Following is a nine-point plan to help you manage stress. All of these
ideas can lower stress without doing any harm. None of these are quick fixes,
but they will lead you toward a healthy and successful life. The plan is
divided into four parts:
When you read over the plan, you will notice that you can come up with
a bunch of ideas for each point. Please do not think you should try them
all. This plan is supposed to help you manage stress, not give you more.
Try out some ideas and then stick to one or two ideas for each point.
You might notice that this plan is almost like building a college or
work résumé. This is the same way to build a résumé; you are doing it to
manage your life, to remain happy and prepared for success - not to cram
in as many activities as possible to impress someone else. It will assure
you are healthy and balanced, and that is very attractive to colleges and
employers. But choose those things that are right for you.
Part One: Tackling the
Point 1: Figure out what the problem is and make it manageable
- Many people cope by ignoring problems. This does not make them go
away; usually they just get worse.
- People who cope by trying to fix problems tend to be emotionally
- When it comes to work (studying, chores, extracurricular activities),
the best way to enjoy yourself is to get the work done first. Because
work or studying produces stress, many people put it off and choose
to do fun things first. But the problem is they are having less fun
because they are worrying about the work they are ignoring. And, of
course, the longer they put it off, the more they worry. The cycle is
- Fights with parents and friends don't go away unless you deal with
what upset you in the first place, or unless everyone apologizes and
decides to forgive each other.
Two ideas can help you manage a lot of work:
- Break the work into small pieces. Then do one small piece at a time,
rather than look at the whole huge mess. As you finish each piece, the
work becomes less overwhelming.
- Make lists of what you need to do. This will help you sleep because
your head won't spin with worry about whether you can do everything.
At the end of the day, you will have less to worry about as you check
off the things you have finished. You look at the same huge amount of
work and say to yourself "I can do this!"
Point 2: Avoid things that bring you down
Sometimes we know exactly when we are headed for trouble. Avoiding trouble
from a distance is easier then avoiding it up close. You know the people
who might be a bad influence on you. You know the places where you are likely
to get in trouble, and you know the things that upset you. Choose not to
be around those people, places, and things that mess you up.
Part Two: Taking Care of My Body
Point 3: Exercise
When you are stressed, your body is saying RUN!!...so do it. Exercise every
day to control stress and build a strong, healthy body. Exercise is the
most important part of a plan to manage stress. You may think you don't
have time to exercise when you are most stressed, but that is exactly when
you need it the most. If you are stressed about an assignment, but too nervous
to sit down and study...exercise! You will be able to think better after you
have used up those stress hormones.
Point 4: Learn to Relax Your Body
You can fool your body into thinking you are relaxed. Remember that your
body can only use the relaxed nervous system or the emergency system at
any one time. Turn on the relaxed system! You do this by doing the opposite
of what your body does when it is stressed. Here are two ideas:
- Breathe deeply and slowly. Of all the things your body does to prepare
you to run, breathing is the easiest thing to change. Slow, deep breathing
turns on the relaxed system. Take a big deep breath until your chest
and your belly feel full of air. Then let it out slowly. Do this ten
times and you will feel much more relaxed. Yoga and meditation also
teach great breathing skills.
- Put your body in a relaxed position.
- Your body knows when you are nervous. If you sit down to take a
test and your legs are shaking, you are saying, "I want to run!" Remember,
you can't concentrate and run at the same time, so you are making it
harder to take the test. Instead, take deep breaths and lean back, tell
your body there is no emergency.
- When you are angry, the natural thing to do is stand up and face
someone shoulder-to-shoulder, chest-to-chest. You do this without even
thinking, but this tells the other person that you're angry and ready
to fight. It also may prevent you from thinking clearly. Do the opposite
of what you would do if you were really going to fight-sit down, take
deep slow breaths, and tell your body there is no danger. Then use your
brain to get out of the situation.
- Visualization - Think of a peaceful setting. An example would be
Point 5: Eat Well
Everyone knows good nutrition makes you healthier. But only some people
realize that it also keeps you alert through the day and keeps your mood
steady. People who eat mostly junk food have highs and lows in their energy
level, which harms their ability to manage stress.
Point 6: Sleep Well
Most kids don't get the sleep they need to grow and think clearly. Tired
people can't learn as well and can be much crankier. Here are some ideas
to improve your sleep.
- Go to sleep about the same time every night.
- Exercise four to six hours before bedtime. Your body falls asleep
most easily when it has cooled down. If you exercise right before bed,
you will be over heated and won't sleep well. A hot shower one hour
before bedtime also helps your body relax to fall asleep.
- Use your bed only to sleep.
- Don't solve your problems in bed. When you think about all the things
that bother you, you have trouble falling asleep and wake up in the
middle of the night to worry more. Instead, have another spot to think
- like a "worry chair." Give yourself plenty of time to think things
through, make a list if you need to, and then set it aside! Go to bed
- Don't do homework, watch TV, read, or use the phone while in bed.
Part Three: Managing My Emotions
Point 7: Take Instant Vacations
Sometimes the best way to de-stress is to take your mind away to a more
- Visualize. Have a favorite place where you can imagine yourself
relaxing. The place should be beautiful and calm. When you're stressed,
sit down, lean back, take deep breaths, close your eyes, and imagine
yourself in your calm place.
- Take time out for yourself. Everyone deserves time for himself or
herself: A walk, a bath, something special every day. Time to think.
(Try a warm bath with your ears just under water; listen to yourself
take deep, slow breaths. Take your pulse and count as your heart rate
- Enjoy hobbies or creative art as an instant vacation.
- Look at the beauty around you and get pleasure from the small things
you may have stopped noticing.
- Reading a good book is an escape from reality. You have to imagine
the sights, sounds, and smells - you are somewhere else for a while.
Point 8: Releasing Emotions
Sometimes feelings become so overwhelming that we cram them all away
in an imaginary box and think we will deal with them later. But later, there's
so much stuff in the box that there is too much to deal with. This can make
your head feel as if it is spinning. Sometimes you get angry or frustrated
without even knowing why; you just know there is too much stuff going on
in your head. It is good to just pick one problem to work on and forget
the rest for the moment. When we decide to deal with only one problem at
a time, it is much less scary to open up the box.
Here are some ideas to release your thoughts or worries one at
- Creativity. People who express themselves do not
need to hold it inside. Creative outlets like art, music, poetry, singing,
dance, and rap are powerful ways to let your feelings out.
- Talking. Every young person deserves a responsible
adult to talk to and some friends to trust. Hopefully, you can talk
to your parents. But if you do not want to tell your parents everything,
make sure to find an adult you can get advice from.
- Journaling. Write it out!
- Prayer. Many young people find prayer or meditation
- Laughing or Crying. Give yourself permission to
feel your emotions fully.
Part Four: Making the World Better
Point 9: Making the World a Better Place
Young people who work to make the world better have a sense of purpose,
feel good about themselves, and handle their own problems better. It's important
to understand that you really can make a difference in other people's lives.
The role of teenagers is to recognize the mistakes adults have made and
build a better world.