Everything you need to know about stress

By Shannnon Penasar.21 Apr 2016

Stress. Now, end-of-year exams are drawing ever closer, although mocks have finally finished (yay!). But for some (most), stress is still rampant! Especially amongst the Upper Years!

Stress is actually quite interesting if you really think about it. It’s different for everyone. Like, everyone reacts differently to, say, a horror film. Some scream, some don’t really care, some jump (and later deny that they were scared anyway). Admittedly, I’m in the latter category, but I digress. Stress, in a way, is like that, but not at the same time. After all, we all react differently, and therefore, need something different in order to handle the situation at hand. However, we all don’t have the same resources or skills at hand, so improvisation is needed.

Emotionally, it can – well, it can mess you up. You could feel lonely, depressed - like the whole world is against you. You could feel like you’re losing control, completely unable to relax. Or you could become moody and frustrated (so no PMS jokes towards stressing women please). Physically, it can cause tiredness, chest pain, sweating, dry mouths, and loads of other stuff. Google it if you want to find other ‘symptoms’ of stress.

But ‘Symptoms’. I really don’t like that word, especially when it relates to stress. The word ‘symptom’ is used for something that happens to you during a disease or a disorder. A disease is ‘an incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body…’ plus more stuff. Yes, I copied and pasted that from www. (my saviour for when I had an incomprehensible English book to read), and I am not sorry for it. But back to the topic in hand, a disease is something that makes you ill. A disorder when something is wrong with your mind or your body. Stress is probably better to be described as a disorder, but is it really?

Well, the main thing to understand is that stress is a natural reaction, not a disorder. It happens anywhere! I mean, when you’re watching a film, or reading a really good book for the nerds out there, have you ever found yourselves with sweaty palms? Or when you’re on your first proper date or maybe waiting for an interview, and you can feel your heart pounding in your chest? This is evidence that stress is felt both in your mind and in your body.

Through evolution, this response triggers your ‘fight or flight’ instinct, kicking your body into gear, and bombarding your body with hormones to increase your heart rate, blood pressure, while also boosting your energy and preparing your body to enable you to deal with the problem. This normally happened when, say, you were about to become the newest chew-toy for a sabre-toothed tiger or something. Stress/adrenaline was protection from predators, and other threats.

But we’re in the 21st century, the likelihood of being chowed on by a sabre-toothed tiger is equal to the likelihood of Donald Trump becoming President. Oh wait… Actually, the likelihood is the same as actually completely any of the ‘The Impossible Quiz’ series by Splapp-Me-Do, without Googling any of the answers, in less than five tries. Pretty impossible, right? Anyway, while we don’t face the trials our ancestors did, we still have our own threats to deal with, though they may not be as life-threatening as the ones of old (even if you think it is…). We do face various challenges daily. We have deadlines to meet, homework to accomplish, and exams to (hopefully) pass! And all these trails make your body react just the same - our ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in.

Also, stress can actually help you. Stress actually makes your life interesting in a way. Without stress, would you get stuff done? If it wasn’t for stress, my GCSE Food Tech coursework would probably be half complete, sitting in a forgotten folder in the non-existing ‘corner’ of my PC. But hey! I did it! And I got an A (I think)! But when stress continues, without periodic relief from the pressure, then stress becomes a problem. You see, there is such a thing as overstressing. And that is probably the biggest problem people, including teenagers, face.

You see, when stress is relentless, it becomes harmful, and possibly dangerous. It can cause people to turn towards alcohol, tobacco, or even drugs to try and deal with it! It could become deadly and nasty! Sadly, these substances don’t help with stress. Instead, they maintain it and cause even more problems. Stress can also play a part in other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

There’s even something called chronic stress, which sounds even more terrifying. Chronic stress is basically when the amount of stress that you feel is so large, that it affects your ability to live a normal life, as stress wears down your body and mind. It’s kinda more than that, but at least you have the gist of it.

However, it can be much easier to lower stress levels. In fact, there are many ways to do so. One easy way is to figure out what is causing you stress and plan. Note down what stresses you, whenever you feel stressed. Then make a plan to address it. This could mean that you would have to lower expectations for yourself, or (God forbid) actually ask for help.

Another way is to create some very close relationships with family and friends. Tell them you’re having trouble, and they may be able to help you out with some advice (strange or otherwise); some other, useful ideas; or even just hearing something from another point of view would help a lot.

Also, when you get angry, walk away. Do something to help you calm down. Count to 10 (or 20, or 30, or whatever number to get you nice and calm), walk a bit or do some exercise. In fact, do some exercise daily, it’ll help. Trust me. Even a 10-15 minute walk would work wonders!

Okay, this is fairly obvious but you need to sleep and rest. Recommended, you need around about seven or eight hours of sleep (yes, that means you only have about sixteen hours of awake time, with most being at school, but you need sleep!) To help out with this, cut out caffeine – so say goodbye to tea and coffee later in the day – and get rid of any distractions such as your phone and TV, then go get some shut-eye. Make sure that you get to sleep at the same time each time, to help you get into a routine as well.

If none of this helps, then there is only one thing left to do. You need to get help. Talk to a psychologist (or the School Nurse, it’s free and you might as well), or someone else how is licensed as a mental health professional. Said psychologist would advise you on how to manage your stress, and identify what makes you stressed. A plan (look up to the first point~~~) would then be developed.

Eventually, there’ll be another article detailing even more ways to help with stress. See you then!