Stress is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you are worried, scared, frustrated, or overwhelmed. Perhaps your parents are fighting at home or you recently lost a loved one. Perhaps you didn’t get the test score you had hoped or you’re in a fight with friends at school. Stress can be triggered by any number of life circumstances. By learning how to manage stress in a healthy, productive way, you can maintain a positive outlook, increase resilience and enhance well-being.
When you perceive a situation as difficult or painful, changes occur in your body to prepare you to respond. This “fight or flight” response can include a faster heart or breathing rate, increased blood to muscles, and/or an upset stomach and sense of dread. Even though stress is uncomfortable, it’s also an important survival tool that can keep you alert and focused, enabling you to deal with a tough situation in the moment that it’s happening.
Unfortunately, if stress persists for long periods of time, it can have lasting negative effects on your health. Chronic or long-term stress can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system, to name a few. With the right tools, you can learn to manage stress before it takes a toll. Fortunately, the same mechanism that turns on the stress response can also turn it off. As soon as you decide that a situation is no longer dangerous, changes occur again in your body to help relax and calm you down. This is also known as the “relaxation response.”
Relaxation looks a little different for everyone. Some teens find it relaxing to sit and pet their dog for a few minutes with no other distractions. Others might try closing their eyes, taking a few deep breaths and sitting in silence. A simple walk alone around the block or prayer can also be helpful. It may take some trial and error to find something that sticks, but a technique that quiets your mind in the heat of the moment will protect your health and peace of mind for years to come.
One of the best ways to manage stress is to meditate. Meditation sounds very mysterious to some people, but it is actually very simple. Just find a quiet place, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and relax all your muscles. Next, and perhaps the most important, is to slow down your breathing. By taking slow, deep breaths, we automatically slow down our thoughts! When thoughts do come up in your mind, just let them go rather than thinking about them more. Do this for about (15) minutes twice a day, and you’ll be calmer and probably wiser than most people around you.