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Feeling stressed

What is stress? arrow top

Stressed swimmer.Stress is what you feel when you react to pressure from others or from yourself. Pressure can come from anywhere, including school, work, activities, friends, and family members. You can also feel stress from the pressure of wanting to get good grades or wanting to feel like you belong. Stress comes in many forms and everyone feels stress.

How does my body handle stress? arrow top

Your body has a built-in response to handle stress. When something stressful happens, you may experience sweaty palms, dry mouth, or knots in your stomach. This is totally normal and means that your body is working exactly as it should. Other signs of stress include emotional signs (such as feeling sad or worried), behavioral signs (such as crying), and mental signs (such as not being able to concentrate or focus).

What causes stress? arrow top

Just being a teen can be stressful — there is so much going on and so many changes that are happening all at once! 

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Some things that might cause stress:

  • School work
  • Not feeling good about yourself
  • Changes in your body or weight
  • Body shape or size
  • Problems with friends, boyfriends, or other kids at school
  • Living in a dangerous neighborhood
  • Peer pressure from friends to dress or act a certain way, or smoke, drink, or use drugs
  • Not fitting in or being part of a group
  • Moving or friends moving away
  • Separation or divorce of parents
  • A family member who is ill
  • Death of a loved one
  • Changing schools
  • Taking on too many activities at once
  • Not getting along with your parents or having problems at home
  • Feeling lonely

There may be other things that cause stress for you that are not on this list. Also, it can be very tough when more than one stressful event happens at the same time or stress is ongoing.

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Is stress always a bad thing? arrow top 

No! A little bit of stress can work in a positive way. For instance, during a sports competition, stress might push you to perform better. Also, without the stress of deadlines, you might not be able to finish schoolwork or get to where you need to be on time.

What are signs that you have too much stress or are stressed out? arrow top

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Signs that you are stressed out:

  • Feeling down, edgy, guilty, or tired
  • Having headaches or stomachaches
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Laughing or crying for no reason
  • Blaming others for bad things that happen to you
  • Wanting to be alone all the time (withdrawal)
  • Not being able to see the positive side of a situation
  • Not enjoying activities that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling resentful of people or things you have to do
  • Feeling like you have too many things you have to do

Some of these signs can also be signs of a more serious condition called depression. Find out if you might be dealing with depression and to learn how to get help.

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To find out how much you are stressed out, try the Stress-O-Meter quiz.

What are ways you can handle stress? arrow top

Different people are stressed by different things. For example: 

  • You might get upset or stressed when you don’t make good grades but your friend might not.
  • You might be able to handle doing homework and being involved in after-school activities but your sister or friend might feel they can’t do both.
  • Your friend might see moving to a new house as a stress but you might view it as an adventure.

There are no right or wrong things to stress over — there are just differences in what we consider to be stressful. No matter what stresses you out, there are many things you can try to help you deal.

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Can stress lead to more serious problems? arrow top

Yes! Struggling with major stress and low self-esteem issues can play a role in more serious problems such as eating disorders, hurting yourself, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and even suicide. Depression that doesn’t go away and thoughts about hurting or killing yourself are signs that it is time to seek help. Talk to an adult you trust right away!

To get help, call Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. Both girls and boys are welcome to call!


Content last reviewed May 18, 2010
Page last updated April 09, 2014