By Kathryn Luft and Bella Minyo
We have stress, you have stress, we all have stress!
Welcome to life. Even though we all have stress, not everyone has the same amount. Whether stressed is caused by taking a test, completing a project, dealing with drama, or performing a solo for a huge crowd, stress affects people in a variety of ways.
There are two different types of stress: physical and mental. This article focuses more on the mental aspects. One group that is particularly impacted by stress is teenagers. Teens report that stress levels during the school year exceed what experts believe to be a healthy level.
On a 10 point scale, the average teen experiences a 5.8 level of stress. According to the scale, a normal or healthy level of stress is 3.9. Teens are also more stressed than adults, who report a 5.1 stress level on average.
A 2013 study revealed that teens are even stressed during the summer months. The study, which interviewed teens during the month of August, revealed that teen stress levels still averaged 4.6 despite the fact school hadn’t even started.
The teens reported feeling overwhelmed (31 percent) and depressed or sad (30 percent) as a result of stress. More than one-third cited fatigue (36 percent) and nearly one-quarter of teens (23 percent) report skipping a meal due to stress.
So what exactly is stress?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health.”
In other words, we all face hectic and difficult situations. Some of them are healthy, but too many or too much can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health.
How can we beat stress?
You shouldn’t tell yourself that you will push through it. The best way to relieve stress is to distract yourself from it.
Exercise is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety. When we sweat, we push our bodies in naturally healthy ways. You don’t have to run a marathon (or even a 5K). Just step outside and take a hike or walk around your neighborhood. As a reward, your body will release Endorphins, a natural chemical which causes you to feel better about yourself.
If you don’t want to go outside, you can do yoga and stretch while listening to music. You will still get the Endorphins. You can also practice mindfulness and focus on the present moment by meditating.
Spending time with your friends and family can also help you release tension. Being with those you love can release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever.
Animals can also help relieve stress. Your own pets can help, but there are also animals that are trained to help reduce stress. Therapy animals are taught how to help people who get stressed, anxious, or are going through a difficult time.
Another way to combat stress is to listen to soothing music. Don’t just go listen to any type of music, listen to music that’s either a slow-paced instrumental song, or something you like that calms you down. If nothing else, listen to nature sounds.
Writing down what you are feeling is a good way to keep you mindful of your challenges, but writing anything can also help. You can relieve stress by writing a story or creating a journal. You can write letters to people you do not see often or try scrap booking to free your mind.
Breathing exercises are a good way to combat stress and anxiety. A common way that everyone knows of is just to take deep breaths. Try breathing in and out for as long as needed. Close your eyes and try to ignore everything around you.
Another breathing exercise that you can try out goes like this: Close your eyes and cancel out everything around you at the moment. Countdown from ten. At 10 and 9, list two things you can hear. At 8 and 7, list two things you can feel. At 6 and 5, list two things you can smell. At 4 and 3, list two things you can taste. At 2 and 1, list 2 things you want to see that make you feel happy inside. Think of your happy place.
Sorry to all you coffee lovers out there, but being hyper can cause you more stress. If it is after noon, you should stick with water or any beverage that doesn’t have a high quantity of caffeine. That includes pop/soda, which is usually caffeinated and full of sugar.
Caffeine can cause stress, but there are benefits to eating dark chocolate. It may cancel out your exercise, but dark chocolate has been known to boost your mood, contrary to most caffeinated substances.
Some of these options will work for you, and others won’t. It’s different for everyone. The important thing is that you aren’t focused on what the source of your anxiety is.
If none of these work, try something healthy to distract yourself. If you still need help, you should seek help from a professional. Don’t hesitate and think that others will judge you. A lot of people will be able to relate what you are going through. Just make sure to take care of yourself both physically and mentally.
Finally: Your mental health is important. You are important. Never forget that. Ever.