Let’s face it; whether you’re a busy homemaker or a high flying executive, today’s popular mind-set is to be as busy as possible with nearly every hour and minute crammed with some kind of work. Yet the day-to-day pressure can build into chronic stress, which if ignored, can be detrimental to our mind, body, and spirit.
While most of us have stress in some form, an unhealthy response to stress happens when the demands of the stressor exceed an individual’s coping ability. While stress is actually a psychological state of mind, as it considerably affects our physiological state. “In a classical stressful situation, certain stress hormones such as cortisol are released which increases the heartbeat, sweating, uneasiness, and the urge to urinate,” with the initial indicator usually manifesting as an inability to sleep. In the long run this leads to problems such as indigestion, acidity, ulcers, low-back pains, high-blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol, depression, headaches, and fatigue, to name a few. Long-term stress also affects our immunity and reduces our disease-fighting capacity.
While the teenage years can be highly stressful, some typical stressors include: stress from school, social anxiety, and depressive feelings – for example, not belonging, self-harm and other dysfunctional coping strategies. Another big one, particularly pertinent to today, is social media inappropriateness. While teens and adults overlap in how they cope with stress, the only difference is that adults express stress verbally while teens tend to isolate themselves during times of high stress. “This is because teenagers are unable to properly manage their stress due to a lack of healthy coping skills,”.
If the stress is not caught and addressed in time, teenagers may utilize reckless and destructive behaviors, substance abuse, and physical violence as unhealthy coping skills. Teenagers’ academic and extra-curricular progress may also deteriorate if stress is not handled appropriately.
Getting a Grip on Teen Stress
Maintaining effective communication with your teen and adopting healthy coping skills are the two most effective ways to manage with stress.
- Be available – make some time no matter how busy the schedule is – structure opportunities into daily life. Spending time with your teen shows them that you care even though they are pushing you away.
- Be realistic and flexible in your expectations but praise effort more than just results.
- Be patient and consistent during their developmental phase – they are changeable and trying to make sense of their place in the world – they can defy reason and sense sometimes.
- Do not minimize their feelings in hopes of them “getting over it”. Their feelings are real and affecting them in ways that need to be addressed.
- Be practical and constructive in your approach – they may need your wisdom and organization – even if they say they don’t.
You cannot and should not shield them from all stresses and risks. You must set limits as well as consequences to what is acceptable and unacceptable at home, school, and elsewhere.
When stress is excessive, it results in one of four reactions- -anxiety, apathy and depression, anger and aggression and cognitive impairment. “Stress can be caused by traumatic events, events which challenge our limits, as well as internal conflicts,”. “For example, if your boss criticizes you unfairly, you feel the stress.” You want to be able to explain why he/she is wrong but also have a fear of upsetting your boss and this stress or internal conflict causes you to ruminate and these thoughts can very quickly spiral out of control: My boss thinks I’m incompetent; I won’t get the promotion I deserve. This series of ruminations results in catastrophic thinking, which can lead to worry, anxiety, feeling depressed and insomnia.
Top Ways to Alleviate Stress
Talk about what is stressing you to someone who listens to you, understands the stress environment and cares about you.
Ruminations create a “pressure-cooker effect”. They bounce around creating pressure. Releasing this through talking really helps.
Most relationships in life are reciprocal. It’s really important to establish good social networks so that people may be there for us in our hour of need.
It is very important to remove the source of the stress, if possible, by taking control and being active. For example, rather than being a victim of bullying in the workplace, you may choose to either put in a complaint or move post.
Distraction is a useful technique to avoid stress. Taking up a new challenge or a new activity is often very helpful.
Smart phones, gadgets, and computers all help us stay super connected but at a high price. “Smartphones add hugely to modern day stresses in that the workplace and social media permeate our lives so that we are never really free,”. “We are working or socializing 24-hours a day, checking our phones last thing at night and first thing in the morning when research shows that each time we receive an email, we can take up to 20 minutes on average to re-focus on children, partners or other focuses.
The best way to deal with smartphones is to switch them off when at home; however, this is impractical for some. “The alternative is to have windows of when you check your messages, for example 9 to 9:30pm, and to put it away for the rest of the time,” and be sure to avoid using your smartphone one hour before you sleep.
Today the aim is on maximizing the usefulness of our time and squeezing as much as we can from every minute of the day. So how can a person find time in the day to destress? We need to learn to tackle the external pressures and even our own inner voices that tell us that to be successful, he says as these are old mind-sets that we have learnt over the years that are no longer relevant. “We must replace these thoughts with new one’s that support us in the true value of taking time to de-stress the right way,”.
Shelve Your Stress with These Tips
1. Practice Regular Exercise – Exercise impacts a neurotransmitter that works like an antidepressant on your brain while lessening muscle tension.
2. Go Outside – Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.
3. Focus on Your Breathing – Ideally you should be breathing primarily through your nose through a simple technique called Buteyko breathing to help you restore beneficial breathing patterns.
4. Participate in Activities – You Enjoy Engaging in a hobby helps you enjoy yourself and take your mind off of stress.
5. Eat Healthy – Schedule time to eat without rushing and be sure to consume fresh, healthy, whole foods.
6. Stay Positive – Keep a list of all that you’re grateful for and make a commitment to stop any negative self-talk.
7. Stay Connected – Loneliness can be a major source of stress, so do some volunteering, meet up with friends or take a class to meet others.
8. Take a Break or Meditate – Taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can trigger your relaxation response.
The Positive Side of Stress
Is stress is something that needs to be reduced, suppressed or avoided? Or can we accept it, use it, and embrace it? It turns out that which one of these mind-sets you hold plays a key role in how the stress in your life affects you.
It’s not our stress levels that need to change, but our attitude to stress itself, reveals Menon, because how you think about stress and the stress in your life plays a profound role on how it affects your well-being. She explains, “It determines whether the presence of stress in your life is harmful, which can ultimately lead to burnout, depression, and heart disease or whether that stress actually leads to greater well-being and resilience.”
Research shows that when you tell people about the importance of stress mindsets, you encourage them to choose a more accepting and embracing attitude toward the stress in their own lives, suggests Menon and in turn, they actually become healthier, happier, and more productive at work, even in very difficult and stressful circumstances. According to research at Yale University, people who hold more a negative perception of stress and believe it should be reduced or avoided, are more likely to experience what we typically think of as the negative outcomes of stress. They’re more likely to have health problems or illnesses, suggests Menon and they’re more likely to become depressed and, are less productive at work. “But on the other side, people who hold a more positive and accepting view of stress are protected from the negative effects of
stress, even when their lives are stressful,” she tells, and they’re healthier and happier. They’re doing better at work and they’re better able to find meaning in their struggles.
Therefore, can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? Menon points out that the science says ‘yes’ – when you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress. “Research shows that stress is actually enhancing; in one study at University of Wisconsin researchers tracked 30,000 American adults for eight years,” she explains, and they found that subjects with a lot of stress had a 43 percent increased risk of dying – but only if they believed stress was harmful. What is surprising is those who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die than the normal population. In fact, Menon reiterates that they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.
The Big Picture
Although stressful experiences are an important part of life, how you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress, Menon says. “When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you can create the biology of courage and resilience,” she explains. “Stressful experiences help us learn and grow and they can actually be an opportunity to develop our strengths and choose our priorities.”