Daniel is a senior in high school and a very busy person. Besides attending classes (some of which are accelerated) he is co-director of the school musical and assistant manager of the junior varsity basketball team. On top of that, Daniel volunteers twice a week at the animal hospital because he wants to be a veterinarian.
“When I get home in the evening, my parents and my little brother have already had dinner,” Daniel says. “I’m not usually hungry anyway. I’m exhausted, but that’s the only time I have to do my homework. More and more often, I fall asleep over my homework. When I finally get into bed, I have trouble sleeping; and when I get up in the morning, I have a terrible headache. It’s getting harder to do the things I have to do to get into a good college.
“Mom keeps telling me I’m under too much stress, and I should give up some of my activities before I really get sick. I don’t think I can give anything up. I guess stress just goes with wanting to do a lot of different things.”
Daniel is under a lot of pressure, and he is experiencing several signs of stress. Continuous stress—stress that continues for a long period of time—can lead to physical symptoms much more serious than a headache in the morning. When there is a lot of stress in your life, and it goes on for a while, you need to make some changes. But before you can make any changes to reduce your level of stress, you need to be aware that you do have stress and recognize the symptoms. Once you acknowledge that there is a problem, then you can start making the changes that will help you cope with stress.
If you have physical problems associated with stress, discuss them with your close friends, a counsellor, or a doctor. Don’t be tempted to treat just the symptom—such as taking something to relieve a headache—without also making some changes in your lifestyle to relieve the stress. Stress may show up as a physical symptom, but there is always an emotional factor as well. First, you need to identify the stressor: What is causing your stress? Then you need to consider your reaction to the stressor: Are you making the stressor more serious than it needs to be?
Sometimes, just one change in your life can make a big difference. Doing one thing differently is a start. If Daniel volunteers only one day a week or one day a month at the animal hospital, it might relieve a lot of pressure.
Taking some small action can help to alleviate some of your stress. Simply phoning a friend to talk is a step in the right direction. When you come up with a good plan of action, stick to it, but stay flexible enough to try other ideas.
Talking to yourself and using your mind to cope with stress means setting goals, establishing priorities, getting organized, using problem-solving techniques, and taking action. You can develop a positive mental attitude, maintain your sense of humor, and stay in control while keeping everything in perspective. You can take responsibility for your own behavior and choose to act on your stress.
Be aware of your limitations, however. If a problem is beyond your control, you may need help from others. You might have to delay the resolution of a problem until you are able to handle it better. In that case, you need to accept the situation as it is, at least until a time when it can be resolved. Try to focus on what you do have control over. Do things in moderation; strive for excellence, not perfection. Forget about always winning.
When a situation makes you very angry or depressed, try to get away from it for a while so you can cool down and put it in perspective. You may need to set aside a problem until you can deal with it more effectively. Remember that a situation may be temporary and may be more manageable when you take a break from thinking about it.
Have a ”one day at a time” and “one problem at a time” attitude. While you are in office, don’t worry about those stressors that affect you at home or at work. When you are at home, let go of the things in other parts of your life that are bothering you. Thinking about everything at once can make the problems seem overwhelming, and you may think that you can’t handle any of them. Don’t dwell on past mistakes, and don’t depend on tomorrow to be better. Plan for the future, but act for today.
Stress can come from a variety of different sources. It is pretty much impossible to get through life without experiencing it at some point. Ultimately, life without stress would be extremely boring. Stress is a by-product of change, and change, even when difficult, is what makes life exciting and challenging.
Of course, some changes can create too much stress. If such stress isn’t dealt with in a positive way, it can lead to serious physical and emotional problems.
To not let stressful situations get out of hand, it is important that you, your parents, and other adults in your life learn how to recognize the symptoms of stress and acknowledge that the stress you are experiencing constitutes a real problem. Many elements in your life can be the cause of your stress: your family; your friends; a relationship; school; a job; living in a violent environment; crises such as death, illness, divorce and pregnancy; and disasters such as fires or hurricanes.
What is essential is to find a way of dealing with your stress in a constructive manner that corresponds to your personality and your needs. A variety of techniques exist that can help you.
Using your mind, you can try to focus on the positive side of the changes you are going through. You can learn to rationalize your problems and, drawing from past experiences, you can learn to keep them in perspective. You can also put your body to work. Eating well, exercising, and learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and yoga can ease stress and make you feel better both physically and mentally.
It is essential not to withdraww from people around you. A big mistake is keeping your problems to yourself. Find a person or several people that you trust, respect, and feel comfortable talking to. Let them know how you feel and what you’re going through, and don’t be afraid to ask for their help. If you can’t speak to family or friends, know that there are plenty of other people—relatives, counselors, therapists, a family doctor, clergy members, hot lines, as well as support groups—all of whom can help you cope with your stress.
Even though they might make you feel better initially, drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are not useful options for combating stress. These substances might mask your problems, but they won’t solve them. Often they only create new, more serious ones that will establish negative patterns of dealing with stressful situations in the future.
You can use past experience as a guideline for coping as well. What has worked in the past and what has not? Accept that you can’t solve every problem. Take into account your own physical and emotional limitations and have reasonable expectations.
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An assignment or deadline can cause stress for one person and be a challenge and motivating factor for another. Some people view stressors as challenges rather than obstacles. These people probably have a positive attitude, and they are able to work out satisfactory alternatives to problems. They probably feel as though they are in control of events. Some people can find good even in a situation they don’t like, such as a job.
If you have ever had a bad day, when everything seems to go wrong, you may notice that some of the things causing you stress on that day did not bother you in the past. How you view a stressor has an effect on your ability to cope. You can’t always change a stressor or get rid of it, but you can change your perception of the stressor and your reaction to it.
No one can be completely free of stress, so it is important to learn how to cope with it.
1)Coping with stress can reduce or eliminate the physical and emotional symptoms associated with stress. Stress is more than just an emotional annoyance; if you do not reduce or eliminate your stressor, you may encounter serious physical problems. If a stressor is removed or reduced, your body can resist further damage and begin to repair whatever damage has already occurred. Otherwise your body may develop physical problems. If you have physical problems that are caused by stress, you may spend a lot of time and money trying to treat the symptoms of these problems.
2)Coping with the stress directly may eliminate many symptoms. Besides physical problems, not coping with stress can also cause a decline in school or job performance and an increase in personal conflicts.
3)Coping with stress can prevent the development of more serious symptoms of stress. If you are under constant stress, your body’s natural defenses are weakened and you can become sick. If left unmanaged, stress can eventually lead to mental illness or complete physical exhaustion.
4)Coping with stress can build your self-esteem. When you are under stress, you often feel a loss of control, and your self-esteem decreases. By coping with stress, you can gain some control over your response to stress even if you can’t completely control the cause of stress. In taking action, you gain confidence and boost your self-esteem by demonstrating to yourself that you are not helpless.
5)Coping with stress is an important tool for living successfully. As a teenager, you confront stressful situations just as adults do. Now is the time to learn how to cope with stress and to learn skills that you will use as an adult.