Take a deep breath… Relaxation …learning how to relax. Teens do more than ever before! Homework, tests, papers…practice, rehearsals, games, auditions…chores, jobs, volunteer work…family, friends, significant others… How do they do it all? What is stress? o Stress is caused by feelings of pressure or extreme responsibility, demands from obligations, personal expectations, or when one is being asked to handle more than they are used to. o For teens, this means…relationships (family conflicts, social obligations, peer pressure), dealing with grief or trauma (from death, injury/illness, or an accident), schoolwork, uncomfortable or dangerous living conditions, life-cycle transitions (hormones, body image, or personal feelings about one’s self), demanding schedules, or taking on too many activities. o Stress has physical, as well as mental/emotional effects. o Physically: Someone under stress may experience things like upset stomachs, headaches, aches and pains, and loss of sleep. o Mentally/Emotionally: Anxiety or panic attacks, irritability, feelings of exhaustion, worry and doubt, depression, to name a few. Managing Stress Stress is manageable both the short term and long term. Managing stress is easy. Most stress management techniques can be done easily, cheaply, and with little instruction or knowledge. Stress management activities can be broken down into two categories; stress relieving activities, and coping strategies. Stress Relieving Activities Stress relieving activities are things that can be done to release feelings of anxiety, worry, sadness, or similar side effects of stress. o Mental Activities: o Writing. Using a journal or a piece of paper to jot down thoughts, feelings, or ideas. Taking just a few minutes out of the day to express how your feeling can provide a wonderful sense of relief. o Meditation, self-hypnosis, visualization. These activities encourage the mind to focus on calming images, pictures, or sounds. Try it now! Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine you’re in one of your favorite places, or doing something you personally enjoy. Maybe it’s picturing yourself laying on a beach, or thinking about your favorite vacation spot! o Music therapy. Music therapy can be as simple as taking a few minutes to sit down and listen to a favorite song, or as in depth as purchasing a CD for that purpose. o Physical Activities: o Go for a run, or begin an exercise program. Physical activity doesn’t have to be aggressive. Even going for a walk can help. Engage in a sport or athletic activity that’s just for fun, and isn’t about competition. For example, playing a round of golf, or playing catch with a friend. o Get a good night’s sleep, or work a short nap into the day. Getting a good night’s sleep allows the body to heal and re- energize itself. When one is well rested stress is less likely to have such a negative affect on the body. o Breathing exercises. Many guides for breathing exercises can be found in books and on the internet, are relatively simple to learn, and are available for a variety of purposes (focus, relaxation, energizing, etc.). Try it now! Sit down, or lie down, clear your mind, and close your eyes. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat ten of these deep breaths, and you’re likely to feel much more calm. Wasn’t that easy? o Massage works to relieve stress because the sensation of touch provides a sense of healing. Professional massages are effective because they physically relieve pain and tense body part, but self-massage is just as effective. Rubbing one’s own hands or neck, for example, can prove to be soothing. Exchanging a quick shoulder rub with a friend or significant other is easy and effective. o Aromatherapy is often provided as part of a massage experience, but with the availability of aromatherapy products like candles, oils, soaps, and incense at places as convenient as the grocery store one may find relief simply by burning a candle or taking a bubble bath. Scents like lavender, green tea, chamomile, rose, and vanilla are relaxing. Citrus scents, cinnamon, and peppermint are energizing if you need a quick pick up. Even smelling scents like fresh baked cookies or bread, or the familiar scent of a home cooked meal can be calming. o Yoga also has immense benefits. Performing yoga involves stretching and opening up the body to release energy and utilize movements that the body is not typically accustomed to for the purpose of increasing blood flow and range of movement. Yoga also uses breathing exercises, and allows for much self exploration. One can check out instructional yoga videos from library or video rental store, download instructional guides from the internet, or sign up for classes that are relatively inexpensive at a park district or community center. Coping Strategies Coping strategies provide ideas for changes that can be made in someone’s life to help relieve stress and prevent further stress. Using coping strategies on a regular basis and allowing them to become habitual is essential to managing stress in a healthy way. o Time management involves prioritizing tasks, not over- committing, avoiding procrastination, and following a schedule. o Make it work: Use a day planner to plan your day and what tasks you have to complete each day. Don’t be afraid to say no to a commitment you don’t have time for. Complete the important things first, and save the less pressing things for later. o Life style changes include cutting down on or avoiding alcohol, and cutting back or quitting nicotine and caffeine usage, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. o Make it work: Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages during the day. Eat breakfast, and healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your energy level high. Make it a goal to get to bed by a certain time of night to ensure you’re getting a full night’s sleep. o Talking to friends, family, or someone trustworthy about feelings or what one is going through can make stress much easier to deal with. o When stress becomes unmanageable or begins to have too negative an affect on one’s life seeking professional help is effective and recommended. A trained counselor or therapist can help in coping with the extreme troubles. Even when things start to seem a little rough it can never hurt to talk to someone who can help you sort through your feelings. A guidance counselor or social worker in your school is a wonderful resource and a great place to start. Links: Four Quick relaxation exercises from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/content/article/3/3232_857.htm Introduction to Meditation: http://www.webmd.com/content/article/3/3232_857.htm Basic Yoga poses: http://www.indianmirror.com/games/gam8.html A little about Aromatherapy: http://www.holisticonline.com/Aromatherapy/hol_aroma.htm References Bryson, Stewart J. Stress Management. 2 Jun 2005. Online. 15 Oct 2006. <http://www.webmd.com/hw/emotional_wellness/hw153409.asp>. Grazian, Anthony P. Phone Interview 14 Oct 2006. Lyness, D'Arcy Stress. Aug 2004. Online. 15 Oct 2006. <http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/emotions/stress.html>.
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