Stress is a normal and ingrained action in our brains and bodies when we feel threatened. Our earliest ancestors experienced stress when confronted with a sabre-toothed tiger. This stress activated their “fight, flight, or freeze” response, and helped them stay alive during difficult situations.
Now, we often talk about stress as a negative thing. A low level of stress can help us strive to achieve our goals. But if you’re feeling stressed all the time or your stress is having a negative impact on your life, it’s worth considering how you can reduce or manage it.
Determining your stressors
A key part of reducing stress is recognising your stressors. These are the triggers that – like the sabre-toothed tiger – signal to your body to enter “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.
According to the US Surviving the Teens programme, the most common stressors impacting teenagers are:
Symptoms of stress
Stress manifests in different ways for different people, but common symptoms include: feeling tired and grumpy, being clumsy, shaking hands or limbs, headaches, insomnia, aching or tense muscles, frequent bouts of sickness (colds/flu), loss of enthusiasm for projects, romantic partners, or socialising, and feelings of being overwhelmed and lonely.
Dealing with stress
There are three key ways you can deal with stress, depending on your situation.
Release: You can express your feelings through artwork, writing, singing, and being thankful for good things in your life. Getting outside, enjoying nature, doing physical activity, or taking a long bath can also help. It’s important to take a break and have an outlet for your stress.
Connect: Spend time with people who relax and engage you, or hang out with your favourite pet. Laugh a lot. Remember that life is more than your stress.
Reflect: Think about what’s making you stressed. Is there any way to minimise that stress? Try planning and productivity hacks to help you finish your tasks, and changing your thinking to avoid worrying about the small things.
Stress is a totally normal part of life, and a low level of stress will help you to achieve your goals and get where you want to be. But if you’re living with a high level of stress all the time, consider what might be causing it and whether you need to talk to someone.