Stress: Everyone has it. Whether the person in question is a teenager, a young adult, a middle-aged adult, or a senior citizen, there will always be stressful and overwhelming situations that come up in life. Some stress is the everyday, mild variety: household chores, work, driving, scheduling appointments, family obligations, the weather, misbehaving pets, and so on. Other stress is acute and severe, such as a hospital stay, a loss in the family, a car accident, or losing a job. No one can eliminate stress entirely; however, there are coping mechanisms that we can use to reduce stress as much as possible. If you or your teen has been experiencing high amounts of stress recently, take a look at this list of 5 coping mechanisms to reduce stress and enjoy life.
1. Avoid Unnecessary Stress
If you are dealing with a lot of stress, it could be because you are too busy or are taking on things that you personally don’t need to be the one to handle. One way to reduce stress is to take a look at your schedule and determine whether there are activities that you don’t need to be doing.
For example, while your teen does have to attend school and strive to get good grades, if he or she is taking all AP classes, it might be too much work. Maybe one of the classes can be dropped down to the regular college prep level. Or perhaps a busy sports schedule can be pared down. Some families make a rule where each child is allowed to do one sport or activity at a time. If your family is particularly busy, especially if you are playing chauffeur to several kids, it might be worth considering this type of policy.
This strategy can be effective for other situations, too. If you are spending too much time in the car, take a look at your errands and see where you can consolidate trips. You might be able to talk to your boss about working from home one or more days per week. If you spend too much time on housework, talking to your family about them taking on more responsibility can reduce your stress level. Also, if you are feeling stressed, remember to say no when asked to take on additional obligations.
2. Accept What You Cannot Change, But Make a Plan
Of course, there will be some situations that you simply cannot change. If life circumstances dictate that you need to work extra hours right now or if you have a child in the hospital, things are going to be stressful. Even if you can’t reduce stress in these situations, just accepting that this is the way things are right now can help. Don’t fight against the stress; try to simply accept that you cannot change it at the moment.
That being said, it’s important to look at your long-term plan for mitigating the extra stress. Some situations are short-term and the best strategy is just to muddle through for the days or weeks that it’s an issue. Other circumstances will last longer; if this is the case, having a plan for getting used to the “new normal” while also looking ahead to the time when things get easier can help you deal with the current reality.
3. Add Exercise to Your Day
Studies show that exercise can go a long way toward alleviating stress, anxiety, and depression. When you’re stressed out, it can seem difficult to take the time to work out, but if you do, you’ll reap the benefits. Exercise combats stress in the following ways:
- makes it easier to sleep
- improves your physical health
- releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones
How can you or your teen get the exercise needed to help keep stress levels at a moderate level? If you have time for a gym workout and you enjoy it, then do that. If not, though, there are many ways to enjoy physical movement without sacrificing an hour or more per day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that adults should get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, five days per week. You can break this up into 10-minute segments if needed. Try going for a quick walk before breakfast, while on your lunch break, and again after dinner. Or try signing up for a zumba or ballroom dance class, playing tennis at the local park, or taking your kids roller skating. Find a way to have fun with it.
4. Try Relaxation Techniques and Activities
Another way to reduce stress is to learn about various relaxation techniques. Many people find that meditation and yoga are good ways to alleviate stress. Other possibilities include:
- progressive muscle relaxation
- spending time in nature
- taking a hot bubble bath
- watching a funny movie
Whichever relaxing activity you enjoy, try to make some time each day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Knowing that you will have time to decompress later can make it easier to get through the stressful parts of your day.
5. Connect With Others
Getting connected with others and developing relationships is a great way to build up support that will help you get through the stressful times in your life. If you already have a support system of friends and family members, don’t be afraid to reach out to them for help if you are going through an overwhelming situation. If you don’t, find ways to get yourself involved with your community. Join an organization such as a political club, a sports team, a church, or a community association. If you have time, you could also try volunteering; you’ll not only be helping others, but you will also probably meet people who might become friends.
Handling stress is something that teens and adults alike need to learn how to do. If you or your teen is struggling with being able to reduce stress even after attempting these five comping mechanisms, find a counselor or therapist. They will be able to teach you new ways of relieving stress and overcoming anxieties. Finally, be aware of the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression; if your stress seems to be leading you toward developing a mental health condition, seek help sooner rather than later.