Adolescence and young adulthood are fraught with stress. Students are faced with academic and social pressures, in addition to redefining family dynamics. As teens grapple with physical, emotional, and cognitive changes, they also face an onslaught of academic, family, and peer pressures. All of this with little to no life experience on how to manage these student stresses.
It is unrealistic to think that stress can be eliminated from a teen’s life, and as most adults would admit, it is a state that many deal with regularly. It therefore becomes paramount to help young adults understand and manage stress in a healthy way. These tools will not only help them with their current state, but will ensure they are better equipped adults.
How to Manage Stress
Acknowledge the stress and the emotions associated with it. Labeling an emotion and talking about feelings associated with stress will help to reduce the intensity of the emotion. It will also help the teen better understand what they are feeling, as well as explore the causes.
As teens grapple with new emotions and situations, they may not always be able to identify and label what they are feeling. Adults can help teens through this process by naming and discussing the emotion they observe. Relaying a personal story or experience can also help the teen see that it is normal to feel that emotion or have a stress response, but what matters is how we handle it.
Change your perception of stress. In a recent TED Talk, entitled How to Make Stress Your Friend, Kelly McGonigal discusses how stress itself is not what is bad for you, rather, it is your negative perception of it that is detrimental. That by viewing stress as a positive factor we are able to manage it and experience fewer negative effects.
Get sufficient sleep. We have heard this countless times, however it cannot be emphasized enough. Adequate sleep is paramount to healthy brain function. Recent studies show that the brain is more active during dreaming than when awake. During sleep our brain makes decisions, clears toxins, strengthens synapses from learned experiences, makes memories, and much more. Without sufficient sleep we are irritable, emotionally charged, and often irrational.
Find positive activities to engage in that bring a sense of joy and fun. This cannot be overstated. More and more research from the Positive Psychology field shows the importance of mood in cognitive brain function, learning, and general well-being.
Set goals that are broken down into incremental steps. Often stress is rooted in abstract fear or unknowns. Setting goals provides a concrete grounding as well as an action plan. The feeling of regaining control is empowering and results in reduced stress.
Let go of the fear of failure.
Understand that everyone experiences failure at some point and that these are often the times of greatest growth and learning.
Exercise and eat well. Although this may be obvious, in times of stress this is often forgotten. Remember that exercise and eating well will help you in countless ways on the road to feeling better physically and emotionally.
Maria is an educational consultant and founder of iSolve Consulting, specializing in educational and career planning for high school and post-secondary students. Her focus is to help students identify their interests, understand program options, and create a strategic plan for their future.