What Is Stress?
Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.
Causes of Stress:
- New, unpredictable situations
- Unclear or unrealistic expectations
- Expectations of something unpleasant
- Fear of failure (socially or academically), perfectionism
- Major developmental “hurdles”
- Irrational thinking
Is Stress Good or Bad?
Some stress is normal and even useful. It can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time. Stress can help students finish assignments or do well when performing.
But too much stress can lead to:
- Depression, mood swings, irritability
- Headaches, stomach aches, back pain
- Trouble sleeping
- A weaker immune system, making it easier to get sick
- Suffering relationships and difficulty at work or school
Healthy Ways to Relieve or Avoid Unhealthy Stress
- Learn better ways to manage time; help your child with this. They may need guiding and modeling initially. You may get more done with less stress if you make a schedule. Teach your teen to prioritize their responsibilities.
- Find better ways to cope. Look at how your teen deals with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better. For example:
- Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started.
- Write. It can help to write about the things that are bothering you.
- Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to with someone you trust.
- Encourage your teen to do something they like – a hobby can help with relaxation. Volunteer work or work that helps others can be a great stress reliever.
- Help your teen learn how to relax the body and mind. This can include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage, aromatherapy, mindfulness exercises, yoga, or relaxing exercises like tai chi and qi gong. A few smart phone apps such as Headspace and Smiling Mind also provide guided exercises and tools.
- Remind your teen to focus on the present when they feel stressed. Try meditation, imagery exercises, or listen to relaxing music. Try to look for the humor in life. Laughter really can be the best medicine.