I see quite a bit of teenagers and their families for counseling. One of the biggest issues I see is stress - now it may also be accompanied with anxiety and/or depression, but stress is what a lot of teenagers are experiencing. What I don't often see are teens who know how to effectively handle that stress. So instead they act out, engage in sexual activity, get into drugs or alcohol, cut themselves or harm their bodies in other ways or yell and argue with their parents. What a lot of teens are saying through these actions is "help me, I'm overwhelmed and I don't know what to do!" Now this isn't the case for every teenager, but many that I see are feeling overwhelmed, under immense pressure from parents or at school, have difficulties in their friendships or romantic relationships. Perhaps they are being picked on or bullied at school and they struggle with low self-esteem. Sometimes what helps is to decrease the amount of activities teens are involved in so there's less stress. Other times they need to hear their parents say they love them and that A's are not the goal but rather trying their best is the aim. Open communication between parents and teens will often times decrease stress in a teens life when done in a healthy, supportive and positive manner. Stress is all around us; we have to know how to manage our stress or how to eliminate stress that can be eliminated. A lot of stress we bring on ourselves; maybe we are over-involved or haven't resolved conflicts with loved ones that need to be resolved. Maybe we aren't engaging in enough positive activities that we enjoy. Increasing positive activities in our life can help decrease stress for some people. We also often engage in irrational thinking patterns and negative self-talk that increase our stress. I work with clients in counseling (teens and adults) to identify their thinking patterns and the way they are talking to themselves. We often uncover unhealthy, irrational thought patterns that lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression. Also, we find a stream of negative self-talk running through clients' minds that is not helping them in any positive way! One way to decrease stress is to examine these things - thought patterns and self-talk - to determine if they are healthy and rational. If not, the next step is to identify a healthy, rational and positive alternative to the negative, irrational thought. It takes some time but the more we speak the rational, positive thought to ourselves, the less stress, anxiety and depression we experience. If your teen is experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, I encourage you to open a dialogue about that. If they are resistant to that, enlisting the help of a counselor can be a great next step!