When you start feeling like you’re under a lot
of pressure, your body starts reacting differently. While you may not
immediately realize what’s going on, signs of stress are beginning to take
over. Stress affects people of all ages, but the signs and symptoms often
change with time. Although stress is a natural reaction in life, handling
stress may become more challenging as people get older.
People from different stages in life deal with
stress in various ways. Stress in young people does not often look like stress
in adults. They may find it difficult to express how they feel, and the stress
manifests into short tempers and bad moods. Teens and adolescents cope with it
differently. Their stress levels are higher, mostly stemming from factors
outside their homes.
In the age of social media, where
picture-perfect lives abound, teenagers have complained about feeling bad about
themselves. They see unrealistic beauty standards and social media influencers
seeming like they’re having the time of their lives, wreaking havoc on their
self-esteem and leading them to question their mundane existence or feel
intense pressure to keep up.
To compound the problem, some adults tend to
dismiss the stress experienced by children and teenagers. The latter do not get
enough recognition and support for the hard times they are going through. This
results in poor stress management in young people. When they fail to address
high stress levels in young people, the stress can balloon into something
bigger. It might even lead to serious problems like depression, anxiety, and
even substance abuse.
What Is Stress?
Stress happens when one cannot cope with
specific demands and events around them. There might be strains from
relationships, peer pressure, and school responsibilities that can take their
toll on a young person. It is only natural to react and feel that way. However,
it can become a chronic condition if left unmanaged.
Coined by Hans Selye in 1936,the term stress was
defined by Selye as the “non-specific response of the body to any demand for
change.” During numerous experiments where laboratory animals were
subjected to different physical and emotional stimuli, the results showed how
the test subjects exhibited the same pathologic changes in the form of stomach
ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue, and enlargement of the adrenals.
According to Selye, persistent stress could cause diseases similar to those
seen in humans. This includes heart attacks, kidney disease, and stroke.
While Selye’s theory attracted significant
interest, the word stress later evolved and took on a
new meaning. People used it to refer to various circumstances, like a
particularly bad boss or other unpleasant situations or experiences.
Since stress was generally considered to mean
the same thing as distress, the word took on a negative meaning. Its positive
effects were largely ignored.
Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal at TED
highlighted a huge piece of research conducted by the University of
Wisconsin-Madison that shocked many people. The way one views stress can impact
their health more than the stress one actually feels. The research
gathered data from 29,000 people for over eight years.
Stress can be considered a positive or a
negative force. On the one hand, it can motivate one to perform well, making it
an essential part of survival. If you think that stress is good for you, then
it can energize and challenge you to get moving. On the other, if you believe
that stress is always bad for you, your mindset will alter, and it will turn
out the way you think.
Positive stress is called eustress, and it comes from feelings of
excitement when faced with a fun challenge. Negative stress is also known as
distress. When someone is in distress, they need assistance to cope with the
situation and achieve a healthy state of mind. There are times when a situation
can have elements of good and bad stress.
Long-term stress can have multiple adverse
effects. Memory loss, signs of aging, weight gain, and changes in how you deal
with people can be directly tied to stress. Studies have shown that heart attacks,
strokes, anxiety, and depression are just some of the ways the body
While stress can be harmful to the body, there
are times when stress can be good for you. The key is to know the difference, according to Summa
Health. Good stress helps you focus and inspires and motivates you to do
better. You feel this when you run in a relay race, participate in a debate
competition, or ride a rollercoaster. While stressful, the situation excites
you more than it distresses you.
On the other hand, bad stress can be draining.
It can leave you confused, angry, sick, and unable to concentrate and function
normally. If not treated or unmanaged, it can be detrimental to your overall
well-being. Bad stress can cause other effects like weight gain, insomnia, and
anxiety. Stress management is important, but eliminating or addressing the
cause of bad stress, which is called the stressor, is the permanent
According to the CSHS, the former includes
stressors that put undue or overwhelming burden on the body, such as hunger,
sickness, pain, injuries, and extreme temperatures. The latter include “events,
situations, individuals, comments, or anything we interpret as negative or
threatening.” One example is the death of a family member, friend, or pet. For
students, receiving a bad grade or struggling to understand lessons can be
stress -This results from
interacting with people present in everyday life.
stress - This stress is inward, affecting the mind and
body. This includes anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and financial worries.
·Performance-based - Stress stems from professional or academic
endeavors. This includes issues on the job or stress from teachers because of
·Environmental - This stems from what is going on in your surroundings.
This includes moving to a new place, items that need to be fixed at home, and
family members constantly arguing.
Stress symptoms usually appear when there are
underlying stressors present.
The resulting aftereffects manifest physically
or emotionally. If you are starting a new job or getting married, these events
may make you feel certain levels of stress, but it’s mostly positive stress.
The holidays can be stressful, but being around family and friends elicits
mostly joy and satisfaction.
Conversely, the loss of a loved one,
relationship troubles, or financial distress can cause severe stress that
manifests in different ways. The Cleveland Clinic cites the following
·Aches and pains
·Chest pain or a
feeling like your heart is racing
·Exhaustion or trouble
·High blood pressure
·Muscle tension or jaw
·Stomach or digestive
·Trouble having sex
·Weak immune system
Other signs of physical stress include hair
loss, excessive sweating, weird dreams, and insatiable thirst. The Cleveland
Clinic also enumerates the following emotional and mental symptoms of stress:
It is not uncommon for someone dealing with
stress to develop unhealthy habits, like overeating, drinking, gambling, or
Stress symptoms differ in children and teens.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration
(SAMHSA), children ages 6 to 11 may become aggressive, want to stay
home all the time, have trouble concentrating, compete for more attention at
home and in school, and avoid their friends and peers.
Teens aged 12 to 18 may have more physical
complaints. Other warning signs of distress can also include resisting
authority, withdrawal from family and friends, being disruptive, and risqué
Stress Facts, Statistics, and Trends
The number of kids diagnosed with anxiety and
depression rose between 2016 and 2020, according to a study by the US Health
Resources and Services Administration, as shared in an article in Education Week. Within those
five years, the number of children diagnosed with depression rose by 27%, while
anxiety diagnosis in kids grew by 29%.
Teenage stress is exceptionally high, with US
teens rating their stress levels as 5.8 out of 10, shares a report at Research.com. About 75% of high
school students indicate they often feel stressed by schoolwork. These students
also reported experiencing stress, fear, anger, or sadness while in school.
Between the pandemic, shifts in the economy, and
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stress levels among adults are very high.
In a recent survey from the APA, respondents
report their top sources of stress:
·87% for rising costs
of food, energy, and gas
·81% for supply chain
issues and global uncertainty
·80% for possible cyber
or nuclear attacks by Russia and the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Common Reactions to Stress
Many challenges in society have caused a great
deal of stress across all age groups. These challenges and situations can make
it seem like there is no solution to all the issues going on. Social and
physical distancing at the height of the pandemic was difficult for many people
as it placed them in isolation without physical interaction with others.
For children and teens, having connections
with their friends and being in social settings are essential for their
development and well-being, which is why many struggled during the pandemic. By
taking those liberties away, many students found themselves frustrated and
lonely having to sit behind a computer screen.
·Feelings of fear,
shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
·Changes in appetite,
energy, desires, and interests
·Difficulty sleeping or
nightmares, concentrating, and making decisions
such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
·Worsening of chronic
·Worsening of mental
·Increased use of
tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
The rising cost of commodities, gun violence,
racism, conflicts in different parts of the world, climate change, and global
insecurity are causing collective stress to populations. Many people have extra
layers of stress from past or recent traumatic experiences.
Stress and Co-Occurring Health Conditions
Stress can negatively affect the body and mind
in many ways. For some, dealing with stress is not the only concern.
Co-occurring disorders, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major
depressive disorders, and mood disorders like anxiety, can add to the level of
risk experienced when under stress.
Is it stress or anxiety? How can you tell the
Some similarities and differences indicate
whether a reaction is stress-based or anxiety-based. Both are emotional in
response, but there is usually something external causing the trigger when
dealing with stress.
The anxiety can last for months in anxiety
disorders, and the levels can be more severe, says the American Psychological
Association. The symptoms are persistent and can be accompanied by
hyperventilation and chest pains to the point of needing to seek medical
attention. It can be challenging to fully diagnose the initial symptoms of
anxiety, as they are almost identical to symptoms of stress. According to the
National Institute of Mental Health, 31% of American adults have experienced
an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
There are different types of anxiety
disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social
anxiety. These disorders have different treatments and approaches, including
medication, psychotherapy, or both. Exposure therapy has also been explored,
helping confront the triggers to break the cycle of fear.
Aside from medical and behavioral treatments,
good sleep habits, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet are essential
for managing stress and anxiety.
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Learning how to manage stress can alleviate
some of its negative effects on the mind and body. Here are a few tips on how
to reduce or relieve stress:
regular exercise. Being active and
getting exercise can help flush any stress-related hormones. It increases blood
circulation and can make a significant difference in how you feel. Regular
exercise also promotes the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins and
helps increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are natural mood
consumption of alcohol and other stimulants. Alcohol and other stimulants can have serious negative impacts
on your health, which increases the likelihood of stress.
a healthy diet.Eating
the right foods and drinking more water are essential in keeping stress levels
work-life balance. Whether it’s a
healthy balance of work and home or school and home, it’s important to take
time to disconnect and have fun.
quality sleep. Sleep is for more than beauty. It
replenishes your body. Adequate amounts of sleep can help reduce or diminish
your stress levels.
on a trip. A quick vacation
always does the body and mind good. Having a chance to get away and get your
mind off things always helps with stress.
a pet. Pets can help reduce
high levels of anxiety due to the companionship they offer. Some pets also help
their owners lead more active lives and connect with their peers.
·Relax Learn some relaxation techniques like
yoga or meditation to help with stress levels.
There are some useful apps on the market designed to
help manage stress. These include Breathe, Calm, Centre for Clinical
Interventions, Headspace, Reachout Breathe, Reachout Worrytime, Smiling Mind,
Although stress is manageable, there are times
when professional help is needed. Here are some warning signs when you need
·Your ability to
concentrate is completely gone.
·You no longer do the
things you enjoy.
·Your personal and
professional relationships are suffering.
·You start isolating
·You start having
If you are experiencing any of the warning
signs above, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for
assistance in finding treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.
Tips For Families And Children
Families must know how to deal with children
going through stressful situations. If you are a parent or a guardian, your
support and guidance are valuable to a child who tries to cope with the difficulties
of stress. Here are some tips to help you along:
Create an environment where kids feel safe, loved, and
cared for.This will help them offset
stress and eventually learn how to cope with and overcome it. You may do
this by providing routines, like a consistent bedtime, eating meals as a
family, or fetching them from school. The routine will give the kids a
comfortable rhythm and let them know there are things they can depend on
to stay the same.
Equip them with doable coping skills. This will help kids know that there are things
they can do to manage stress, giving them back control over their minds
and emotions. You can start by teaching them useful exercises like calm
breathing and meditation.
Encourage them to take a break. It is important to break the rhythm and step back
when going through stressful events. Help your kids do just this by making
time for fun activities, like playing, drawing, reading, or spending time
with their friends.
Take the time to be with them.Spending positive time together can help your kids do
what they enjoy with your calming presence. If they enjoy music, you can
join them when they listen to their favorite songs. They might like nature
walks, so you can also spend quality time walking along their go-to
Prepare them for what’s ahead.Life is unpredictable. Kids must know that everything
can change in an instant. If your family is going through a stressful
time, you can talk them through the situation, but try to focus on the
positive side. Make sure to hear what they think and know how they feel,
as this can assure them that their feelings are valid.
Tips For Healthcare Workers And First Responders
Healthcare workers are dealing with mounting
pressure and great demands in their everyday work, especially during the peak
of the pandemic. These difficult times can lead to anxiety, stress, and other
strong emotions. You must know the steps you need to take to cope with stress.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Learn how to recognize the symptoms of stress. This way, you will be able to devise ways to cope
with them. Are you feeling anger and irritation? Do you feel nervous and
uncertain or helpless and powerless?
Be open about the job stress you are experiencing. Keeping the stress that you feel to yourself is
not helpful at all. Instead, consider talking to your coworkers,
supervisors, and employers. Let them know how stress is affecting your
work. You may be able to work together to identify solutions, or they will
be able to lead you to mental health resources in your workplace.
Learn to accept the things that are beyond your
control. Stoicism is a handy
philosophy during the trying times of the pandemic, which affected almost
everyone. If you can identify the things outside your control and know
that you cannot do anything about them, it will be easier to accept and
cope with them.
Know your role’s worth. You perform a vital role in the frontline, and
your efforts are recognized. This can help you see stress more positively,
which can do wonders for your mindset.
Take a break for yourself. You can spend time sitting back, relaxing, and
recharging during your days off. You can do things you love, like watching
your favorite shows, listening to good music, or walking your dog.
Tips For Educational Institutions
Observe and listen. It’s
important to listen to students and staff when they have concerns.
Model coping behaviors. Students follow what they see. When stressful
situations occur, remaining level-headed will help them stay calm too.
Maintain routines. Students
need structure and routines to keep stressors down. By doing this,
everyone feels safe, secure, and informed.
Provide concrete support. Consider implementing on-campus support groups,
services, and mental health resources. Students should know where they can
seek help when the pressure and stress prove unbearable.
Offer tutoring and academic help. The main cause of stress at school is academic
setbacks. Students who have a hard time dealing with academic stress might
be able to benefit from tutoring and other educational strategies. They
will be able to cope with academic difficulties better.
Tips For Employers And Worker Representatives
Many employers emphasize improving employee
relations. This includes recognizing that excessive stress can be a health
hazard in the workplace and finding ways to help employees cope with stress.
Here are some useful ways to promote workplace wellness by minimizing
Provide a safe and stress-free work environment. While it is impossible to eliminate stress from the
workplace, you can help minimize its effects and assist employees in
perceiving it positively. This means you should be able to set proper work
expectations, reasonable deadlines, and healthy breaks.
Let their voices be heard. Sometimes, employees only need an outlet to air out
their ideas, suggestions, or even grievances. You should encourage them to
speak up so you can have a healthy dialogue that helps in finding
Give them regular break times. Working nonstop throughout the day can be detrimental
to one’s health. Our brain needs to take a rest to focus. By providing
consistent break times, you encourage employees to step away from their
desks and clear their heads. They may use it to get coffee or take a short
Set proper boundaries outside work. Avoid forcing your employees to work beyond their
office hours. They are entitled to a quiet time outside work to focus on
their personal responsibilities. Minimizing or doing away with after-work
emails and phone calls can be quite helpful.
Consider implementing flexible work policies. The pandemic taught us that employees could be quite
adaptable to changing situations. Giving them the flexibility they need,
like staggered work hours and work-from-home arrangements, can help
establish an ideal work-life balance.
Tips For People With Serious Illnesses
People diagnosed with chronic illnesses such
as diabetes, cancer, or arthritis can feel overwhelmed, lost, and debilitated.
If you are one of them, you likely go through a rollercoaster of emotions, and
one of them is serious stress. Your stressors may come from uncertainty about
the future, financial difficulties, and the unpredictability of your disease.
Here are some of the ways you can manage stress despite the challenges ahead:
Confrontation is the best way to acceptance. Many who are diagnosed with chronic illness feel
resigned to their fate. This may have made it hard for them to adjust even
after years of dealing with their condition. The first step in coping with
devastating news like this is to confront your diagnosis actively. This
will give you the courage to seek social support and develop a plan of
Build a strong support network. Seek the comfort and guidance of your family and
friends. Keep your communication lines open. They can help ease your
personal obligations and manage your disease in the long run.
Consider seeking help from mental health professionals. If the stress you experience makes you feel
incapacitated, it may be the right time to ask for help from a mental
health provider. This step can help you get a treatment plan tailored to
your needs, allowing you to regain control and improve the quality of your
Try to live intentionally by helping yourself. Your will to live will understandably be affected
by the diagnosis of a serious illness. However, there are things that you
can do on your own that can help you immensely. This includes eating a
healthy diet, getting as much physical activity as possible, and avoiding
negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol abuse.
Consider joining support groups. Another way to cope with the stress that a
chronic illness diagnosis brings is to join support groups where you can
find relief and comfort through sharing your experience. You can also
learn new ways to deal with your illness by hearing other people’s own
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