Let’s discuss stress. This is a word that we hear so often - daily, even several times a day for that matter - almost to the point where people are becoming desensitized to its meaning and effects. Stress comes in many forms. It can be physical, psychological, or both and is an internal response to stressors such as external circumstances or stimuli. In summary, stress acts as a response to different physical and emotional demands on the body.
What do we know about stress? Well according to the American Institute of Stress:
• About 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress
• 77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health
• 73 percent of people have stress that impacts their mental health
• 48 percent of people have trouble sleeping because of stress
According to The Global Organization for Stress:
• 75 percent of Americans experienced moderate to high stress levels in the past month
• Stress is the number one health concern of high school students
• 80 percent of people feel stress at work
No one is necessarily protected from the ability to feel stress but there are certain groups of people who experience particularly high rates of stress compared to others. Typically, those people are ethnic minorities, women, single parents, students, and those living with chronic health conditions. You can sometimes sense when a person is under a lot of stress particularly when there are physical manifestations of stress being reported or observed such as perspiration, rapid heartbeat, and headaches to name a few. Being overly stressed can also interfere with parts of the endocrine system, releasing excess Cortisol, a stress hormone. Too much stress can also weaken the immune system and in times like these, with the current events surrounding us, it is important that we protect our immune system as well as our mental health while we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times. Being overly stressed can result in increased anxiety and depression. Depending on the severity of the trauma causing the stress, whether or not the stress Is chronic or acute, can also make a difference in how extreme these effects are felt. PTSD and other personality disorders can be a serious psychological response to those more serious cases
Chronic stress has been shown to affect physical health in a negative way. The effects of stress can lead to the development of poor coping skills such as addiction to substances, and substance abuse over time. Stress can lead to heart disease, raise blood sugar levels leading to type 2 Diabetes, it can raise blood pressure leading to hypertension, and it can create or worsen stomach ulcers just to name a few.
It may be hard to imagine, but not all stress is considered bad. Eustress, also referred to as “Good stress” is something we experience when we are excited about something such as planning for a first date, preparing for a presentation or performance, or when you are riding on an amusement park ride. Eustress is a short-term and can be highly motivating and allow you to focus on and enhance your efforts towards an activity.
As adolescents go through the many ups and downs of growing up, stress is likely to be encountered. From social media, bullying, life during and post pandemic, social and world events, the inevitable hormonal changes that accompany puberty and figuring out how to navigate through high school and all of the academic expectations including where to go to college – we can not underestimate the amount of stress that they are under. For students in particular, they are dealing with homework, deadlines, managing extracurricular activities, friendships, and sometimes part time jobs, all while trying to maintain good grades and a social life. The good news is that there are ways for students to manage and improve their coping skills to help them through times of stress. Below are a few of the most beneficial stress reduction techniques that can be implemented by adolescents and adults alike and can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with everyday life.
Stress, while uncomfortable, may be inevitable but can still be quite manageable and with the many resources available, and the research being done on stress reduction, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills needed in order to take on life challenges. Stress may come from things that are within or outside of our control, but what is important to focus on is the control we have over how we handle these circumstances and doing so to the best of our ability.
For more information about stress and how to manage stress, please visit the following resources: