The end of the school year can be an incredibly stressful time. If you're feeling it, know that you're not alone. In August we did a survey and found that 55% of young people in New Zealand aged 15-24 thought that stress was one of the biggest issues facing them, and the biggest thing stressing people out was school/university/exams/study/homework.
The feeling of overwhelm and the pressure to be successful is a lot. We've pulled together some useful resources to help you understand where stress comes from and some tricks and tools for managing it.
1. Identifying Stress
In small doses, stress can help you get things done, like pass a test or achieve a goal. But if you’re stressed all the time, you end up draining your body of the energy it needs to function normally. Learn how to identify signs of stress in yourself so you can take steps to improve your mood. Learn the signs.
2. How Stress Works
Back in the caveman days, our brain developed in a way that helped us to keep safe from danger. So if we started getting chased by a bear, our brain would release chemicals that would help us to fight the bear off, run away from the bear or freeze so the bear wouldn’t see us. This was known as the “Fight, Flight, Freeze” response. Today, our brains still respond to stressful events in the same way and this can get in the way of living our lives unless we help release those FFF chemicals. Learn how stress works.
3. Relieving Stress
This is the big one! And there are a lot of different tools and techniques - different strokes, for different folks.
Here are some of our favourite ideas:
Creative ideas for stress relief
Exercising for stress relief
Decluttering your mind
Talk it out - with a friend, family member or with us. Calling or texting Youthline is free, anonymous and confidential.
4. Supporting Others
If your friend is really stressed out, being there to listen can be a huge help. Please make sure that you're also getting supported as the support person. We are also really happy to help you come up with a plan to support a friend.
If you are a parent or teacher worried about your kids or students, please feel free to reach out. We offer exam stress seminars in schools around this time of year, please get in touch to find out more.
Self-acceptance means unconditionally loving and accepting yourself for who you are. It means acknowledging what makes you special and unique. You can celebrate your talents, but also accept your flaws and limitations.
People with high self-acceptance are happier and better able to deal with stress, heartache or disappointment. How can you learn to gain self-acceptance?
Understand your past
Did you know that before the age of eight, our self-acceptance came from our parents/caregivers? If your parents showed you that you were accepted and loved no matter what, then you viewed yourself more positively than other kids whose parents wouldn’t or couldn’t give them this assurance.
Sometimes, parents teach us that we’re only acceptable if we perform certain behaviours – if we’re smart enough, strong enough, good enough, loud enough, etc. This can internalise feelings of rejection and criticism. Understanding and acknowledging challenges to self-acceptance from your past is a step toward overcoming them.
Set your intention
Recognise the thoughts, feelings, and actions that prevent your self-acceptance. Acknowledge pain from the past and present that play into your low self-acceptance, but then put them aside. Remind yourself that how you feel isn’t a measure of what is true. Set an intention in your mind that you deserve to love and accept yourself, and that you’re awesome just the way you are.
Celebrate your awesomeness
Make a list of your past achievements and things that you’re good at. Did you win a spelling bee or a writing contest? Are you a star player on your sports team? Write it down! What positive qualities do you bring to a friendship or a family? If you can’t think of anything, ask your friends and family members to contribute their ideas.
Whenever you feel down or you’re obsessing over a failure, look at this list to remind yourself that you’re special.
Surround yourself with great people
Cultivate friendships and spend time with people who lift you up and accept you unconditionally. If your friends accept you, it can help you to accept yourself. Positive friendships are a key to happiness, according to scientific studies.
If someone tries to change who you are or criticizes you for things outside your control, they’re probably a negative influence on your life, and you’re better off without them.
Stop comparing yourself to others
It doesn’t matter what other people do or how they achieve. It only matters what you do. Refocus your energy from looking outward to looking inward – find joy in your own life. Stop looking at social media if it makes you feel bad. (Most people on social media only show a certain view of their life – it’s not reality at all).
This is the hardest thing to do, but accepting yourself means acknowledging you’re human, and you make mistakes. That’s okay, as long as you admit it was a mistake, and then move forward. Remind yourself that you made the decision you could at the time, and that you’re not the same person now.
Apologise to people you’ve hurt, including yourself. Try to learn from your mistakes so it doesn’t happen again. Mistakes are how we grow as people.
Are you practicing self-acceptance in your life? Do you find you feel happier when you accept yourself more? What are your top tips for self-acceptance?
According to educator Anjali Hazari, unrealistic parental pressure for a teen to succeed is the most common cause of stress among students.
Parents aren’t the only ones guilty of putting pressure on teens. You may experience pressure to succeed from teachers or faculty members. A friend may force you into a competition over grades or sports. Siblings may try to push you harder. It doesn’t matter who is applying the pressure, except that you want to make them happy, and your desire to please them is stressing you out.
If you’re feeling pressure from other people, and it’s impacting your life, there are a few techniques you can use to release the strain:
Realise it’s probably not about you
When people you care about put unrealistic expectations on you, it often has nothing to do with you at all and everything to do with something going on in your own life. Perhaps your dad feels as though he didn’t get opportunities in school and he doesn’t want you to make the same mistakes. Maybe your friend is struggling to please her own parents and so she competes with you as a way to make herself feel better. Your teacher or coach may be under pressure to lift grades or to look good in front of colleagues.
Knowing that something isn’t about you can make it easier to endure. However, that might not be enough to help you deal.
Confront them about their actions
The people who put pressure on your do it because they care about you. Sometimes they can’t see how their words and actions affect you – that’s why it’s important to tell them.
You don’t have to get into a screaming argument about it. Instead, take some time to carefully write down how their actions have impacted you. Try this formula, “When you do (action), it makes me feel (feeling).” For example, “When you get upset with me because I didn’t get an A, it makes me feel as if the only time I please you is when I make good grades.” Avoid absolutes – “You always do this!” because it deflects the conversation away from the point you’re trying to make.
If possible, present a plan of action for how to improve the relationship. Ask for what you need. Present it as a way to improve your performance. “What I really need is some quiet time for two hours in the evening to study. I’ll be working hard during that time. But outside of that, I’d like to relax and not think about schoolwork, so if would could avoid talking about exams over dinner, I’d really appreciate it.”
Impossible expectations and pressure can have a negative impact on your studies, sports, and social life – so find a way to manage the problem and help others to see how their behaviour might hurt you. You need to confront the problem or it will continue.
Research has shown that using affirmations to create positive thoughts about yourself can dramatically improve your body and mind. Here’s how to use affirmations in your life.
What are affirmations?
An affirmation is a positive statement you can repeat to yourself. By framing affirmations in the present tense, using positive words, and speaking as if the statement is a fact, you rewrite the language of your brain and adopt a positive outlook.
Affirmations can help you give up destructive behaviour, feel better about your life, find a way to deal with grief or loss, improve focus, and create healthy habits.
How to use affirmations
First, you need to find an affirmation that speaks to you. It needs to conform to the three key factors:
Then, you need to repeat this affirmation to yourself throughout the day. You might like to create a ritual of saying it to yourself every morning, or when you go to class. You could write it on the front page of your notebook or make it your phone’s screensaver. Some people like to combine touch with their affirmation – perhaps by tapping your hand, using EFT, or touching an area where you feel negative emotion.
Affirmations to try
Here are some affirmations you could try. You might also like to create your own based on the formula (present tense, positive words, stated as fact).
I am loving and loved.
It is easy for me to look in the mirror and say, “I love you.”
Today, I am overflowing with energy and joy.
I possess all the qualities I need to be successful.
I base my happiness on my own accomplishments and the blessings I’ve received.
I am courageous and I stand up for myself.
My efforts are supported by the universe.
My obstacles are moving out of my way.
My life is already a miracle of change and I’m shaping my destiny.
I love everything about my body.
My body is healthy and full of energy.
I find opportunities to be kind everywhere I look.
I am present in every moment.
People treat me with kindness and respect, because I deserve it.
I learn from my mistakes.
I never give up.
If you want the kind of deep, real friendships you read about in books or see on TV, then you’ve first got to learn how to be a good friend.
Be yourself. Don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not just because you think that will help you make friends. When you’re pretending, you feel uncomfortable and you make others feel uncomfortable. Friends respond to your realness and seek your unique take on the world.
Make time. Friendships develop over time, and the best friends know their time is a gift that they give to special people. Make sure you include your friend in your plans and make time for them amongst your other activities.
Be honest. Friendship thrives on honesty and withers on lies. Friends speak the truth to each other, even when it’s hard. Friends keep promises – when you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Notice. Your friend might pretend everything is fine when it’s not. Notice their moods, their actions, when they lash out or shrink into themselves. Be brave enough to confront your friend or to find help for them, even if they can’t or won’t help themselves.
Be loyal. Sometimes, your friend will screw up. Loyalty doesn’t mean following your friend even when they’re making bad decisions. It means that you accept they’re human and make mistakes, and that you are willing to work through conflict and be there for them when they need you.
Lift them up. Be the person in your friend’s life who makes them burst with confidence and good vibes. Show them you think they’re special, encourage them to do better and to pursue opportunities, and make them laugh when they’re sad.
Respect boundaries. You don’t have to be with your friend or in contact 24/7. The quality of your friendship isn’t measured by how much time you spend together. Some people need more space than others to recharge, so make sure you’re giving your friend the space they need.
Keep in touch. The best friendships endure long after you leave school, even if you’re in different cities or timezones. The internet makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with your friends. Use the tools you have available to stay in touch even when you’re far away.
Being a good friend takes work – but the rewards are more than worth the effort. Do you think you’re a good friend? What can you do today to make your friend’s life better?
The ASB Auckland Marathon on Sunday, 20 October 2019 is an annual Festival of Events with a range of distances so everyone can participate - including the ASB Marathon, Half Marathon, 11K Traverse, Heart Foundation 5K Challenge and the Kids Marathon.
The Full and Half Marathon events start in Devonport, goes over Auckland's Harbour Bridge and finishes at Victoria Park near the CBD.
With the event drawing closer, we thought it'd be useful to list 5 fantastic reasons why you should consider running the marathon this year.
Let's start with the most obvious reason. Training to run 21.1 km (half marathon) will increase your body's endurance and fitness. It'll help strengthen your heart, improve your blood circulation, keep your cholesterol at healthy rates and make your muscles stronger.
You'll also notice yourself getting better sleep as your body craves rest - it needs to repair itself. You'll find yourself sleeping a lot more soundly and heading to bed at earlier times.
FOR YOUR MIND
Research suggests that long runs allow better control of your mental fortitude as your mind develops a coping mechanism to deal with long distance running.
It'll reduce stress as you are able to step out and clear your head. It will keep you motivated, inspired and change the way you view the world; “the person who starts a marathon is not the same person who finishes a marathon.”
Once you have completed a marathon you'll forever know that you have the mental and physical strength to dig deep and persevere; qualities that will help you succeed with every day life.
MAKE NEW FRIENDS
The running community is amazingly supportive, welcoming and diverse. Once you make the commitment to participate in this year's marathon, reach out to your local running club. Many fellow marathon runners in and around your community welcome newcomers with open arms.
Training for a marathon with friends is always an easier way to stay motivated as well as build upon existing relationships. It's not hard to bond when you're running over 20 kms together!
Click here if you'd like to connect to one of New Zealand's many running community platforms.
FOR THE FUN
Apart from physical, mental and social benefits you'll gain from running, you can't forget about the amount fun you'll experience.
The ASB Marathon takes you on one of the most scenic routes to view the beautiful city of Tāmaki Makaurau. Maybe you'll see a part of the city you've never been to or scope out new local eateries you'd like to try out. Not to mention the the amazing sunrise you'll get to see when you begin your epic 20 km journey.
There is nothing more rewarding than accomplishing your goal and crossing that finish line. You will be a marathon finisher and will always be one - a lifetime of bragging rights that no one can ever take away from you.
As well as a sense of mental accomplishment, you'll also receive a physical reward - a shiny new medal! And if you train hard enough, the top 5 runners in each category will also win a cash prize.
FOR THE CAUSE
Running for something that's bigger than you is an amazing way to stay motivated to keep training, meet others to train with, and make your race even more meaningful.
Running for Youthline means directly supporting youth mental wellness in New Zealand. Support us to support young people, and save lives.
There are 55,000 steps in a marathon and a story behind every one of them.
Among the thousands taking part in this year’s gruelling ASB Auckland Marathon is a group of extraordinary people.
Miffy is just one of the awesome Youthline Marathon team, running for us again this year to make a difference for young people all around New Zealand.
“I was a young person who struggled in silence - it’s important for people and especially young people to know that Youthline exists and is there to help young people when they need it.”
“I really want to be the person that I needed when I was struggling and be that person I really needed in my life when I was struggling at that stage of my life, I want to be that for other young people and Youthline gives me the chance to do that,” Miffy says.
She knows first-hand the work that Youthline does every day in communities across NZ as she has been a counsellor on the Helpline, which operates 24/7 and is Youthline’s flagship service, since 2014. She now has 500 hours of solo counselling under her belt.
“I know how worthy the work that Youthline does in the community is, and I want to see that to continue and that’s why I’m running for Youthline this year. I’m taking part in the half marathon, which is 21km and that scares the crap out of me."
One of the challenging things about training has been getting going, she adds. “It’s challenging physically but I see it as a mental challenge and I enjoy overcoming mental challenges.”
Running is a time to focus on myself and she enjoys the ‘high’ that comes from doing physical activity. It’s a good thing for her physical health and wellbeing and has become part of her own self care plan, she adds. Running helps me to create the time and space she needs, to be able to do the emotional work she does every day on the Helpline.
Miffy’s favourite running track at the moment is Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, "it’s quite emotional and calming at the same time," she says.
"I have been involved with Youthline for a long time and one of my learnings has been about really connecting with myself and feeling strong in my convictions and about why I doing this and my hope is by sharing my story with my friends and family."
If Miffy had the chance, she would tell every young person one simple thing: “you’re never alone, even if it feels like you are, ask for help because there are so many people who are there and want to help and are able to support you.
If you'd like to support her run for #TeamYouthline, you can do so here.
A trip to Zambia was Lara Watson’s first foray into volunteering. She had just turned 18 and chose to defer university for a year to teach children in Zambia.
“I’d always wanted to do my bit to make the world a better place. I’m a Christian so serving others, helping people thrive and spreading love is a big part of my faith.”
She returned from Zambia and began studying psychology at Canterbury University. Having long aspired to be a buddy for Kidsline, she was excited to discover Youthline at the Student Volunteer Expo and for the last two years has been volunteering as a solo phone counsellor and mentor to new trainees.
“Lara throws herself into anything extra that’s going - staffing our outreach stalls, coming to every counselling skills extension training, developing training resources, and representing us at a Youth Workers hui”, says Youthline Central South Island Manager Trystan Swain.
Now 21, Lara’s dream is to one day become a Clinical Psychologist and she says Youthline is helping to pave that path.
“It’s a very competitive field to get into but Youthline has given me so much experience. It’s made me realise that I want it even more.”
That experience was tested on 15 March 2019 when two mosques in Christchurch came under terrorist attack during Friday prayer.
“I was booked in for a shift that night, and my trainee and I were the only volunteers rostered on across New Zealand. We cancelled our shift as we didn't feel safe going into the office across town, and were understandably emotional. I asked our centre manager to contact the other managers across NZ to try to rally up some volunteers from other cities, and in a matter of an hour or so the roster was full right up until we closed our regular service at midnight! It amazed me the level of support I felt from other Youthliners.”
Lara wants young people to know that that level of support is there for them too.
“We actually do want to talk to you and listen to you. It can seem a bit anonymous and weird calling into a helpline but we’re not robots, we’re people. I feel so honoured when someone tells me they haven’t told anyone else or share their stories and experiences that carry so much hurt. It’s so brave.”
One of the most rewarding moments of Lara’s Youthline career was making her first suicide intervention, not long after going solo.
“He said he wanted to be safe, but didn’t know how. He shared a lot of his emotions with me and revealed his plans to end his life. He called in with his husband so I just kept affirming that, that he really cared about his husband and his husband cared about him. We were able to make a new plan for them to drive to the nearest A&E. They were both so grateful to me for keeping him safe.”
Lara says Youthline has taught her how to listen.
“When you think about counselling you might think it’s someone telling you what to do and giving you advice. But being a good counsellor is actually just being alongside someone and listening to them. Not a wise guide, but a listener, a friend. This is something I’ve taken into my own relationships.”
If you'd like to volunteer with us, click here to get started!
Mac Jordan is a self-described altruist.
“My main interest in volunteering is that there is no ulterior motive. For me, it’s about providing value. The act in itself is rewarding enough. Stopping someone from ending their life is a very powerful thing to do.”
The 23 year old Psychology and Fine Arts Honours student has volunteered for Youthline Auckland Central for the last 2 and a half years. He recently joined the facilitator team and mentors every week, providing support and feedback for trainees on the helpline.
It’s been hugely rewarding to be able to strengthen others, provide support so they can grow, and deliver feedback in a way that further facilitates that growth.”
Mac says that growth is vital to meeting demand and providing excellent service.
“Youth suicide rates in New Zealand are absurd, particularly among Maori and Pasifika. Based on personal experience clients do seem to respond really well to us.”
But, he says, having enough volunteers is a constant challenge. Youthline and the volunteer sector in general need more people willing to put their hand up.
“The tricky thing about Mental Health is that it’s naturally uncomfortable. You’re constantly out of your comfort zone. It’s like being a firefighter sitting in your truck waiting for a fire. And it can make you feel anxious.”
And that’s why self care, and good mentoring is vital.
“We need to have enough volunteers, facilitators and mentors to ensure we continue to provide a good service. Volunteering for a Helpline can be intimidating, but the training process is extensive and the Youthline community are incredibly supportive. Youthline is an environment for growth and challenge is opportunity.”
If you'd like to volunteer with us, click here to get started!
Volunteering is in Marea Nicolle’s blood.
Her grandparents volunteered for Lifeline in Invercargill in the 1980s and her parents, both teachers, regularly cared for foster children alongside three of their own.
The 37 year old learning and development coach has been volunteering for Youthline since she was 21, and is Youthline Wellington’s longest serving Group Supervisor.
“I’d heard great things about the organisation and was passionate about supporting young people and making a difference. I felt like there was something missing in my life. I wanted to be part of a community.”
And Marea says that’s exactly what Youthline is.
“When I was quite sick 5 years ago, and when I had my baby, the most supportive people alongside my family were Youthline volunteers. It’s been such a big part of my life, I hate the thought of ever leaving! I love it and get so much out of it, the personal connections as well as the great training and support. I think that’s why I’ve stayed for so long. I love supporting others and I love my supervision sessions, learning from other people and hearing other perspectives. The volunteers are amazing people, they have so much going on in their lives, but still make time to help other people.”
She says Youthline gives her a higher purpose.
“Supporting our youth is so important, I really believe in what we do. It’s about being a listening ear, being able to point people in the right direction with referrals, being supportive and reassuring.
Marea has seen a lot change in 16 years.
“From when I first started to now, the issues have really changed. Anxiety and mental health come up a lot more and there’s a lot more risk assessment and checking. It wasn’t so prevalent back then. Mental health wasn’t so out there.
“I think the internet has really changed things. For example, before internet and cell phones, kids could get away from bullying but now it’s around them all the time.
So it can be nice to talk to someone who doesn’t know you, can’t see you, to have that anonymous side. And Youthline is really working. It’s a great place for young people to turn to if they don’t have other avenues or even if they do. It doesn’t have to be a major issue, they can ring us no matter what, nothing is too small.”
If you'd like to volunteer with us, click here to get started!