Column: Managing stress and keeping focus

Health: Mental, Physical, and Emotional

Challenging classes.  Tests.  Grades.  Class standing.  Overloaded activities.  Community service.  Volunteer work.  Jobs.  Leadership roles.  Transferring schools.  Changing schedules.  College applications.  High parental and personal expectations.  Negative thoughts and feelings.  Chronic illnesses.  Financial struggles.  Unsafe living environments.  Relationship issues.  Emotional instability.  These are a few examples of the nearly infinite stress-inducing aspects of the world.  Life can definitely be overwhelming, especially for high-achieving teenagers who are facing a new era of increased competitiveness and constant comparison against not only their peers on campus but also other students nationwide.

The human body is built to encounter stress, and it responds to stress with physical, mental, and emotional reactions.  Stress helps us by keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger, but stress can easily become harmful when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation in between.  People experience stress every day, and everyone struggles to handle their own personal demands, responsibilities, and frustrations.  Unfortunately, in the process of juggling each activity, people forget the process of balancing life; people overload themselves and forget to find time for enjoying quality relaxation.  Life may seem too difficult to manage at times, but there are strategies and resources available to help you cope.

It is of utmost importance that you learn how to take a break once you recognize that you are drowning in stress.  Breathe.  Stop your negative thoughts and feelings of helplessness for a moment.  Think.  Make a list of all your obligations and prioritize.  At the top of the list should be you; you first and foremost have an obligation to yourself, your health, and your well-being.

When you are feeling stressed out, it is easy to make poor life choices.  Search for healthy ways to find good vibes and reduce your stress; avoid poor coping skills like using alcohol or drugs as these are poor lifestyle choices that can harm your body and mind and actually increase your stress and feelings of anxiety and agitation.  Instead, try to exercise regularly, eat healthily, get an adequate amount of sleep each night, listen to music, talk to a friend, spend time with a pet, or draw -any of these activities can help you.  Never compromise yourself by staying up all night for something so relatively unimportant such as a homework assignment or a test score.  Remember that you have a plethora of opportunity to improve your grades and only one opportunity each day to maintain your health; you can’t make up sleep debt.

The next step after making sure you are practicing healthy habits is to approach each of your tasks with a positive mindset.  Understand that every task you must do is possible and can be accomplished. Instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of perfection, try to do the best that you can and be proud knowing you did just that.  The moment that you deem a situation no longer dangerous, your mind and body responds by making changes to help you relax and calm down; approach each situation in this manner and you will start to feel capable and in control.

Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.  In fact, the lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.  Overwhelming stress is a serious issue and it is highly encouraged that teenagers build a network of supportive friends who help promote positive coping habits, talk to their parents, or seek consultation with a qualified mental health professional.  In times of distress, you must keep your focus on your health and on positive thoughts.  It will truly make a world of a difference as you go from powerless to powerful in managing your life.

One thought on “Column: Managing stress and keeping focus

  1. A very well written paper! I can relate a lot to the situations described in this passage. I often find myself in very stressful situations and feel hopeless. On the other hand, I am currently trying some of the actions you suggested and I have faith. The organization was solid, the reasoning was sound; overall a very good job! I am greatly impressed. Bravo, Maddie!

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