Reduce stress with activity, good food and sleep

Happy girl eating
Happy girl eating

Happy girl eating

Physical activity, good food and good sleep can help reduce the effects of stressful events. Learn about the importance of each of these things and how they can build your child’s ability to manage stress in their daily lives.

Physical activity

There is plenty of evidence on the benefits of exercise in reducing stress. Exercise stimulates the release of dopamine, a feel-good hormone that helps to alleviate feelings of stress. Other benefits of exercise include improved concentration and opportunities for social interaction. Exercise doesn’t need to be something your teenager dreads. Suggest the following fun ways to get active:

  • Plan an outing to try something that’s new to you both – perhaps paddle boarding or roller-skating. You’ll be enjoying some physical activity together, and will probably have a good laugh as well!
  • Hang up a punching bag in the garage and encourage your child to ‘let loose’ when they are feeling stressed. (You might like to try it out, too!)
  • Encourage your child to get involved in a team sport or dancing. As well as relieving stress, it can be a great way for your child to socialise, connect with others and make new friends.

Being active for at least 30 minutes every day can really help your child keep on top of stress.

Good food

What your child eats plays a role in their ability to cope with stress. Eating well will help ensure your child stays healthy and has the resilience and energy they need to deal with stressful situations. Highly processed foods contribute little nutrition to the diet and deplete the body of vitamins and minerals during digestion. Encouraging your child to eat whole foods can give them the energy required for the developmental years of adolescence, boost their nutrient stores for times of stress and keep them well generally. So, wherever possible, skip the fast food and serve up family meals that are nutritious.

Good sleep

Poor sleep often accompanies stressful times. Teenagers experiencing stress might lie awake worrying at night and be too tired to function well the next day. This can set up a poor sleep pattern. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends these tips to help your child establish healthy sleeping patterns:

  • Avoid screen time an hour before bed and encourage reading or listening to relaxing music instead to help wind down. Make a rule that all screens are turned off and kept out of bedrooms.
  • Support your child to establish a routine around bed and wake-up times. Encourage them to stick to it, even on the weekends. This might not be easy, but explaining why it’s important (and forgiving the occasional breach in the schedule) might help.
  • Encourage them to get around 7.5 hours of sleep per night, which is the optimum amount of time for teenagers.
  • To sleep well, their bedroom should be a cool 22 degrees, dark and have fresh air circulating.

Without sleep, we can’t function properly – especially young people, who are still growing and whose brain is still developing. Pay attention to your child’s sleep patterns as an early indication of stress.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on