Stress

Resources for students on recognizing and managing stress.

Believe it or not, some stress can be good for you. Stress called eustress helps your body pay attention to tasks and makes sure you are performing at your best. 

Most people think of distress when saying "I'm so stressed out".

Distress is a negative emotion that occurs when someone is overburdened or overwhelmed. This type of stress actually makes it difficult to be productive. 

Stress looks different for everyone. It may be a headache or sweaty palms. It may be bursting into tears for no reason or having difficulty concentrating.

Of course, these are just symptoms of stress. Other symptoms include those listed below:

It is often helpful to figure out what triggers your stress. These are called stressors. It isn't always easy to figure out the real sources of stress in your life. One way to help you identify your stressors is to keep a stress journal.

Keep a Stress Journal

Each time you experience stress, write it down in your journal. Items to include in journal entries include:

  • What made you stress out? (Even if you're not sure, make a guess)
  • How did you feel? (Use the symptoms listed above to help you)
  • How did you respond to the stress?
  • What did you do to make yourself feel better?

Over time, patterns will begin to emerge. Discovering these patterns will help you figure out what stresses you out and what to do about it.

Some short term stress relievers can have longer term consequences. Many of the coping strategies below can cause more damage in the long run:

  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Procrastinating
  • Overscheduling the day to avoid facing problems
  • Lashing out at others (angry outbursts, physical violence)

Eat well

Find balance

  • Sure, school is important, but so is your family, and so are you. Be sure to make time during the week to do the things YOU enjoy. Set aside time for work and time for play.

Get enough sleep

  • Teens should be getting 9 hours of sleep every night. With sports, activities, homework, family, and friends, it can be hard to get all 9 hours in. Keeping devices out of bed at night, and not drinking caffeine in the afternoon can help.

Move your body

  • Exercise is proven to have its benefits. It boosts energy, increases concentration, and strengthens your heart. It also helps you produce natural pain and stress relievers--endorphins. So find a physical activity you enjoy (biking, dancing, yoga, soccer) and build it into your routine.

Calm your mind

Alter your thinking

  • Is the glass half full or half empty? Your attitude influences the way you see things, and when things are stressful, a bit of optimism can go a long way. 

Talk it through

  • You don't have to tackle your stress all by yourself. Talk with a parent, teacher, advisor, or other trusted adult. They may be able to help with new stress busters. Or they may help put you in touch with a trained counselor who can work with you to manage stress and make healthy choices.
It may sound backwards, but the more work you have to do, the more important it is to balance your life. The key is to break tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and plan times for breaks where you can do things you enjoy. And don't forget to reward yourself when you reach a goal.

 

If you can't get your stress under control, your body can become really sick. So, take good care of yourself and seek help with you need it.

Explore other guides in this series

Useful starting points