Everyone feels stressed at times, and a little bit of stress can actually be good for us and, in small doses, it can help to improve performance. But when too much stress stops you enjoying your life as you should, it might be time to give yourself some help.
When and why?
- First, you need to find out when you’re too stressed. Everyone is different, so everyone copes with stress at different levels and reacts in different ways. Try to work out how you act and feel when the stress is too much for you to cope with.
- Second, why are you stressed? Write down the things that are causing you problems – the big stuff (exams, homework, friendships), and don’t forget the little stuff, too (chores, etc). Stress piles up, so big and little things can cause you to feel overwhelmed.
- Are changes happening? Change forces you to deal with new situations, and that can pile on the pressure. Is your course changing? Family or relationship changes? Are you applying for universities, or working out where to go for a gap-year? And remember, your body is experiencing changes too, as you are growing up, which may make you moody or tired.
Here’s what to do. Once you’ve worked out when and why you’re stressed, here are our top stress-busting tips to help you cope:
- Start with the basics. Eat properly, drink properly, exercise properly, and rest properly. There’s a reason why these are the basics. When these things are in place and you’re on top of them, it’ll do wonders for your mind. Eat fruit and vegetables. Get enough exercise on a regular basis. Get to bed on time. And on that note, turn your phone off at night. Screen time is one of the biggest issues for getting to sleep as the light from your screen mimics sunlight causing your brain to be alert and not preparing for sleep. So when lights go out, make sure it’s lights out for your screens too. And another thing: Avoid too much caffeine. We’ve all done it – a quick coffee, coke or energy drink to push through late night revising or homework. But the reality is, the short term gains of that extra little boost are far outweighed by the long term drawbacks of caffeine and sugar rushes. Limit it to less than three cups (coffee, tea, energy drinks, coke) a day and don’t have them late at night.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Prioritise what is really important. Make a list of the things you have on your plate and then decide on the top three. Review this every day and change things around depending on what you need to achieve. Look at the big picture – worries today may not matter tomorrow, next week, next month. Your future goals might be high on your priority list, but you’re not going to win the Nobel Prize overnight. So break it down into realistic bite-sized chunks. This has been referred to as the ‘elephant problem’. You could never eat an elephant in one go. You break the elephant into small chunks and then eat one at a time. The stress of trying to eat an elephant all at once would be too much for anyone. But everyone can manage a bite at a time. If the Nobel Prize is your goal, a bite-sized chunk might be to hand in your homework or finish your prep.
- A problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t cut yourself off from other people. It’s frightening to admit when things aren’t going the way you would like and you need some help. But getting support from others is key to dealing with stress. Talk with your friends, parents, or house staff or teachers. They’ll be able to help you – chances they have been through similar things – and even if they haven’t, it will be a good outlet for you to offload your worries.
- What if this isn’t enough? Sometimes, feeling stressed can be too overwhelming and these tips might not be enough. At these times, it can be helpful to have some extra help from a therapist specialised in helping people manage their feelings. The tips here are based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques and a few sessions may be all you need to get back on track. For more information, see cbtnetworks.com/young-people or contact us on 01608 737614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.