Mental imaging can help you respond positively to stress. If you have to give a speech, sing a solo in the choir, try out for cheerleading, or interview for a job, you probably anticipate that you will have some stress. Along with your preparation and rehearsal, try a “mental rehearsal,” too. Visualize your performance, but also visualize the stress that you will feel and the best way to respond to that stress. A ”mental rehearsal” can give you added confidence. It can positively affect your performance as well as your physical responses to stress. Mental images can help you relax.
Neal likes to think of lying on the beach. “Believe it or not, I like to do math problems in my head when I want to relax,” says Della. “When you’re doing math, you can’t worry about anything else; and anyway, if I make a mistake, who’s going to know?”
Writing can also help to reduce stress. When you write about the stressors in your life, you can clarify what is causing your stress, and you may come up with some solutions. Writing essays or poems helps to release tension. “Writing about my problems helps me feel better,” says Carlos, fifteen.
You can keep a journal and write something every day, or write only occasionally. Have a special notebook and pen for your writing. Write about the causes of your stress, but write about the nice things in your life, too. Just writing down your feelings and your worries is a way to relieve stress. If a family member or friend is ill or has died, write about that person and your good memories. Through writing, you can clarify your problems in your own mind. If you like to draw or paint, you can illustrate your feelings that way, or create pictures to go with your writing.
Fourteen-year-old Tess used writing to help her cope with stress. “When my little sister, Liza, was injured in a car accident, she was in the hospital for several weeks. Then she came home in a body cast. Mom took care of her most of the time, but sometimes I had to stay home to help. I really had mixed-up feelings. I wanted to help my mother and be nice to my sister, but I also wanted to be with my friends and do things for myself. I didn’t think it was fair. I got so upset about it that I started to feel sick.
“One day, when I was home and Liza was sleeping, I decided to write about my feelings. I wrote a little every day after that. Just writing down the things that I couldn’t tell my mother or my friends helped me feel better. I even wrote a story to tell Liza. She liked it, and that made me feel better about her and about myself.”
Compile lists, too. When you have a decision to make, make a pro and con list: jot down everything in favor of a particular action, and everything against it. This will help you weigh the decision. When you feel you are making a good decision, it gives you a sense of control. That is a positive way to reduce your feelings of stress.