Stressed Out? Try These Suggestions in Order to Better Cope

Many high school students become overburdened thereby leading to unhealthy stress levels.

Many high school students become overburdened thereby leading to unhealthy stress levels.

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School, relationships, home problems, sports, extra-curriculars. Life can be a rollercoaster ride; sometimes it can be incredible, and sometimes it can be brutally demanding. During stressful times, we may feel like the weight of the world is crashing down upon us. While others tell us to “calm down, take a deep breath, and don’t worry,” those words of encouragement are not always enough.

Here are some useful suggestions for relieving the tremendous burden that is stress, especially at the overwhelming start of the school year.

1. Get a good night’s sleep.
Although this may seem virtually impossible during the school year, as both Olympic Heights students and teachers must wake up early enough to be in class together by 7:30 a.m., it can and should be done. Many teens prefer staying up a little later at night (past 11 p.m. normally) because the biological “sleep clock” shifts during adolescence, making teenagers more prone to sleeping later into the morning. Other students spend their nights scrambling to finish their homework or to study for last minute for tests. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need an average of eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, and adults need about seven to nine hours. This is not the common scenario, as one study found that only 15 percent reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights. Sleeping more has been proven to secrete hormones that reduce the feelings of stress. A tip is to lie down (offline) a few minutes earlier than you are accustomed to each night until you have given yourself at least eight hours of sleep for optimal health.

2. Laugh (LOL!)
Laughter is truly the best medicine. The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter can activate and relieve your stress response, soothe tension, relieve pain, improve your immune system, and more. Laughing has been proven to provide both short-term and long-term benefits to one’s overall mood and health. Even if you laugh at your own situations because they are so frustrating, your stress should start to fade away. (A nervous giggle before a big test or speech can’t hurt.) Maybe watch comedy shows or read funny books to sneak in a nice chuckle here and there. Spend more time with friends who make you laugh, and you should see increased optimism and happiness in your life.

3, Engage in physical activity
Whether its football, yoga, soccer, or even walking, exercise is considered one of the most effective stress busters. It reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. If you are a study-intensive student who does not like sports, try to take study breaks by getting up and simply walking around your house or performing stretching routines in order to get your circulation going. Physical activity can take the mind to a distant world away from the stresses that accompany everyday life.

4. Listen to music
If you feel super stressed out, try plugging in your earphones or turning on the radio to hear some of your favorite beats. Music has been explicitly proven by various research projects (such as ones conducted by Michigan State University) to “stimulate the production of opiates and endorphins, the “feel good” hormones in our bodies.” This stimulation can result in improved blood flow and blood pressure. In particular, music (especially classical) can distract a person and lull them into a pleasant and peaceful mood.

5. Fix your diet
Try to avoid consuming coffee and other caffeinated foods and drinks as often. They not only increase levels of certain stress hormones, but also mimic their effects in the body (increasing heart rate, for example). Skip the simple sugars and starches that are notoriously known as comfort foods (chips, cakes and ice cream). Instead, load up on vegetables, fruits, and other high-fiber foods. The nutrients they provide lend an extra dose of protection against the immune-draining effects of chronic stress. Although these suggestions are simple, they can be difficult for some; however, adjusting your diet this way can help to reduce stress instead of perpetuating it.

6. Understand that everyone has limitations
Nobody is perfect. Learn to accept a “good enough job” rather than absolute perfection, and you are on your way to less stress. Don’t worry about the little things; instead, focus on what is really important. Perfectionists strive to ace exams, be the best at their jobs, or raise the best children. Unfortunately, they tend to be associated with higher rates of stress, mental illness, and health problems. Danielle Molnar, of Brock University in Canada, found self-imposed perfectionism presented pros and cons with regard to health that canceled each other out. “On one hand it was related to higher levels of stress in students, which was related to lower levels of health,” Molnar reports. “On the other hand it had a protective factor, because it was also related to lower levels of high risk behavior,” which includes actions like smoking and drinking.

7. Some advice for parents with teens in high school
High school can be stressful, especially in junior year, the year that students try to impress colleges, take on too many activities, and compete academically to be at the top of their classes. Anxiety has specifically been growing among young people in recent years from school pressures, and a significant portion of that pressure comes from parents. To counteract this growing trend, parents can keep track of how much college is brought up in conversation, take time to go for walks with their children, talk to their kids and provide emotional support, and most importantly, let them fail sometimes.

8. Relax! Take breaks in between
If you have been sitting for over an hour, it might be time to get up and take a five to 10-minute stroll. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, reading a book, looking up cute stuff, drawing, writing, spending time with a pet, or doing anything that you enjoy can also reduce stress. Even napping has been proven to have its benefits. The Wall Street Journal profiled a 2013 study that suggests longer nap periods may also be beneficial for certain learners. Ten to 20 minutes represent the ideal “power nap” duration; however, a 60-minute rest period was found to be suitable for individuals who are attempting to memorize dates, names, facts, and other important information, which implies that naps strengthen test performance. If you feel like you are ready to explode emotionally from stress, try writing out your anxieties in a diary or type them out. This is a therapeutic way to release your tensions in a safe format instead of inflicting your rage onto others around you or by harming yourself. Whether its school demands and frustrations, problems with friends, family finance issues, or the death of a loved one, everyone needs a cool down once in a while.

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