No one will dispute the fact that the teen years can be a challenging time with the pressure of school work, sport, friends, family, part time jobs plus the pressure and constancy of social media. This alone is enough to cause considerable stress however when teens are presented with a health concern or sports injury, additional strain is added to an already demanding time.
The 2018 Stress in America survey of adults and teenagers found that high school students have higher stress levels than adults. 1
Our lifestyles are very different to how our ancestors lived yet our bodies and brains are exactly the same. Our ancestors lived in close knit communities, socialised together, told stories, drew on cave walls, walked in the forest for most of the day hunting or gathering food, had spiritual rituals, lived close to nature, ate clean healthy diets and slept when it was dark.
Compare this to how our kids and teenagers live today. Firstly they go to sleep later, often lying in bed on their iphones or laptops, exposed to blue light. Such Exposure to this light at night interferes with your circadian rhythm and suppresses melatonin secretion. Melatonin is made in the pineal gland and is the hormone that controls our sleep and wake cycles.
In the morning children rush to school often with no breakfast or a sugary processed cereal at best. They are under academic pressure at school, have hours of homework and often lots of after school activities. If you add any other additional stresses that are prevalent in our society, you have a very stressed young person.
When you experience anxiety your stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, increase and can cause a ‘fight or flight’ reaction which turns on our sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This reaction gets the body ready to run away or fight danger. Our heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels increase and blood flows to our big muscles needed to deal with whatever threat has presented itself.
We rarely need to escape from life threatening situations in our Western society as many of our anxiety provoking situations are more in our minds. Therefore as we are not using our physical body to sprint from danger and so our stress hormones are not lowered. If we keep experiencing stress these hormones build up and can create chronic health problems over time. Hence the reason why exercise is essential for reducing stress levels.
Some of the symptoms of stress include shaking and trembling, sweaty palms, a racing heart, difficulty breathing and dizziness. In the long term if the body is in a state of chronic stress less energy is available for other body systems to function optimally. For example digestion, and immune system functions are compromised, which is seen in many children and teenagers suffering from chronic digestive problems such as irritable bowel or chronic infections such as glandular fever.
For a holistic approach to support young adults it is essential to address diet, nutritional deficiencies, exercise, lifestyle and sleep.
As a Naturopath I include nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, Bach flower essences and Bowen therapy as an ideal treatment option for teenagers. With a focus on prevention and individualised treatments I am able to listen to and understand the unique experiences and symptoms for each teen and tailor a treatment plan to their needs.
- Viktorinova A, Ursinyova M, Trebaticska J, et al. Changed plasma levels of zinc and copper ti zinc ratio and there possible associations with parent- and teacher rated symptoms in children with attention-deficit hyperactivty.