Teens: Tired, Stressed, and Panicked

Chimalli H., Reporter

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We’ve all thought about shaving our hair off like 2007 Britney Spears at some point or another. Fighting stress is a daily battle for all of us, but in doing so we put our physical and mental health in danger. But with the encroaching end of the school year, fears about the future, deciding what college we’re going to sign away our careers to, AP tests, and dreaded finals, it feels that we are in a constant state of stress. To help relieve some of the negative effects of stress, here are a few tips to relieve stress and even prevent it.

Teenagers are often subjected to a wide variety of stressors, ranging from social scrutiny, academics, part time jobs, coping with unrealistic expectations, maintaining a healthy social life, and even something as seemingly trivial as getting enough sleep. These chronic stressors begin to take a toll on the body physically and mentally. The New York University conducted a study on ‘a multi-method exploratory study of stress, coping, and substance use among high school youth in private schools’ and found that the private schools studied struggled with “Nearly half (49%) of all students… feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis…” and “A substantial minority of participants (26%) reported symptoms of depression at a clinically significant level…”. This shines a light on the glaring problem of chronic and severe stress that our youth face on a day-to-day basis.

However, despite the negativity surrounding the word ‘stress,’ it can often serve as motivation. This is often due to an increase attention to a specific stimulus that in return, leads to stress. A notorious example of this is the panic we feel as we study for a final.

Though, like everything in life, mastering stress requires practice and balance. Results of intense, persistent feelings of stress lead to social withdrawal, academic decline, and increased susceptibility to mental illness, such as depression. The greater the stress, the greater your cortisol – a hormone released in response to stress – levels increase, which can weaken the immune system, lead to weight gain, and increase the risk of stomach ulcers. These are very common forms of negative stress, however there are forms of positive stress.

Positive stress, known as eustress, gives one a sense of fulfillment and can even be healthy. Eustress is simply stress that is perceived as a positive challenge. It can arise from physical exercise, acquiring new skills, networking, and even performing. The eustress caused by these experiences are beneficial and often lead to growth in character.

Even more important is our coping mechanisms to deal with our stress. One of the most notorious coping mechanisms is substance abuse. Such substances can vary from abusing prescription pills, using marijuana, resorting to alcohol, and smoking cigarettes, but they all share an underlying common goal: to lower stress levels.

In a study conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, researchers connected that adolescents dealing with intense amounts of stress were twice as likely to use substances in comparison to lower stress students. These drugs used at such an early age can alter the serotonin, GABA, and dopamine receptors which can lead to susceptibility of mental illness in the future, possible brain damage, and regrettable decisions. Some positive and less harmful coping mechanisms can consist of: routine exercise, problem-solving focused coping, meditation, listening to music, going on drives, sleeping, eating well-balanced meals, talking to a therapist, and even medication. Though many people often complain about not having a enough time, or they are too busy, or they just do not want to, even a simple 10-minute walk can offer strong, positive stress relief that many may not expect.

Stress is an inevitable part of daily life, but it is manageable. Chronic stress runs rampant throughout our society and has detrimental effects on our body. However, there are a multitude of ways to deal with it; from daily exercise to even going on a drive, there are many ways to cope with it, it is just a matter of finding it!

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Teens: Tired, Stressed, and Panicked