‘Tis the season…to be stressed! The holidays, mid-term exams, dark and colder days, and less physical activity could cause us to be more amped up than usual. This truly is a stressful season. So what does stress look like? It is different for everyone but may include one or more of the following characteristics.
- Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Sleeping too much
- Tight shoulder muscles, stiff-neck
- Upset stomach (and other tummy troubles)
- Weight loss/gain
- Elevated heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased acne
- Inability to focus
- Difficulty dealing with emotions such as excessive anger, sadness, nervousness and worry
Anytime you are experiencing symptoms like those above or any other physical or emotional symptom out of the ordinary, first ask yourself if it could be stress. (Don’t Google the symptoms in WebMD unless you want more stress!) Is it a difficult time of the year? Are you worried about getting your GPA to a certain level? Are you applying to competitive colleges? Are you feeling pressure to choose a career or make big decisions about your future? Are you worried how you will pay for your future? Did you breakup with a boyfriend/girlfriend? Did something traumatic occur like a death of a family member or friend, a move, a car accident, violence? If the answer is “yes” to any of these then take a deep breath and read on! Seriously….B r e a t h e i n… B r e a t h e o u t…
Teenagers are notorious for one, not recognizing that stress is affecting them mentally and physically. Two not doing anything about it. Now a little stress is good for everyone. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you grow. However, allowing a heightened level of stress and its side effects to exist for prolonged periods of time can turn into depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideas.
If you are feeling stressed:
Do the thing that makes you, YOU. Have you always loved to write, draw, sing, play basketball, play the guitar, run, volunteer, build things, create, dance? When was the last time you allowed yourself to do that thing? Make time because it will make your heart happy.
Put your phone down and shut down social media for a while. It keeps you awake longer, distracts you from what you are really feeling, and forces you to make comparisons between your life and the lives of others. This is incredibly difficult to do at first but you WILL quickly notice a difference in how you are feeling!
Give some love to your favorite cat, dog, pig, or horse. Animals have amazing calming abilities. If you don’t have one, visit someone who does or, better yet, visit a shelter. There are lots of animals just waiting to love you there.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Make sure you have a routine and stick to it. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time.
Meditate – It is not easy to quiet the mind but the benefits go way beyond alleviating stress. CALM and INSIGHT TIMER are both good apps that walk you through the process. They both also have sleep meditations that will knock you out.
Color (Yes! COLOR!)
Blow bubbles. It slows your breathing which brings us to…
Practice controlled breathing exercises. Start out with four square breathing. Sit in a chair with your palms facing up on your lap. Take a deep breath in counting to four while raising your palms. Move your hands out then breathe out counting to four and lowering your palms. Bring your hands back to their original position. Do this four times.
Be present and mindful in everything you do. This also means you should understand and acknowledge exactly how you are feeling and what is causing the stress. “I’m nervous about my speech.” “I’m afraid I won’t get into the school I want.” “I’m sad my grandma is gone.” Say it out loud to yourself. So you are afraid or nervous. Don’t try to distract yourself from how you feel. Know everyone has these feelings EVERYONE! You are not alone.
“Worry is like a rocking chair. You rock all day and get no where.” If you find yourself worrying excessively ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” You don’t get in the college you want or you blanked out in the middle of your speech. So you fail at something! Who said failure is a terrible thing? Sure, it’s disappointing and embarrassing but a failure is the BEST teacher, character builder, and resiliency builder around. Keep failing! It means you are doing something. Just be sure to fail forward! Interesting quote heard on NPR (national public radio), “Who would you rather go to war with? Someone who has faced adversity in the past or someone who has never had to fight for anything? People who have never had the opportunity to fail are a lot less resilient. Definition of resilient: Tough, flexible, durable.
Start a gratitude journal and make entries every day. Be positive! If you aren’t feeling it, fake it ‘till you make it.
Talk to your best friend, your parent, a teacher, counselor, or religious leader. Talk to someone who is willing to LISTEN to you and allow the conversation to be about you. A good listener doesn’t just give you solutions to your problems. They allow you the time to talk through and find your own resolution.
Indiana’s suicide rate is higher than the suicide rates in the Midwest and the nation! If your stress, anxiety, depression is too much, talk to someone, anyone!
www.crisistextline.org/ Text Home or Connect to 741741 and a trained crisis counselor will help you.
PLEASE READ: If it is during the school day, speak to your counselor, assistant principal, or school nurse immediately. If you know of a student with suicidal thoughts do not be afraid to speak up for them. They may get mad for speaking on their behalf, but you may save a life. If someone posts on social media or tells you something of concern after school hours, do not wait until the next school day to tell a school staff member and do not email or leave a phone message. Contact your local police department immediately.
Article written by Melissa Rettig
Director of Guidance at Lake Central High School.