Teens nowadays are under mounting pressure to do well in school, to have a vibrant social life, and to take part in extracurricular activities. Sometimes juggling all of those elements can lead to a huge amount of stress in teenagers.
Stress is known to have a variety of negative side effects which is why it’s really important to do everything we can to decrease that stress. That’s where some really interesting research, described recently in the New York Times, comes into play.
What’s this new research about?
The research, conducted by David S. Yeager who is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, discovered a surprisingly effective technique to lower stress levels in teens.
In two of the studies Yeager conducted, 60 students at a high school in Rochester, NY and 205 freshmen at a high school in Austin, TX participated in reading and writing exercises intended to promote one, specific message: people can change.
Students were told to read a science article which detailed the ways in which an individual’s personality can evolve over time.
In addition to the science articles, students read stories written by high school seniors about their experiences with change during their time in school. One student’s retelling detailed their feeling of exclusion and loneliness earlier on in high school. This student later got involved in extracurriculars and made friends, displaying that people can change their situations.
Students were then asked to take part in a writing assignment which prompted teens to give advice about change to younger students.
Following that, participants took part in exercised intended to induce stress. They were told to give a speech about what makes some teens popular and were then asked to count back from 996 by sevens.
After being put through the ringer with these exercises, students experienced lower levels of stress and were able to better cope with stress in teenagers overall. They were shown to have half the cardiovascular reaction from their control counterparts and their levels of cortisol dropped by 10 percent.
Meanwhile, teens in the control group had cortisol levels rise by 45 percent. The evidence was clear: by creating a framework of the idea that people can change over time, participants could develop better coping mechanisms.
The second study Yeager conducted involved 205 freshmen, half of whom who had received the aforementioned intervention (reading and writing exercises about change). They were all told to fill out an online diary each day describing stressful events that occurred throughout the day.
For those students who had received the intervention, they showed a 10 percent decrease in cortisol and said they could handle the stress in their diary. Those who hadn’t experienced an 18 percent increase in cortisol and noted that they had trouble handling the stress.
In addition, participants earned higher grades than students in the control group by the end of the semester.
Lowering stress, happier teens
So what does this research tell us? According to Laurence Steinberg, professor of adolescent psychology at Temple University, this research “boost[s] kids’ self-confidence by changing their belief in their own ability to change.”
By feeling like they had the capability to change over time, students felt less stressed out about their current situation. Is this a sustainable intervention? Only time will tell.
Solstice East can help teens struggling with anxiety
Solstice East, a residential treatment center for teen girls ages 14-18, helps girls struggling with anxiety, trauma, depression, and other emotional or behavioral issues.
For more information about Solstice East, please call (855) 672-7058.