Stress is the feeling you get when you react to particular events called stressors. These stressors cover a wide range of situations, from wanting to ace a math quiz to coping with a family crisis.
Stress is a perfectly normal reaction. It’s your body’s way of protecting itself from emotional and physical pressure so that you can perform during tough times. Sure, stress feels awful but with a better understanding of what stress is all about, you can get back on track to feeling good.
Getting to the source
There are no hard and fast rules on when you should — and shouldn’t — feel stressed out. But there are some common causes, like:
- School demands
- Moving or changing schools
- Taking on too many activities
- Problems with friends
- Feeling unsafe in your neighbourhood
- Separation or divorce of parents
- Death of a loved one
- Family financial problems
Your stress, your body
Ever wonder what goes on with your body while you’re stressing out? When stress hits, your body responds with a number of physical changes:
- Your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism start to work overtime
- Your pupils dilate to improve vision
- Your liver releases some of its stored glucose to increase your energy
- You start to sweat in order to cool your body down
All of these help you handle the pressure of the moment.
The upside to feeling down
As crummy as it makes you feel, stress also has an upside. The stress response, also called the fight or flight response, is critical during emergency situations. For example, it’s the stress response that tells us to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by a car. But feeling stress over a long period of time can take its toll on your body and mind.
Signs, signs, everywhere signs
If you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is just part of the everyday pressure of being a teen, look for these sure-fire signs of stress:
- Feeling depressed, edgy, guilty, tired
- Headaches, stomach aches, trouble sleeping
- Laughing or crying for no reason
- Blaming other people for bad things that happen to you
- Only seeing the downside of a situation
- Things that you used to enjoy aren’t fun anymore
Any of these sound familiar? If so, here’s how to help reduce unnecessary stress in your life.
How to deal
Like it or not, stress is a normal part of everyday life. And while there’s no escaping it, when the pressure is on, try these coping strategies:
- Take care of yourself. Pop and potato chips may help you cram for exams but under stressful conditions, your body needs all the vitamins and minerals it can get. A nutritious diet and regular exercise can help you cope with stress and ease tension.
- Get some zzzzzs. Your biological clock is probably telling your teen body to stay up late and sleep ’til noon. But if you still need to get up early for school, you may not get all the hours of sleep you need to keep your body and mind in top shape.
- Adjust your schedule. If a weekly onslaught of chess tournaments, soccer matches and singing lessons is making your head spin, cut an activity or two.
- Be realistic. Expecting your friends and family to be perfect can only add to your stress level, especially if you’re holding yourself to that same high standard. Keep your expectations realistic and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Try some stress-busting exercises. Simple deep breathing and relaxation exercises can go a long way in helping to relieve stress. Follow this stress-busting exercise or try this deep breathing technique.