How Relaxation Exercise Can Help Teens Relieve Stress

Teach your teen how to relieve stress fast.
Andrew Olney / DigitalVision / Getty Images

You might think your teen doesn't have much stress in their life. After all, they don't have to pay the bills, work a full-time job, or manage a busy household.

But the truth is, today's teens are stressed out. In fact, the 2014 Stress in America survey found that teens are experiencing even more stress than adults. 

They're worried about school, their friends, romantic relationships, money, and their futures. Some of them are dealing with even bigger issues, like bullying and depression.

Sadly, stressed-out teens are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with their overwhelming feelings. Overeating, playing endless hours of video games, avoiding homework, or abusing substances are just a few of the unhealthy ways some teens are trying to manage their stress. 

It’s important to teach your teen a variety of healthy stress management strategies, including relaxation skills that offer some immediate stress relief. 

Whether your teen is already displaying signs that they are stressed out, or you’re hoping to give them some skills as preventative measures, here are five relaxation exercises that can help your teen manage stress.

1. Yoga

Yoga offers a variety of physical and mental health benefits, such as improved flexibility, posture, and strength as well as a sense of inner calm.

Teens can learn yoga in a variety of ways. Attend a yoga class with your teen and you’ll gain the added benefit of spending quality time together or look for yoga videos that will let you practice in the privacy of your own home.

2. Meditation

Getting teens to slow down and focus on one thing at a time can be a challenge in today’s digital world. But learning how to do so through meditation can provide improved physical and emotional benefits. Meditation has been linked to everything from increased happiness to improved immunity.

There are several different types of meditation, but at the core of all of them is the desire to calm the mind. Explore meditation tutorials, guided meditation, or meditation books to learn meditation skills. 

Your teen may enjoy a meditation app. Many of them will walk your teen through meditation strategies step-by-step and offer reminders to meditate every day. 

3. Deep Breathing

When people feel anxious, they often take shallow and rapid breaths, which can induce physiological changes—like an increased heart rate—which can add to the stress. One of the simplest relaxation exercises involves breathing.

Teach your teen to take deep slow breaths when they're feeling anxious. Just a few deep breaths can provide an instant calming effect that can help reduce stress. Look for books or online resources that offer tutorials about breathing exercises.

4. Imagery

Envisioning a "happy place" can help your brain take a vacation from whatever stress your teen is experiencing. Tell your teen to write down a description of their favorite happy place. It could be a cabin in the woods, a sandy beach, or even your backyard.

Request that they describe how it looks, feels, smells, and sounds—the more details the better. When they're stressed out, tell them to close their eyes and spend a few minutes imagining that scene.

5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Stress can cause people to tense their muscles, and the tenser they feel, the more stressed out they become. Letting go of that tension through progressive muscle relaxation can be a simple way to let go of stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation can raise your teen’s awareness of muscle tension. Encourage your teen to start tensing and relaxing each muscle group—moving from their toes all the way up to their head. By the time they're done, all of their muscles should be relaxed.

There are lots of tutorials that can walk you through progressive muscle relaxation as well. Some teens enjoy listening to an audio clip that describes how to tense and relax each muscle group.

Practice Relaxation Skills

Teens with healthy self-soothing skills are equipped to handle the realities of the adult world. When they know how to manage stress, they'll be willing to do hard things, pick themselves up when they fail, or tackle new challenges.

Just like all new skills, relaxation exercises require practice. The first few times your teen tries them, they may report it wasn’t helpful. But with regular practice, these skills can greatly help them reduce stress.

Learn and practice new relaxation skills with your teen. Doing so, won’t just help you manage your stress, it will also give you an opportunity to try something new together, which can help you maintain a healthy relationship.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bethune S. Teen stress rivals that of adults. Monitor on Psychology. 2014 Apr 45(4):20

  2. Black D, Slavich G. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):13-24. doi:10.1111%2Fnyas.12998

  3. Zaccaro A, Piarulli A, Laurino M, et al. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12:353. doi:10.3389%2Ffnhum.2018.00353

  4. Zargarzadeh M, Shirazi M. The effect of progressive muscle relaxation method on test anxiety in nursing students. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2014;19(6):607-12.

Additional Reading

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.