Stress and Coping

What is Stress?

Yes, we’ve all experienced it. During a routine day, there may be a few things that make you feel it. You know, the headaches, the stomach pain, and the muscle aches that come when something is bothering you. The worries, frustration and anger that prevent you from enjoying your day. All of this is a part of stress. But what exactly is stress anyway? One dictionary defines stress as “a state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain.” Another defines it as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension…” No matter how you choose to define it, one thing is certain: stress is something that we all feel and must learn to deal with.

Learning how to handle stress will help you deal in a healthy manner with all sorts of situations that might come up, whether within the family, at school, with friends, or on the job. It’s something that affects everyone at one point or another, so it’s important to be able to recognize stress and respond to it appropriately. Learning more about yourself and the way you handle stress are important aspects of growing up. Enjoy the ride!

We've broken the facts down into four sections:


The Basics of Stress

How Do I Know If I Am Stressed?

Symptoms of stress vary from person to person and situation to situation. Depending on an individual’s personality, experiences, and viewpoints, he/she will react and show stress in different ways. However, it is known that stress can affect both the mind and body. Here are some ways stress can affect you:

  • Physically, when a person experiences stress, his adrenal glands release hormones that cause an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Other effects that usually accompany stress are increased muscle tension, decreased digestive speed, and more clear and focused vision. In addition, when someone is stressed for an extended period of time, he becomes more susceptible to illness.
  • Mentally, a person can become angry or depressed when he is stressed. Stress can also make it difficult to fall asleep, and long-term stress can lead to exhaustion. It can also affect someone’s appetite, either making him more or less hungry or making him eat in a less healthy manner.
  • Emotionally, stress can lower one’s self-esteem or cause one to begin to show antisocial behavior.
  • In some cases, if stress is prolonged or very severe, the effects of it become even more serious. Stress can lead to depression, drug or alcohol abuse, vandalism, or suicide. All of these effects can be seen as cries for help in dealing with stress. Hopefully, things will never get so bad that you have to experience any of these stress side effects.

What Causes Stress?

There are many different things in life that can cause stress. Actually, almost any event in a person’s life can turn into a cause of stress. Typically, stress is a response to changes in life. Even though there are some changes that are positive and do not cause stress, there are many changes that do! Unfortunately for teens, adolescence is a time when many new stressors come into play. The care-free years of childhood are now in the past, and teens are faced with many difficult obstacles and decisions to make. When asked, teens say their most common sources of stress are school, family problems, jobs, and relationships with friends.

Ways to Deal with Stress?

It is important to learn effective strategies to deal with stress. No matter what you do in life, stress will always be a part of it. Rather than letting it take over and control your life, you need to learn ways to overcome it so you can enjoy and love life, even with stress. Coping with stress enables an individual to lead a healthy life. It also can increase your self-esteem by eliminating feelings of helplessness and allowing you to gain control of the stress. One study took a survey of teens and looked at how they coped with stress in their lives. It found that some of the most popular ways to cope with stress included “accepting one’s own limits, finding an emotional outlet…support seeking…and reflection” (Seiffge-Krenke 121). What follows are some more specific ideas on how to cope with stress that incorporate these popular methods. Remember, all strategies do not work for everyone. But read through the information and see what appeals to you!