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Spoiler Alert: Handing stress in the moment can be challenging for all of us – and especially for our tweens and teens. The stressful moments in their lives are just beginning to amp up. We’ve all had stressful situations when we wish we had responded differently. Stress in the moment can elevate blood pressure, leave us feeling overwhelmed, impact the efficiency of our immune systems, increase our heart rates, lead to sweaty palms – and so many other things that can leave tweens and teens feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. Each of these stress busters helps in the moment when it really counts! (Of course you can choose more than one!)

two different images of a happy young girl petting her dog - suggesting the concept of managing stress

Stress Management (Stress Busters) vs Stress Reduction Strategies

I love this definition of the difference between stress management and stress reduction:

Stress management is the set of skills we use [in the moment] to cope with and move through the process of experiencing stress.

Stress reduction, on the other hand, is what we do with the rest of our time.

How To: Stress Reduction

I like to think of stress management as what I do in a moment of acute stress.

Stress reduction is a lifestyle of reducing my overall chronic stress. Keep in mind, that the less overall chronic stress we carry with us, the better equipped we are to handle acute moments of stress with one of these stress busters. So stress reduction is also important in helping us through those acute moments of stress.

The truth is, the ability to both manage and reduce stress is not some innate talent we’re born with. We must teach our children effective stress management techniques – or what I like to call stress busters!

I’ve also shared about tween stress reduction as a regular practice. 10 Powerful Stress Reduction Strategies To Help Tweens Combat Everyday Stress.

And I’ve got a lot of helpful information about stress that teens experience from school – how to see the signs of school stress, ask the right questions, and how to help.

So, stress management skills are the skills that we can learn and practice to help us move through our stress at that moment. You’ve heard about the fight, flight, or freeze response? These stress busters help us work through that moment and respond in socially appropriate ways.

Stress reduction tools – stress busters – often include things like meditation, relaxation techniques, and talking to a medical professional; these are effective ways to reduce overall stress levels. So in the sense that practicing these activities will increase your overall tolerance in a specific stressful moment – they can help. Otherwise, they aren’t the stress busters that you’re looking for in the middle of a stressful experience.

young teen relaxing back on couch while listening to music on headphones suggesting relaxation or stress buster

How Do I Know If My Tween Is Stressed?

If you’re wondering if your tween is under stress, the answer is probably yes. Yes, your tween is likely struggling with some degree of stress.

Sign up and get this FREE role-playing game that gives you insight into your tweens carefully guarded world.

Read: 10 Powerful Stress Reduction Strategies To Help Tweens Combat Every-Day Stress to learn how to tell if your tween is struggling with too much stress.

What can you do to manage that stress if it gets to be too much in the moment?

Intentional and Focused Breathing As Your “Go To” Stress Buster

When’s the last time you paid attention to your breath? Most of us take it for granted and don’t stop to think how deeply we inhale or exhale. But most of us also survive on shallow breaths that have us living on edge constantly.

Deep breathing comes naturally to children, but we lose the ability because we’re in a constant state of fight-or-flight, low-level stress. Our breathing migrates up in our bodies; it’s an anxious breath.

Controlled breathing, on the other hand, is the fastest, most effective way to trigger the relaxation response, enabling you to think more clearly and perform better under pressure, she says.

The 5-Minute Recharge: 31 Proven Strategies to Refresh, Reset, and Become the Boss of Your Day
young boy practicing deep breathing in a yoga position on the floor as one of many stress busters for tweens described

Deep “belly” breathing is one of the quickest and easiest of all stress busters. You can do it any time, anywhere, and you don’t need any equipment.

Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.

Take a Deep Breath

4-7-8 Breathing

The specific technique of 4-7-8 breathing, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, is a technique which can be practiced when you are not under stress, and your body will eventually learn to calm and relax when you need a stress buster in stressful situations. It works because your body has practiced being calm and relaxed during non-stressful times. This makes it a terrific stress buster because the more often you practice, the better you train your nervous system to function when in a situation of acute stress.

…the way to turn negative stress into good stress is by engaging what’s called the relaxation response. This response is activated by the vagus nerve, which connects the spinal cord to the internal organs of the body. One way to quickly engage the vagus nerve — in other words, to quickly engage the relaxation response — is through deep breathing.

How To Breathe If You’re Feeling Anxious

Want to learn how with your tweens and teens? I thought you might…

Breath Like The Navy SEALS: Box Breathing As a Stress Buster

As you can imagine, our Navy SEALS frequently experience high stress situations. One of the techniques that they learn is known as “box breathing.” “Box breathing is a valuable mindfulness technique that can aid in stress management and overall wellness.” Why Do Navy SEALS Use Box Breathing?

Box breathing. The stress buster for Navy SEALS. Sold!

Box breathing is a super simple technique. The term box refers to the idea that there are four equal steps (like sides of a box) to box breathing – each lasts for a count of four.

First, you will want to inhale through your nose for a count of four – completely filling your belly and lungs with air. Hold that breath for a count of four. Next, exhale and completely deflate your belly and lungs for a county of four. And then hold that for a count of four.

That’s it! Box breathing is that simple.

Tactical Breathing: Another Navy SEAL Breathing Strategy

If you feel your adrenaline rising and an imminent flight or fight response, “tactical breathing” can help. You will be using all of your muscles from your chest to your belly for this exercise.

“Here’s how it works: Place your right hand on your belly, pushing out with a big exhale. Then breathe in through your nostrils, slowly drawing the breath upward from your belly to your upper chest.” These Navy SEAL Tricks Will Help You Perform Better Under Pressure

Positive Self Talk Can Help Reduce Stress

When you have negative self talk, you’re likely to see the world as more stressful than it needs to be. You might jump to the conclusion that your friend’s actions mean something more threatening than they do, etc.

There are two terrific ways to use self talk as a stress buster. First, in the middle of a stressful situation, we are likely to have negative thoughts such as, “I can’t handle this!” or “I can’t do what she wants me to!”

I read this trick and thought it was really a bit of genius. When you have these negative thoughts in the midst of a stressful situation, you can turn them into questions. For example, “I can’t handle this!!!” becomes “How can I handle this?” “I can’t do what she wants me to!” becomes “How can I do what she wants me to?” Just saying the statement feels differently in your body than if you were to ask the question.

young teen relaxing back on couch while listening to music on headphones suggesting relaxation or one of several stress busters

And this second one – I had never thought of this!

Have you ever been to a hospital and noticed how the nurses talk about ‘discomfort’ instead of ‘pain’? This is generally done because ‘pain’ is a much more powerful word, and discussing your ‘pain’ level can actually make your experience of it more intense than if you’re discussing your ‘discomfort’ level. (emphasis added)

Use Positive Self Talk

Replacing really strongly negative words with less negative, or even neutral words, is not only a good stress buster for a stressful moment – but it’s terrific life advice!

Acupressure Points As A Stress Reliever

The spot between your thumb and forefinger is close to several bundles of nerves. Pressing here relaxes the nervous system which ramps up when you’re stressed. Apply pressure here and hold for 30 seconds.

Pressure Point

The hand valley point can be found in the firm skin between the thumb and index finger. Reflexologists claim that applying firm touch to this pressure point may help reduce stress, as well as alleviate migraines, toothaches, shoulder tension, and neck pain. – 8 Pressure Points on Your Hands

Reduce Your Sensory Input For A Sense Of Calm

I have found for myself that loud noises, sudden noises, competing sounds – are you seeing a pattern here – all seriously seriously raise my anxiety levels. And I’m not alone – I’ve heard from so many moms that this is a trigger for them! I’ll be writing soon about some strategies you can use with your kids to reduce your auditory sensory load – at least for a peace-giving moment in time.

Various Kinds of Movement Can Be Stress Busters

Exercise (it doesn’t have to be an eight-hour daily killer workout for the stars) is a fantastic stress buster and it can work really quickly!

It can be as simple as walking – which gives you a quick change of scenery. Maybe your child can quickly excuse herself from class to walk to the bathroom, or stop by the library.

Body Awareness Stress Buster

This first stress buster in the category of body awareness is a connection with your senses.

I’ve used the strategy of “tell me five blue things that you see right now.” When your child answers, they are forced to use the prefrontal cortex portion of their brain which is the logic and reasoning part of the brain. It’s a great technique to pull them out of a fight or flight state.

But this other technique goes even further working that prefrontal, rational, portion of the brain.

Go through your 5 senses in this order: sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. With your sight, you will identify five things that you see, and say them out loud. Next, identify 4 things that you physically feel – could be your feet on the floor, the air from the air conditioner, your tongue in your mouth, etc. Once you identify them, say those four things out loud.

Third, identify three things that you hear and say them out loud. Move to smell – name two things that you smell. If you don’t smell anything, think of a favorite smell. And finally, one thing that you taste. Again, if you don’t taste anything, thing of a favorite taste. Connect With All 5 Senses to Ease Anxiety

Here’s a second body awareness stress buster. You may have done this in a guided meditation before – it’s called progressive muscle relaxation. First, you’ll relax all the muscles in your body – think one body part at a time.

Next, tighten all of the muscles in one part of your body and then relax them. Start with your forehead and move down to your feet.

Just like with the 4-7-8 breathing, practicing this will help you recognize tension in your muscles and will help you relax more easily in the future.

Finally something tactile can provide proprioception which acts to calm an over stimulated nervous system. Think of anything that you can fidget with or press your hand or foot against. These fidgets can be a terrific quick stress buster.

Chill Out, Baby!

I have not seen any scientific research that claims that cooling down – literally – is a terrific stress buster. However, it always has been for me. And then I found this:

The most common explanation for why anxiety leads to body temperature changes is your body’s fight or flight response. This is the mechanism that is designed to keep you safe from harm. Those with anxiety have a misfiring fight/flight response, and one of the consequences is vasoconstriction, where your blood vessels narrow. This may cause the body to heat up very quickly.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Body Temperature

So I don’t know that anxiety causes an increase in body temperature, but I know from personal experience that cooling off definitely snaps me out of a stressful moment.

For me personally, cooling my body temperature helps a great deal. While not good for climate change – I will sometimes just go stand in front of the open freezer door. Laying on a floor of cold tile (say, the bathroom) can also help cool your body temperature. One last idea – a freezer pack – like you might use if you injured yourself – sit on it; put it behind your back; hold it under one or the other arm for a few minutes, etc.

*ALWAYS wrap the ice pack in a towel or put something between your skin and the ice pack. Otherwise, you can literally get frost bite. ? (ask me how I know…)

young teen relaxing back on couch while listening to music on headphones suggesting relaxation or stress buster

Time Travel {Mentally}

When we feel stressed about something, it’s all we can think about. We obsess over the little details and we avoid seeing the bigger picture.

One of the super simple stress busters includes a bit of guided imagery. Try imagining if the thing you’re stressed about is going to make a difference in one year? five years? ten years?

Or is it actually manageable such that it won’t affect your life as much as you think it will in this moment? 60 Second Stress Busters

Laughter Is Good For What Ails Ya’

I love that one of our top stress busters is as simple as just getting a good laugh. Laughing release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemical. Endorphins then give your body an overall sense of well-being. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, so next time you feel stressed spend a minute laughing, whether that’s by calling your friend or watching funny video clips.  60 Second Stress Busters

I, personally, think Anna Kendrick is hysterical!

Even visualizing laughter can help start lowering the physiological signs of stress.

One Of The Most Fun Stress Busters: The Suck It!


Sucking on something super sour acts as a shock to your system and a stress buster and that it will direct your thoughts to the taste instead of the anxious thoughts in your head. How to Calm a Panic Attack The lemon candy, Warheads, is frequently suggested.

Others suggest that biting straight into a lemon, peel and all is a very effective grounding techniques if you feel a panic attack coming on – or if you are feeling some extreme stress. Quick Physical Ways to Squash Anxiety

Several practitioners also suggest that something super hot – like a drop of Sriracha sauce – can have the same effect. And I’ve also seen honey mentioned. Honey contains compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain, meaning it fights depression and anxiety! 25 Quick Ways To Reduce Anxiety and Stress

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two different images of a happy young girl petting her dog - suggesting the concept of managing stress