Stress is a universal part of life, but young people have the added pressure of coping with academic stress, the demands of everyday life, family issues, and societal pressure to be social.
Given that students often have fewer resources than their adult counterparts, researchers are especially concerned that young people are unduly stressed.
What do students need to know?
“Young people are going through a phase of being more and more responsible for themselves and the situations they are placed in,” Professor Cooper says.
“They need support to help them achieve and maintain a good sense of emotional and mental health. And they need to learn coping skills and to develop the skills they need to cope.”
Professor Cooper offers the following advice for young people dealing with stress:
Be mindful and be present
“It’s very important that young people remember that being present with their lives is the most important thing. Being present means noticing when things are going well, and being present when things are going badly.
“Knowing that being present is vital to one’s mental health can also be a first step in improving one’s quality of life. Being aware of and happy with one’s life can help improve quality of life.”
Your social network is important
It is easy to think that if we have no one else to worry about, we won’t be stressed. But that’s not true. If we only have ourselves to deal with, we can find it very difficult to cope when someone we know needs us.
I have found that making new friends and striking up new relationships in the university community is one of the most important things students can do.
Having good friends can help students to feel better about themselves and their lives, and it can help them cope with stressful situations.
Read More: How To Overcome Nervousness
Identify your stress triggers
“Part of dealing with stress is taking responsibility for what we can control, but what young people can’t control is often what creates the most stress. The time we spend with our friends and family and, therefore, the social situations we are exposed to, can be stressful.”
In other words, try to take control of your stress by taking a break from social media and devices. You might find that you can go for a walk in nature, or hang out with friends, or play some music or just sit in silence. But try not to let all your energy be directed toward avoiding the stressors around you.
Your outlook is important
“People cope with stress in different ways, and I think a positive outlook can be very helpful.
“It is very important to consider what a positive attitude might mean for someone in a stressful situation. For some people, it might be as simple as being able to keep a smile on their face. For others, being able to see a silver lining in a situation might help.”
Try this: Think of a time when you’ve had a negative experience or come up against a hurdle. In that moment, what can you have learnt that will help you overcome similar hurdles in the future?
“It is important to be able to recognise the negative experiences as being part of life and not as a direct reflection of the self.
“Reflecting on those experiences and learning how to deal with them can actually help young people deal with and cope with stressors.”
Reduce Screen Time
The surge in telecommunication led people to spend more time facing screens, tablets, and smart phones. It’s resulted in both short- and long-term risks. For example, excessive screen time has been associated with sedentary behaviors. In fact, Americans spend the most time of any individual on their smartphones. At the same time, the World Health Organization lists long-term health consequences as “severe” for ‘blue light’ exposure to electronic devices. Blue light exposure is linked to disrupted sleep patterns and even can lower melatonin levels, impairing your ability to fight off infections and viruses. It is unclear, however, if this has any impact on cancer risk. In addition, lack of physical activity has also been linked to sleep disruption.
Improve Emotional Intelligence
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“Intelligence and emotional intelligence are increasingly important for adolescents when it comes to stress,” said Lifschultz.
“In our research, we’ve found that interventions that improve emotional intelligence can have an impact on teens’ mood and ability to cope with stress.”
How we deal with stress determines whether we live long and happy lives or not. Emotional and physical stress go hand in hand. Despite the fact that Americans are in good health overall, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks.
“Burnout occurs when an employee’s job function becomes so stressful that the employee becomes emotionally exhausted,” Lifschultz said.
“Our findings show that burnout leads to all sorts of negative outcomes. It is particularly damaging to teens’ health and their ability to cope with stress, which in turn impacts their ability to learn and excel at school.”
The upshot? “We need to keep in mind that emotional well-being is directly linked to academic and career performance,” Lifschultz said.
“This is especially important for teens who are vulnerable and already experiencing social and financial challenges.”
Interventions that help a teen develop emotional self-control and self-compassion are particularly powerful. A better understanding of the teen brain may help with the development of interventions that are especially helpful for them, Lifschultz added.
It is hard for adults to understand how teens can be feeling emotionally unstable, anxious, and depressed, she said. That makes sense because it’s not their fault. As the saying goes, “Depression looks like anger and anxiety.” It’s like two magnets pushing against each other. It can’t be seen. But it’s there.
The more we know about what’s going on with teens, the better we can help them. And the more we can help them, the less likely they will have to deal with the negative consequences of burnout.
Learn to meditate
Recent studies are linking mental health disorders to lack of meditation practice.
A 2017 study revealed that meditation training can improve psychological well-being and daily functioning.
“A bit less than half of adults reported having experienced some level of depression, anxiety, or both, but those rates are likely lower than they actually are,” Dr. Steven Van Dam said. “
Stopping and taking a few deep breaths can be a stress reliever. There are a ton of breathing and meditation apps that can help, even when you’re at work or school.
Try to imagine yourself outside of your body and imagine your thoughts, your stresses, or whatever is making you feel the way you are feeling is not you. Take online classes if you can.
As you do this, imagine that you are breathing in and out through your mouth for 10 to 20 seconds at a time and see how it feels to see your thoughts and to feel yourself calming down.
Sometimes, especially in stressful situations, we need to fight the fight internally and force ourselves to calm down. If you can’t do it yourself, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and try to calm yourself.
Life throws curveballs at everyone. In the first three weeks after the pandemic, all the classrooms and all the halls were closed. The students who were left to themselves were working long hours, doing their exams at the last minute, and often under huge stress. Many were stressed and depressed.
It is good for students to keep up their resilience. Being resilient means they have the capacity to deal with difficult situations.
Resilience can mean a student putting one foot in front of the other, going to the library when he or she is anxious, and keeping their mind occupied and their spirits up.
Students can also find ways to lower their stress levels, such as doing breathing exercises or spending time with their friends.”
Watch your weight and your sugar
We’ve all heard that smoking, drinking, eating greasy food, and skipping exercise will lead to weight gain. But most of us know that diets are even worse. Most diets fail.
Eating a regular, well-balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy weight, according to Lifschultz. Excess weight contributes to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity, which are all stress-related illnesses.
Keep tabs on what you eat. Healthy eating means nothing if you eat an excess amount of food that has too much sugar, sodium, or fat.
If you find yourself becoming irritable, it might be that you are eating too much.
Include vegetables, fruits and whole grains in your daily diet. Cut back on high-sugar treats and sweetened beverages like soda and fruit juice.
Exercise is also important. A 2015 report by the National Research Council revealed that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and lower depression rates.
Make your mind stronger
Recent studies show that exercise makes your brain stronger. Getting into a daily exercise routine and learning a new sport can help with improving the brain’s physical and mental health.
Physical activity, especially that which requires coordination and timing, requires our brain to work harder to keep in sync with our bodies.
“Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and provides oxygen to synapses (nerve connections) and provides neurotransmitters (chemicals) to promote nerve growth,” Lifschultz said.
Stretching can also help with reducing stress and anxiety. Get in and out of those uncomfortable yoga poses in a short amount of time to get your blood flowing and to relieve stress.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Exercise is great, but it’s also great to try and alleviate stress by meditating or practicing mindfulness. Both activities stimulate the brain’s receptors to reduce stress and anxiety.
Meditation may be the easiest for most of us to practice, and is a form of active meditation.
Don’t let stress overwhelm you, but instead, practice some healthy habits that will help you take control of it.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to someone if you or a loved one is struggling.