The Chronic Stress Loop
I am on a mission to teach teens how to break out of the Chronic Stress Loop, so they can create healthy habits, manage expectations better, experience more success and remain happy and healthy in school and beyond.
Four Phases of the Chronic Stress Loop
While teens might have many parts of their life that are stressful, there is usually one primary stressor that is the catalyst for other stress such as having too much homework, fighting with a friend, receiving a bad grade, not getting a part in the play, or being excluded. When the primary stress is reduced, it, in turn, eases the other stressors. While some stressors might seem trivial compared to others, no matter what causes the stress, it negatively impacts teens and throws them into the Chronic Stress Loop.
Stress activates that little voice in a teen’s head that continually tells them why they are not good enough. The panic occurs in their subconscious, and unfortunately, controls almost 95% of their actions. It is mean and relentless, and it usually runs without interference. Once the stress triggers the panic, teens will rely on their default habit to soothe themselves.
When stress and then panic arises in a teen’s life, the default habit is how they find relief. A teen might overeat, zone out on a screen, pick fights or procrastinate.
Physical or Mental Manifestation
If the stress has been occurring for a while, physical or mental manifestations like panic attacks, extra weight or quitting easily begin to present themselves.
How the Chronic Stress Loop Could Impact a Teen
A common stressor that teens experience is pressure from their parents and teachers to do well in school. Here is an example of a scenario that could throw a teen into the stress loop as illustrated on the right. They studied really hard for the test, but when they got it back, they didn’t do as well as they had hoped. The teen panics: I am stupid, I’ll never do well in school, I am not good enough. When this panic arises, they rely on their default habit to make themselves feel better. That night, instead of doing their homework, they procrastinate and watch some videos on YouTube. They show up at school the next day with incomplete or subpar homework. Now they have created a new stressor of incomplete homework and the cycle continues and stress escalates.
Your teen’s default habit might not be procrastination. They might overeat which could manifest as extra weight. They might get anxious which could manifest as an outburst, biting their nails, or panic attack. It doesn’t matter how you teen manifest stress, the first step to break out of the Chronic Stress Loop is to calm the panic. Although I use numerous strategies to help teens calm the panic, my favorite tool is the Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping. The Emotional Freedom Technique is based on lightly tapping on meridian points similar to acupuncture. When you tap on these points, a relaxation signal is sent to your brain. This allows you to safely and easily release the stress, which keeps you happier and healthier.
Breaking Out of the Chronic Stress Loop
Let’s take this same scenario and replace their default habit with the healthier habit of Tapping. The panic still arises, but instead of watching YouTube videos, they do a round of tapping, which calms the panic. Now they feel at ease and can make a positive decision that will help them reach their goal to do better in school and reduces their stress. They reach out to a trusted adult to get some guidance and continue to hand incomplete homework.
While this sounds great, in reality, replacing a negative default habit with a new healthier habit is challenging because it feels more comfortable and safer to do what we have always done. We want to make the change; we know it is better for us, but in the moment, it just doesn’t happen. Our subconscious takes over, and we do the same thing over and over again no matter how much we say we want to change.
Sometimes we need support to make a positive change, and this is exactly why having a trusted adult like me to help teens work through this is key. My Creating Healthy Habits Coaching teaches teens the importance of replacing their default habits with healthier habits so that they break out of the Chronic Stress Loop and manage expectations better. This skills will be immensely valuable as they become adults and demands increase. Since their default habits are healthy, when stressors arise, they are able to release it safely and stay on track for meeting their goals and achieving long-term success and happiness in all areas of their life.
If you feel that your teen could use some support managing their stress in a healthier way and healing the unwanted manifestations from their current stressors, you can learn more about my signature Creating Healthy Habits Coaching here.
My signature program motivates and supports teens to take action to reduce their stress and create healthier default habits for life.
Learn my Top 5 Strategies you can start using today to help your teen break out of the Chronic Stress Loop and remain happy and healthy in school and beyond.