“I’m so stressed out! How can I manage it?” Helping teens work through stress


By Kara Witthuhn
School-Based Counselor

“I’m so stressed out! How can I manage it?”

When we talk about stress, we often refer to it as negative. However, in many situations, stress is a good thing.

  • Stress prompts the body to power up extra resources.
  • Stress activates chemical responses that enable focus, strength, stamina, speed, alertness, and boosts memory.
  • Stress gives us an energy upgrade to respond to the task at hand and pushes us to step out of our comfort zone into opportunities to learn and grow.

God made us with the ability to endure and manage stress – even benefit from it. The Bible tells us that positive stress is a blessing: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (James 1:2).

Anyone who has experienced stress (most of us) knows what it can do to our mood and how it feels in our bodies. And each individual’s response to stress varies greatly. The same stressor can be viewed as manageable for one person and overwhelming for another, depending on a person’s perception of stress.

Stress is most manageable when it can be seen as temporary and necessary to spur action. Stress is much less harmful if you believe that you have control over it and can develop a plan to work through it.

Here are a few stress management tips provided by TherapistAid.com. These are tips I share with those teens who come to me with stress-related concerns.

1. Keep in mind that stress isn’t a bad thing.
Stress motivates us to work toward solving our problems. Reframing thoughts to view stress as an acceptable emotion, or as a tool, has been found to reduce many of the negative symptoms associated with it. The goal is to manage stress, not to eliminate it.

2. Talk about your problems, even if they won’t be solved.
Talking about your stressors—even if you don’t solve them—releases hormones in your body that reduce the negative feelings associated with stress. Time spent talking with friends and loved ones is valuable, even when you have a lot on your plate. 

3. Prioritize your responsibilities.
Focus on completing quick tasks first. Having too many “to-dos” can be stressful, even if none of them are very big. Quickly knocking out the small tasks will clear up your mind to focus on larger responsibilities.

4. Focus on the basics.
Stress can start a harmful cycle where basic needs are neglected, which leads to more stress. Make a point to focus on your basic needs, such as eating well, keeping a healthy sleep schedule, exercising, and other forms of self-care.

5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
People who are overinvolved in one aspect of their life often struggle to deal with stress when that area is threatened. Balance your time and energy between several areas, such as your career, family, friendships, and personal hobbies.

6. Set aside time for yourself.
Personal time usually gets moved to the bottom of the list when things get hectic. However, when personal time is neglected, everything else tends to suffer. Set aside time to relax and have fun every day, without interruptions.

7. Keep things in perspective.
In the heat of the moment, little problems can feel bigger than they are. Take a step back, and think about how important your stressors are in a broader context. Will they matter in a week? In a year? Writing about your stressors will help you develop a healthier perspective.

Every stressor varies in length and severity. By framing stress, keeping it in perspective, and following some of this advice, you can manage it for good. As you do so, be encouraged that God is using our trials and stressors to work all thing out for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

While temporary bouts of stress are normal and necessary, excessive stress can be destructive and have a major impact on day-to-day functioning and physical health. If your stress is frequent, begins to interfere with your ability to concentrate, impedes your sleep, causes physical symptoms such as frequent stomach issues or headaches, or you feel paralyzed or overwhelmed in developing a plan to overcome your stressors, seek out extra support.


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