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Anxiety and Resilience in Teenage Girls

In the article, “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience,” author Deborah Farmer Kris recounts how rates of anxiety-related disorders in teenage girls have risen. Furthermore, not only can girls get anxious and stressed out easily, but so can any other teenager or adult. This could be because of the environment they are in, denial of their stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, no validation of their emotions, etc. Damour, a psychologist and author of the new book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls," states “some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth.”

Through decades of research and working with adolescent girls and their families, Damour observed that “the anxiety that teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary.” She notes that adults can make a difference by reassuring their child and have an honest conversation with them about their emotions and what is going on in their life that may make them stressed.

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Keep in mind that teenagers brains and bodies are still developing and that change can spur stress. Not only physical or emotional change but also the act of continually switching schools, academic workload is increasing, or social relationships are constantly evolving. With this information, parents should continue to support their child but also let them figure it out on their own. “Teenage girls are particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers –  from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot,” said Damour. The growth that they experience on their own will allow them to develop as a person who can withstand these types of stresses in the future and know how to handle them.

It is best not to avoid the anxiety as a whole, but to call it out and realize that one needs help. In this case, parents should stick to the two words that Damour has found helpful: “stinks” and “handle:”

“‘That really stinks’ is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great.”

Validation and empathy go a long way when it comes to the exact thing that a child wants to hear, that they are being heard and that someone understands what they are going through. If teens realize that some level of stress is inevitable then they can accept it and move on to focus on how they can build in recovery time whether that is by having some downtime or getting more sleep.

Sleep deprivation is one of the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns, Damour said. If your child is getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep then a change needs to be made. Most of the time, teenagers may not be getting enough sleep because they are on their electronics. With the change of turning off social media for the night by putting their device on do not disturb or putting their phone in another room can make all the difference.

Stress and anxiety is part of life. It is not a parents job to get rid of it completely but to help their child get through it by sitting down with them and discussing their feelings. Stress and anxiety do not go away overnight, but with some extra sleep, reflection time, and downtime, teenagers can develop a sense of self on their own and figure it out with some guidance from a parent if needed.

For more information on stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation or how Hilber Psychological Services can help, please contact us and check out Lisa Damour’s book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.”

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Kris, Deborah Farmer. “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience.” Mindshift. Web. 12 Feb. 2019. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/52994/how-to-help-teenage-girls-reframe-anxiety-and-strengthen-resilience

Damour, Lisa. Under Pressure Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0399180052?pf_rd_p=f3acc539-5d5f-49a3-89ea-768a917d5900&pf_rd_r=R1KSEQT2AT89FSXWG6K1  

Later School Start Times For Teens

As many American teenagers are beginning middle school and high school, more homework is starting to pile up and extracurriculars after school are beginning. Take sports for example, on average they are 2 hours long whether they are right after school or at 6:30 at night. When students get home after practice, there is still homework to do which takes about 30 min. to 2/3 hours depending on the subject. By the time students eat dinner, shower, and begin homework it is around 9 o’clock. This leaves little to no room for the full 8 hours of sleep if students are studying for hours and planning to wake up at 6:30 the next morning.

In the article, “Sleepless No More In Seattle — Later School Start Time Pays Off For Teens,” Patti Neighmond introduces the idea that schools should have a later start time in order for students to get that extra half an hour to an hour more of shut-eye.

For example schools in Seattle recently made the change for middle and high schools to start at 8:45 rather than 7:50 a.m in the 2016-2017 school year. Even though this shift required the rescheduling of extracurricular activities and bus routes, students were now allowed to sleep in and come to school rested and ready to learn. Researchers from the University of Washington conducted a study that found that those students who had the later start time “got 34 minutes more sleep on average” and “boosted their total nightly sleep from 6 hours and 50 minutes to 7 hours and 24 minutes.” Not only did students get more sleep, it was also recognized that students began to get better grades and received fewer tardies along with being absent less because there was no excuse for staying home or being late because one did not get enough sleep.

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Similarly, Horacio de la Iglesia, a researcher and a biology professor at the University of Washington, stated that "to ask a teen to be up and alert at 7:30 a.m. is like asking an adult to be active and alert at 5:30 a.m." No one wants to do that.

Many studies were conducted to test the different start times and which one would have the greatest positive effect on a students mental health.

In one study, researchers compared two groups of students at Roosevelt and Franklin high school who took a biology class. "When they started at 7:50 a.m. there would always be stragglers who were having a hard time getting here," says Cindy Jatul, one of the biology teachers at Roosevelt High School. It was seen that students who took the class in the morning were less alert and engaged in the lesson compared to those who took the same class with the same curriculum later on in the day.

In addition, Franklin High School science teacher A.J. Katzaroff says "there was lots of yawning" when school started at 7:50 a.m. It was noticeable that it was harder to focus on class discussions and activities because the student’s brain was not fully awake. After the time switched from a 7:50 to an 8:45 start time, students were more engaged and willing to come to school ready to learn on time.

Neighmond acknowledged that students need time to wake their brain up, so let’s let them. It is understandable that there may be some drawbacks for parents that need to get to work early in the morning, but for those who do get that extra half an hour of sleep will be more engaged and on time to class and all and all get better grades.

Many might think that when school starts later, teens will just stay up later, but instead, students will take advantage of the extra time to sleep. When it comes to sleep every minute counts.

If you have questions about teen development and the effects of later sleep times, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Neighmond, Patti. “Sleepless No More In Seattle — Later School Start Time Pays Off For Teens.” NPR News. Your Health. Web. 12 Dec. 2018.
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/12/12/676118782/sleepless-no-more-in-seattle-later-school-start-time-pays-off-for-teens