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A Guide to Surviving Stress

Sometimes being a young adult is tough.  Your parents expect a lot from you; you are trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life; and today, you have a tough final for your hardest class. Your heart is beating faster than usual, your palms feel sweaty, your stomach feels a little upset. What's going on? Guess what. You may be stressed out.

Stress-good or bad?
Your mother is stressed about a big project at work. But she's excited. Your father is stressed taking care of your sick grandmother and working.  He's tired and cranky. Can stress be good and bad?  Yes.

Everyone feels stress during their lives…sometimes everyday. Stress (the excited feeling or cranky attitude) is your body's reaction to something you may or may not want to do. Feeling stress is normal. Sometimes stress is good.  It keeps you focused and doing the best you can.  Like the excitement before a game or getting ready for a date.  But sometimes stress feels bad. You can't sleep or feel sad and lonely. Don't ignore these feelings. Stress needs your attention. Take care of yourself. Get help.  

Signs of Stress
Normally you are pretty cool about things.  But some days you don't feel like your old self.  Are you stressed out?  Your body or your emotions will let you know.

Do you…
· feel tired for no good reason?
· have headaches or an unexplained back pain?
· eat a lot more or a lot less than you usually do?
· have trouble sleeping?
· have more colds than usual?
· suddenly have flashes of anger or fight more with your family members and friends?
· let little things bother you?
· feel sad, moody, and lonely?
· have trouble thinking as clearly as you usually do?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be stressed out.

So why are you stressed out?  
It's different for everyone, but there are some common stressful situations like those listed below.  Read the list.  Can you relate to any of them?

Family problems-these may include divorce, money problems, violence in the home, problems with alcohol or other drugs, the illness or death of a family member or close friend.

Peer pressure-are your friends asking you to do things you don't want to do or that you feel aren't the right choices for you?

Self-esteem--the way you feel about yourself emotionally or physically-do you think you aren't smart enough or as popular as you should be?

Your grades-do you feel one test score will change your life?

Too many activities in your life-trying to do a lot of things may sound like fun, but may not give you enough time to "chill out."

Changes in your everyday routine- such as moving to a new neighborhood, starting a new school year or a new job.

Fear of violence-feeling unsafe in your neighborhood or school can create almost constant stress.

How can you beat stress?
Chill out and take a break. Think about what's going on in your life.  Remember you are in control. You may not be able to change the outside world, but you can learn to deal with it.  Here are some tips for beating stress.

  • Recognize that you are in charge of your stress. You have control over a lot of your activities.  You can choose to make changes in your life which reduce your stress.
  • Try to determine the importance of a situation.  Example: If you are not invited to a certain party, it is not the end of the world. It may seem that way to you but, it's not. There will be other parties.
  • Go easy on yourself. No one is perfect, no one gets it right all the time, no one always has all the answers. If you are trying hard and doing your best, that's all any one can ask of you. Give yourself credit.
  • Take one thing at a time and prepare for it!  Manage your time wisely.   A little planning can go a long way to reducing stress.
  • Take care of yourself.  Eat healthy foods.  Limit your intake of caffeine and get enough rest. Drugs and alcohol won't solve anything and may lead to bigger problems.
  • Exercise regularly. Pick a physical activity you really like, not what you think others expect you to do.
  • Laugh or cry a little. It may help to relieve your feelings and improve your outlook. It's not hard to do and can reduce stress. Remember, this too shall pass!
  • Get involved.  Join activities at school, at your place of faith, or other activity center. For example, volunteer at a local animal shelter. You will feel better about yourself and build new friendships.
  • Relax.  It's essential for everybody's physical and mental health, and enriches your quality of life.  Find out what really makes you relax and spend at least half an hour each day doing it. It might be curling up with a good book, going on a bike ride, or listening to your favorite music.
  • Visualize yourself doing the activity or being in the situation which is giving you stress. Use your mind to "see" how you can manage a potentially stressful situation in advance.  Whether it's a dreaded presentation or a challenging sports event, you may find that visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and lead to increased success, especially when you see yourself being great!
  • Don't suffer in silence.  An honest talk with someone you trust can help you get rid of bottled-up feelings and help you see things in a different light. Don't hesitate to go to your school counselor or mental health professional in your area for help.  Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.

Your plan for action

When your own stress signals tell you that you're feeling too much stress, try putting this four-step problem-solving plan into action:

1)  Determine what's really causing the stress you feel.

2)  "Brainstorm" for solutions. Think of as many as you can, no matter how silly they seem.  

3)  Talk about what may happen, the good things and the bad things, with all of your possible solutions.

4)   Act.  Make the best decision you can and follow through on your decision.  If it still doesn't work for you, next time, try another solution.  Don't be afraid to fail.  Everyone makes mistakes.  You may be embarrassed or disappointed that your solution didn't go exactly as you expected.  This may not be comforting, but this happens to everyone at sometime. Next time, you will succeed!

If you still need help, where do you go?

It's important to remember that, whatever your problems, there are people and resources available to help.  Try talking to a close friend, a trusted family member, or counselor when you're upset.  Not only will you find it a relief to talk about your problem, but you might learn there are caring people who want to help and support you. Remember:  If you are feeling stressed out everyday for several weeks, you may have a more serious problem or situation on your hands. Asking for help is the healthy thing to do. You are never too young or too old to ask for help.  


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