What is stress?

The first step to managing stress is to know what causes it.

Causes

Different things cause stress for different people. Some might think that an upcoming math test is a big deal, while others won’t give it a second thought. The same is true at different ages and stages of our lives. What bothers us at age 3 won’t be the same as what gets us riled up at age 12, 20 or 50.

Being aware of what causes you stress is one step in learning how to handle it well. Use this worksheet, to write or draw things that caused you stress when you were younger, things that stress you out now and what you think might be stressful when you’re older.

homevideo3Watch this “Stress Test” video and learn how one’s body responds in stressful situations.

For more information on the causes of stress, check out this article about stress or this one about anxiety.

Symptoms

There is so much pressure to “do and be your best” in school, at home, online, in after-school activities and your social life…just about everywhere. Yet many of the things people do to try to be their best actually work against them and cause stress. Stress, it turns out, is a HUGE BARRIER to almost everything.

We’ve all had times when our bodies react to stress. We can feel it. It’s the sensation known as fight or flight. Our bodies’ natural way of coping with being frightened or challenged is to release chemicals into our bloodstream that provide extra short-term energy and alertness. Our instincts take over and tell us that we are facing danger and we either need to defend ourselves (fight) or get away (flight).

about-bluebox

The Screen-Stress Connection

Screen time gets a lot of attention, and let’s be honest: Time spent online and especially on our phones gets a pretty bad rap…especially from older folks. It’s blamed for everything from bad posture to social isolation.

As a teen today, you are the first generation to grow up with nearly constant access to electronic media and social interaction. While there’s no doubt there’s a connection between screen time and stress, there are also lots of positive ways that screens help us communicate, learn, play, and participate in the world around us. To help maximize the benefits and lessen the downsides of a screen-heavy lifestyle, try these tips:

  • Give yourself a break before bed— Forty three percent of today’s teens get less than seven hours of sleep. That’s not healthy. The National Sleep Foundation recommends not using screens right before bed or in bed, as it can interfere in a number of ways with your ability to fall asleep. We know a lot teens work on homework or read right up until bedtime, but challenge yourself to put your screens away as early as you can in the evening. Can you give yourself 15 minutes? 30? An hour? Try charging your devices in a room other than where you sleep to help avoid the temptation. Better yet, invest in an alarm clock to wake you up instead of your phone!
  • Learn what triggers your stress and limit those behaviors—Research shows a correlation between the rise in smartphone use and the rise in depression among your generation. Try to start noticing the emotions and even physical sensations you have when you’re online or communicating through a device. Learn about the stress response and start trying to stay in tune to when you feel it coming on. What triggers you? Once you start to notice trends or patterns, make some positive adjustments, such as unfollowing certain people, only checking social media at certain times of the day, or deleting the accounts and apps that stress you most.
  • Move around—Exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning, according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey. Exercise can actually reverse the effects of stress and lift depression. Screen time tends to be sedentary, which means if you’re doing a lot of it you may not be getting a lot of physical activity. Try to find a balance; get up and get moving regularly throughout the day, and make a point to get outside if you can. You can even watch a show on your phone or listen to music as motivation!
  • Spend face-to-face time with people you like—Humans are social creatures and no amount of texting or commenting on each other’s social media posts can make up for time spent in face-to-face interaction. Making a point to connect with your friends and family in real life, not just online, can go a long way toward helping you Change to Chill.

You are the expert on you! What do you do to keep your screen-time balanced and healthy?

 

All of these things do more to get in our way than they do to help us live our best lives. Plus, significant stress that goes on for a long time can lead to more serious mental and physical health problems. So it’s important to have some strategies ready for dealing with it and a few more for preventing it when you can.

That’s where Change to Chill comes in.