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Being too busy is overwhelming and causes anxiety. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Being too busy is overwhelming and causes anxiety.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

What do you do if your teenager seems generally overwhelmed?

These days the pressures on many high school students are off the charts.  The honors students are expected to maintain above a 4.0 GPA, a job, a sport and a social life.  They are told in order to get into college they will need incredible grades and SAT scores as well as a slew of extra-cirricular activities.  First of all, weighting a GPA on something beyond a four-point scale is a lot of pressure; you’re child might have straight-A’s and still not feel good about it because they only have one AP class.  I’ve heard some high school students tell me, “I’m not getting very good grades,” and they have a 3.6 GPA!
On top of all this most of the teenagers have phones with more capabilities than computers did five years ago.  They are constantly texting, emailing and posting on Facebook or Instagram.  While it is nice to stay in contact with friends, this is more noise in their lives.  More noise means more stress.
It is important to help your teenager understand the benefits of taking a day a week to be phone, homework, job, sports and stress-free.  Teach your teen how to enjoy reading a book or walking the dog.  Teach them the benefit of slowing down.  If all you teach them is to hurry up and get ahead they will never learn satisfaction with what they have.  As a result, they will always feel overwhelmed and like they’re underperforming.
If you want your teen to stop feeling so overwhelmed then you have to model what is important in life.  Get your priorities in order, which has to include time for fun and rest.  This will greatly impact your children in a positive manner by setting a good example.  Besides that, you will spend more quality time with them.  There is nothing better for a teen than that (even if they protest).
If you’ve gone “offline” recently, you know it is hard at first.  The first few hours, and maybe even the first few days feel like something is missing.  Being aware of this feeling will help you relate to your teenager when you tell them to go offline too.  They will feel disconnected and a little bit disoriented.  It’s not going to help if you tell them that you never had a cell phone growing up and you were fine.  Things WERE different back then.  Nowadays teenagers mostly make their plans through Snapchat, group chats and anything else to do with their personal phones.  When you have your teenager take a day off, they will be missing out.  It’s your job to help them understand it’s good for us to “miss out” sometimes.
Try not to overbook your child.  Our Southern California culture teaches teens to be extremely busy and involved.  While there is value in accomplishing things, there is also value in learning to be content and peaceful.  Keep yourself fresh and keep your children fresh- don’t have them doing 20 things that may or may not actually benefit them.  Keep perspective on when their grades are good enough.  Teach your children how to be content without being complacent.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT