What Stresses Students Out?
What is stress? It is this feeling that you have when there are all kinds of challenges and things happening to you at the same time. It may come from different things that you are up against and if will affect both your mind and your body.
The things that stress teens out the most are school work, parents, friends’ problems, social relationships. On top of that, for teens, drugs in the neighborhood was a high stressor and for younger kids they name siblings as a stressor.
It is interesting how girls and boys try to cope with stress. Boys more often use avoidance and distraction while girls tend to look for support and will try to actively reduce their stress. Girls are more likely to find their stress coming from relationships and boys from authority figures.
Both sets of individuals use avoidance to some degree while more and more are seeing their stressed displayed with anger and aggression. Finding healthy ways of dealing with stress is very important to the health, both physical and mental for our young adults. While a certain amount of short term stress can be good, the long term - day in and day out feelings of stress, worry and anxiety are not healthy in any way.
What are your top 5 stressors?
Stress: What Does It Feel Like?
Fear and stress many times feel the exact same way. The reason is that both are affected by that Fight or Flight mentality. Every teen has had the challenges that range from the big test next week, to the disagreement (major fight) with your parents. It may have been a lost cell phone or the kid that is constantly picking on you in school. It could be worry about your weight or health or something global like the environment or worldwide starvation.
When you are really stressed out and anxious, you may feel it in your heart, your hands or feet getting colder, headache or a rush of blood to your face, your stomach feeling upset or having butterflies in your stomach. All of these manifestations mean it is time for you to slow down, because as you continue with the load of stressful situations facing you, you are losing physical energy and the ability of thinking clearly.
In the end it is found that 60% of doctor visits are for stressed related problems. Some studies have shown that 85% of diseases have stress related factors. So we need to take care of ourselves and start with finding what is effective for us to calm down and cope with our stress.
How do you cope with your stress?
Coping with Stress Part 1: Using Distractions
In our last report on stress we talked about the 3 different ways that some of us cope with stress in our lives. They were distraction, avoidance and escapism. Each of them get progressively more harmful to the person practicing them. However to some degree the use of distraction can offer short term relaxation and can prove to be helpful, as long as it does not get out of control.
Distraction might be a short break to take a walk, bike ride, physical exercise, reading or other short term activity that gets our mind off the pressure at hand. The only problem with it is that the breaks can get longer or too many of them and that only leads to not getting the work done and more stress. Unless we control the distraction as a coping tool it could lead to avoiding the problems all together.
We have to be careful that we are not just using distraction as a means of procrastination. In the end we still have the same work to do, the same reports to write, and the same problems to deal with, except now we have a little less time. The signs of avoidance in my next report.
Coping with Stress: Avoidance As Coping Tool
One level higher than distraction for coping with stress is AVOIDANCE. As one 14 year old said, “when I don’t want to do something, I go online.” That is probably true for a number of adults too. We can get lost in the online world and even have an excuse saying we are doing research or something else.
When it comes to the higher level of avoidance, procrastination is very high on the list of common ways of putting off something that we do not want to face. Using procrastination on projects, studying or deadlines may be a sign of not wanting to deal with real problems or emotions, and we may find ourselves living with high levels of high anxiety.
Some use sickness as an avoidance strategy. In the USA over 160,000 students miss school, many times using sickness as the excuse to avoid bullies at school. It is not that the illness, stomachache, headache, muscle pain or a whole slew of sympton’s are not real – but the root cause may be stress about something deeper that needs to be dealt with that we are avoiding.
Others use sleep as a way of avoiding stressful situations and challenges. There is no doubt that when we are rested we can do a better job of facing our work, but if we are spending over 12 hours in bed or not leaving our bed on the weekend, it could be a sign of avoiding something. One thing for sure is that sleep will not solve deeper challenges.
But here is the surprise avoidance tactic of all, being super involved and overachieving to overcome negative feelings. Staying busy with many clubs, sporting activities and high end class course work may be a sign of trying to prove to yourself and others that you are good enough. Trying to keep it all together to prove to our else and others that everything is good, can be so difficult and stressful on us that without even noticing things continue to get worse for us.
Avoidance many times leads to seclusion, with your own negative thoughts, that can lead to feeling hopeless and depressed. Feelings like this may lead to the highest level of non-coping, escape. We will talk about the dangers of that in our next article.
Coping with Stress: Escapism As Coping Tool
When you have reached the limits of your abilities to cope with stress in your life, you may still be embarrassed, scared or so overwhelmed that you start taking part in escapist behaviors to try and feel better. For teens this may be skipping school, running away from home. For both adults and teens there may be a turning to drugs and alcohol, lying to people to avoid responsibility and it can get so bad that some feel so hopeless, that they may take to hurting themselves physically or even having suicidal ideation.
Obviously any and all of these behaviors can bring on even more problems that can last a lifetime. Short term techniques to try to deal with stress are never as helpful as learning how to really deal with the issues or problems that are making us feel so overwhelmed. We will continue to talk about stress among children and teens in upcoming articles, but if you are a teen or child, just know that talking to an adult that you trust is a great first step and one that you should take for your own well being. If you are an adult being aware that our children, even the ones that seem to have it all together, may be feeling the pressures of their schedule or workload along with all the social pressures that teens have.
Being able to listen without judging, and knowing that you do not have to have all the answers is key to gaining the confidence of the child or teen. Recognizing the signs of stress and coping skills that they may be using can help us to get a head start on avoiding larger problems in the future.