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Top tips for helping teenagers manage their stress and wellbeing

The teenage years are times of significant physical and mental growth. The changes that occur offer challenges and opportunities and how we choose to handle these can make a huge difference to wellbeing now and in the future.

The brain actively changes during adolescence, it’s remodelled, pruned and refined. The prefrontal cortex (the bit behind your forehead) is the last area mature at around 25 years! This is the area of the brain the supports key skills: emotional regulation, inhibition control, planning behaviour, solving problems and empathy.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain we need to help us handle the demands and difficulties we face each day. When we have too much stress, this part of the brain goes offline and another more primitive part runs the show. This switch explains changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviour from moment to moment.

What can you do to help?

1. Get good quality sleep- tiredness makes us more sensitive to stress, restorative sleep is the foundation of wellbeing. My workshop on Schedules & Sleep will help you improve it.

2. Key physically active- even just a short walk can lower stress hormones and stimulate the release of BDNF- this is like ‘miracle grow’ for your brain and enhances mood

3. Eat well- when we are stressed, BTW, boredom is stress! We tend to want to eat and most likely the food choices we make, while making us feel better in the short term actually add to our stress in the long term.

4. Notice your mindsets and thoughts-Sometimes we get stuck focusing on the problems and challenges we don't see the possibilities and opportunities. Take a few moments look at things through a different lens.

5. Have more positive thoughts- humans have a negatively bias, this is an ancient survival strategy that doesn’t serves us so well in the modern world. Try to focus on the positive this will change your brain chemicals and mood.

6. Use digital devices- but not too much, notice how you feel when you come off social media, the internet or your gaming device. If you feel tired, negative, crave sugar or are irritable it’s a sign you've been on too long.

7. Stay connected with friends and family, schedule group calls, try and do real time video, humans need to see other humans, we regulate each other with our facial expressions and voices.

8. Help others and get a helper’s high! - Neuroscience has demonstrated that helping others triggers the release of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine in our brains. These hormones have the effect of boosting our mood and counteract the effect stress hormones-wash up, volunteer, even just making your parent a cup of tea!

9. Accepting help-the teenage brain want to be independent and manage things alone but learning to lean on others is why humans have survived as a species. Whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher or helpline ask for help.

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