Teen stress

dreamstime_6102620_teenage_boyAre you …feeling anxious or suffering panic attacks? …constantly feeling pressured, rushed or hassled? …feeling irritable and moody?

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s normal physical response to events that make us feel threatened or upset in some way. Events that can provoke stress can be anything from physical danger to an upcoming school exam. When reacting normally, this response increases a person’s ability to perform well under pressure. However if we are feeling constantly stressed, this can be very bad for our health.

When stress turns bad

Stress can be critical to our survival.

Imagine you’re crossing the road listening to your ipod, (despite mum’s warnings about how to safely cross the road!) You notice a car quickly heading your way. Your body responds by releasing hormones which speed up your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism. How does this help you? Blood vessels widen to let more blood flow to your larger muscle groups i.e. legs preparing you to run. Pupils dilate improving your vision. Your liver releases some of its stored glucose (sugar) to give you an energy boost. Your body produces sweat to remove excess heat. All these events happen in a matter of seconds allowing you to quickly move across the road. Once safe, your stress response turns off and you return to a normal state and can concentrate on your music!

Stress doesn’t just respond to short term threats though. For example if you are going through a hard time at school or you’re having issues at home (problems with your parents, moving house again or maybe your parents are not getting along) this can cause long term stress on your body. If your body continuously feels under threat or attack, you will continue to produce stress hormones. Over a long period of time this wears out your body’s reserves, leaving you feeling unable to cope and even depressed. It can weaken your body’s defenses and leave you more at risk of illness.

Are you?

  • Feeling anxious or suffering panic attacks
  • Constantly feeling pressured, rushed or hassled
  • Feeling irritable and moody
  • Having stomach problems, headaches or even chest pains
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Turning to alcohol, smoking or drugs for a sense of relief
  • Feeling sadness or depression

Can you relate to any of these symptoms? If yes, read on for ways to help.

Help yourself

There are ways to deal with on-going stress but avoiding it all together is an even better solution.

TALK – don’t shoulder your problems alone. Talking about your problems isn’t always easy. You may feel unable to discuss things with your parents, especially if it is the family situation which is stressing you out. Or is it your sexual health you want to talk about and just couldn’t face discussing this with mum or dad. So who can you turn too? Most schools have counselors for this very reason. Or otherwise try your pediatrician or family doctor who is happy to discuss any health and wellness concerns with you. You can be assured that they will have had lots of experience with people of your age before and don’t mind helping you with uncomfortable or embarrassing questions.

RELAX- the best natural antidote to stress is relaxation. It creates a sense of well being and calm. There are many ways to relax, hanging out with friends, reading your favorite books or magazines, enjoying your hobbies or simply having a long soak in a hot bath. When you start to feel stressed why not close your eyes, count to ten and take some nice deep breaths. When you open your eyes, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to deal with your problems.

EAT WELL – Cramming for an exam may leave little time to eat but don’t fill yourself up on junk food. Take a conscious effort to eat well now and it will help you to be a healthier, happier adult.

EXERCISE – taking regular exercise is good way to combat stress, relieving tension and releasing feel good hormones in your body.

SLEEP – getting a good night’s sleep will help to keep your mind in great shape. There is a tendency, as a teen, to stay up late but constantly doing so when you need to get up for school will take its toll. Ensuring you get enough zzz’s per night will not only help you keep up in class but it will also benefit the way you look. Dark circles or bags under your eyes aren’t too attractive.

LEARN TO SOLVE PROBLEMS – don’t allow your problems to build up and then weigh you down. Try solving the smaller problems first. Once you can do this, it will give you confidence to tackle the big problems you’re facing. No doubt you will face many challenges in your life. Being able to tackle them head on will make your life a lot easier.

Don’t let life get you down. Follow these handy steps and help yourself to be physically and mentally fit, ready for all of life’s adventures.

Warning: Remember that using a mobile phone or listening to music while crossing a road increases your risk of being knocked down. Please be careful.