.


Content last reviewed January 07, 2015
Page last updated April 01, 2015