It’s a fact: Teens get stressed. You may find yourself feeling tense, worried, and anxious about anything from an upcoming test or an argument with your best friend, to getting in trouble with your parents, boss, or teachers.
Believe it or not, stress can actually be a good thing. That extra rush of adrenaline can often help prepare you to do something especially challenging. It is also what can save you from disaster if you happen to be driving behind a car that stops suddenly or running laps next to someone who stumbles. Your natural stress reactions will help you to avoid a collision with either one.
While those occasional moments of increased stress are just part of life, daily stress along with its common sidekicks such as nausea, headache, or insomnia should not be. Chronic, or non-stop, stress is hard on every part of you. It elevates your heart rate, tightens your muscles, and can even interfere with your memory and concentration.
What can you do to stop it? Sometimes the answer is talking it out with a trusted friend or adult; other times, a good cry or a good laugh will give you stress relief. Regular exercise can help, as can getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, or listening to your favorite music. Here are a few other options to consider.
Take a Deep Breath
Stress often makes you breathe faster and shallower, so one way to get the body back to a more relaxed state is to do just the opposite–take slow, deep breaths. In a style called diaphragmatic breathing, you can slow down your heart rate along with your respiration and give your body and mind a chance to recover. Here’s how:
* Take a deep breath, counting to 3 slowly while you inhale. Instead of pushing out your chest as you breathe in, however, push out your stomach. This will tell you that you are really using your diaphragm.
* Exhale to a slow count of 6, and then repeat two to four times.
* Make sure you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, and count slowly; if you do this too fast, you may hyperventilate (get dizzy from too much oxygen).
Many experts recommend that while you are in this relaxed state of deep breathing, you alsomeditate, or relax your mind. By clearing the mind of all worrisome thoughts such as, “Does she really like me?“; “I wonder if I failed that quiz?“; or “Will I get overtime at work?” you can just slow down and let your mind drift. Focus on something pleasant–anything from a favorite person to a place or memory. Daydream or “zone out” almost to the point of falling asleep.
Relax Your Muscles
Another method of winding down is called progressive muscle relaxation. It can take as long as you want, but averages 15 to 20 minutes. You can do it lying down or sitting up.
First, focus on the different muscle groups in your body: your legs, back, arms, neck, and so on. Do they feel tense and stiff? Does anything hurt? Become aware of your body and then tense, or tighten, the muscles. Then relax them. For example, make a fist, hold it tight, and then let go. As blood rushes in and muscles relax, your hand will feel more refreshed and loose. Do this in progression for each muscle group in your body, from your feet up to your head.
Meditation in Motion
One of the most popular ways to both relax and increase flexibility is a style of exercise called yoga. According to recent reports, more than 28 million people practice yoga at least three times a month, and more than three-quarters of health clubs currently offer yoga classes.
Often called “meditation in motion,” yoga is made up of slow, graceful, and precise movements that use multiple muscle groups. Yoga can help the mind to stay centered and clear when overrun with stress. In addition, it can often help people with injuries or pain find relief.
Yoga can help prevent sports injuries, as well as improve performance, through regular practice. The emotional or mental aspects of yoga can lead you to discovering yourself and helps you to center on things.
Stress is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to interfere with life. Take time to pinpoint what is stressing you out, and then see what you can do to change it. If it’s not possible to change what’s causing stress, try one of these methods. Take a deep breath and just relax!
Try this method that seems to combine all the other relaxation techniques. It takes about 20 minutes.
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Deeply relax all of your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.
- Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word One silently to yourself. For example, breathe in … out, “One,” in … out, “One,” etc. Breathe naturally and easily.
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but don’t use an alarm. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes with your eyes closed, and then later with your eyes open. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
Let relaxation happen at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them and return to repeating One. With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with relaxation.