Mood Swings by gdf57j


									                                                         Mood Swings

Your brain is changing! You all know that your body is changing but it’s easy to forget that
your brain is a part of the body too.

It isn’t getting bigger and it isn’t growing hair where there was no hair
before, but your brain is maturing along with the rest of you. When
you’re doing algebra or writing an essay, your brain is working in a
way it couldn’t before; it’s conceiving of things abstractly, working with
concepts instead of just concrete objects. And you can ask yourself
harder questions about concepts, questions like “Who am I?”

So, who are you?
                    This isn’t an easy question to answer. You’re changing, remember? Your identity is
                    beginning to take on more meaning than it used to: what makes you unique is
                    more than just your name or your fingerprint. And your brain’s ability to work
                    abstractly gives you the chance to develop your own identity. So how do you
                    define yourself? What makes you you?

                    Is it the music you listen to? The clothes you wear? Who your friends are? Is it the
                    things you buy? Or is it how well you do at school? These are all important to
                    helping you participate within one culture or another, but there is definitely more
                    to you than that. If you move to a new town and make new friends, or if you don’t
                    like the some music you used to, aren’t you still you? Of course. Cultural symbols
                    like these, that can change pretty easily – and even ones that don’t, such as your
                    ethnicity, language, spirituality, or economic class – are all important and may
                    reflect something about who you are, but not any one can begin to describe
                    you completely.
So then there’s your personal identity.
What do you do when you’re by yourself? What do you think about
before you fall asleep?

                                        A large part of who you are is what your own goals, hopes,
                                        secrets and even worries are. Your personal identity is made
                                        up of all of those things about you that no one else sees, even
                                        when they’re right next to you.

                                         Then there’s the you that everyone does see, your social identi-
                                         ty. Part of being a social person means being able to get
                                         along with family, teachers, bosses and other people, and
having friends who you can trust and be open with, who will listen to your jokes or your problems.
The way you interact with other people will likely reflect some of your cultural ties or you personal
experiences, but your social identity might be very different than how you think of yourself, personally.

Maybe you’re shy, or you’re especially outgoing. The neat thing about who you
are is that your brain keeps all that information and can change as you change!

And perhaps you act differently depending on whose company you’re in. The person you seem to be
around your parents may not be the same person you seem to be around your friends.

Spending less time with your parents is an important part of developing your own iden-
tity. But it can be difficult for parents to watch you go through all these changes, and
they may react in ways that make you want to spend even less time with them.
Sometimes they’ll react to changes in only one part of your identity – let them know
that how you dress doesn’t make you an entirely different person. Remember though,
it’s been awhile since they were your age and they probably forget what it’s like. It’s
important to communicate with your parents, and almost half of teenagers in Canada
are concerned that they aren’t understood by their parents.

Letting them know what’s going on in your life will make it easier for them to trust you
and easier for both of you to deal with changing.

Forming your own identity and becoming independent means trying things that you’ve never done
before, or even had the opportunity to do.

                         But be smart. Make decisions that will help you define who you are
                         and make friends who will respect your decisions. Making personal choices
                         about what you want to do and who you want to be is probably more impor-
                         tant than being able to drive, have sex, buy expensive things, or drink and do
                         drugs. Not that most teenagers try these things. And not that they can’t be fun,
                         either, because they can be.

And they might help you to learn from experience things that you can’t learn in other ways. But think
about what it is you want to learn, the reasons you might want to try these things, or why the people
you know do.
Will any of your choices really help you decide who you are?

            51%   never   engage in sex
            63%   never   smoke cigarettes
            22%   never   drink alcohol
            63%   never   smoke marijuana or hashish

It’s difficult figuring yourself out, and its difficult deciding if and when you want to do the things that
everyone else seems to be doing. But remember, everyone is trying to define themselves and figure all
these things out too. Stress affects everybody. In fact, it’s healthy!

What’s that you say? Stress is healthy?
Indeed it is. It’s healthy for your brain to deal with stress from various pressures, just as it is healthy for
your body to deal with stress from exercise. Stress can be a useful tool in defining yourself.

Don’t get us wrong, though, stress can certainly be a bad thing too. Stress is healthy when you can
overcome it, and it’s the constructive ways that you deal with stress that help you figure your self out.
There are lots of things that might stress you out, and different issues affect people differently. Gender
can affect what you consider stressful: girls tend to worry more openly about personal problems, and
place more importance on relationships than boys do. Different problems affect teens of different ages
too. Obviously if you’re thirteen you wouldn’t have to worry as much about getting into university as
an eighteen-year-old would. A major occurrence like a car accident, a death, a pregnancy, a divorce,
or any other significant event can also lead to stress.
So if you find yourself getting stressed out, it is healthy to deal with it.
There are lots of ways of preventing and coping with stress – some are
more productive than others.
Talk to Someone!
It’s the first and most important thing to do if you want to keep your brain healthy, whether you’re
stressed out or not. If someone asks how you’re doing, it’s perfectly okay to say “not so good”, and
tell them what’s wrong. You don’t have to wait for someone that you want to talk or need a hug.
Write someone a letter. It can help a lot.

It can be anyone, a friend, your boyfriend or girlfriend, brother or
sister, grandparent, cousin or aunt or uncle, teacher, guidance
counselor, doctor, penpal, neighbour, someone at a helpline, any-
one you can think of, even a pet. And your parents. No, really.
About one in five teenagers are likely to turn to their parents first
when facing a “serious problem,” and like we said, about half of
teenagers are concerned their parents don’t understand them well
enough. Helping them understand your problems – even your prob-
lems with them – will make dealing with stress and change much
easier. So talk to your parents already.
Talk to someone!

Aside from that, there are many ways to stop stress from overwhelming you, or to stop it before it
starts. Be sure to exercise and eat regularly; don’t let your feelings top you from eating or make you
eat too much. Stress can be made worse by sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs or tobacco. Your brain is
still part of your body, remember? It helps to learn how to relax your body, like abdominal breathing
techniques or muscle relaxation exercises. Yoga and massages are pretty neat too.

                         Stress can be helped by asserting yourself and your identity. But there’s a
                         difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. Stay polite and in
                         control; yelling someone or storming isn’t asserting yourself, it’s letting
                         stress take over your behaviour and emotions. Learning to break down a
                         big task into smaller and more manageable jobs is important, as is learn-
ing not to demand too much from yourself or others.

Try not to dwell on negative thoughts, focus instead on productive ways to solve your problems. “My
life will never get better” can be changed into “my life will get better if this and this and this stop
causing me stress”. Practicing situations that cause you stress – like public speaking, for example –
can help eliminate your stressor and show you that things are okay. And things should be okay; you
have an identity to form!

It’s important to be productive. Figure out what you’re interested in and find people to do it with; if
there’s no one at your school or in your community to help, do it yourself. Being creative – deciding
what you want to do and doing it – lets you assert yourself, will make you learn how to manage tasks
and to accept less than perfection, and express how you feel to others if you don’t always feel you
can talk. Being creative is a wonderful way of preventing and coping with stress.

You could keep a journal, or learn how to cook, or force your friends to be in a band with you. You
could start making posters and stickers, or act in a play, or design a website. Cut your own hair! Start
painting or sculpting or sewing – it’s easy to make or modify your own clothes. Write a play or poetry
                                                    or your own little booklet like this one (about any-
                                                    thing!) and give it to your friends. You can get thirty
                                                    photocopies for the price of a pop! Think of a thou-
                                                    sand things that would be fun to do and go do
                                                    them. Just don’t let yourself get bored. That’s no fun
                                                    at all.

                                                        And you should be having fun – you’re a teenager!
                                                        Having fun should mean determining who you are
and doing the things you like. If stress takes over your life to the point where that’s impossible – when
stress turns into distress – it’s time to look for help; although stress is healthy, too much of it is not.
When your brain is overwhelmed by stress it can stop working properly, just as when your body is
overwhelmed by stress you can get injured. Signs of too much or too little, disrupted eating habits,
headaches or stomach aches, or trouble concentrating. If things get really bad, more serious behav-
ioural changes can happen like becoming violent or especially withdrawn,
having problems with drugs or alcohol, or cutting your arms.

Should any of these things be happening to you, or someone you know,
first thing you should do – like we said – is try talking to someone about
it. Don’t be afraid to bring up any problem, even things like cutting or sui-
cide, or problems that you think will sound trivial; if it’s causing someone
stress then it is definitely important enough to talk about.

Don’t say things like “everything’s fine” because that isn’t’ always true,
even if its hard to understand why. Using words like “crazy” doesn’t help
                                     either; being overwhelmed by stress does not make someone
                                     crazy. When stress turns into a real problem it can pose a risk to
                                     the health of your brain and can develop into a brain illness. Two
                                     of the most common kinds are depression and anxiety.

                                    The works “depression” or “anxiety” get used a lot, you’ve
                                    probably even described yourself that way. But
                                    being unable to enjoy or participate in daily life is very different
                                    from feeling sad or stressed out. If you suspect that you or a friend
                                    is really depressed or has an anxiety disorder, there’s a lot more
                                    you need to know.

              Bibby, Reginald W., Canada’s Teens: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow
              (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing company, 2001)

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