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My Personal Stress Plan

Creating Your Personal Stress Relieving Plan | A Teen's Guide to Managing Stress

Stress Management

Creating Your Personal Stress Reduction Plan

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 Problem

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 healthier.
  • 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 endless.
  • 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 the beach.

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 to sleep.
  • 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 relaxing place.

  • 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 goes down.)
  • 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 a time:

  • 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 helpful.
  • 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.

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