Stress and Anxiety: How to Unwind as a Teen or Twenty-Something:
Teens and twenty-somethings are facing unsur mounting loads of stress unlike ever before. There are often pressures to perform, to be involved in extracurricular activities, all along preparing to go into college or be right in the thick of it. This stress and the social structure of highschool or college influences the family dynamics from top to bottom. We are not going to resolve or diminish the stress that comes with being a teen or twenty-something in this one blog post. Yet, here are some helpful tips if your stress is too high, AND what to do about it!
SIGNS OF PERSISTENT HIGH STRESS:
Consistently poor sleep: Sure, we all struggle with getting a bad night sleep here and there. However, if you are experiencing a bad night sleep more nights than not, this could be a sign that you need to unwind. Maybe you can’t go to sleep for several hours because your mind is occupied with a list of to-do’s, relational matters, or something you saw on social media that is somehow triggering you. Or perhaps, you have no problem falling asleep, it’s the waking up in the middle of the night that is the challenge. You just cannot seem to shut your brain off long enough to catch those zzz’s. When we don’t get enough sleep, this naturally bleeds into other avenues of our lives. We may become irritable or more emotional. A consistent lack of sleep can also cause weight gain, moodiness, and symptoms that may mimic other mental health diagnoses or concerns. Having consistently poor sleep prevents any of us to perform optimally. Your B’c drop to C’s, or you just can’t seem to hit those same notes in band practice as usual. It can become a downward spiraling tornado!
Clenching or persistent tightness in your muscles: Unfortunately, our stress has to go somewhere. Without intending to, we hold our stress in our bodies. Its true! Ever wonder why people get a cold or become sick shortly after midterms or some other type of stressful occasion? How about right in the middle of it? TMJ is a real thing, and this can develop due to stress or anxiety! Our bodies are with us wherever we go, and as such, it will take on, feel and hold onto everything we experience mentally, spiritually and emotionally. So it’s important we find ways to discharge, recharge and revive if we intend to keep our pace for long.
Racing Mind: Your mind always feels its going so fast- do you have consistently racing thoughts, and it feels impossible to stay on task or be in the moment, irregardless of your environment? This too, could be a sign that your stress level is rocketing!
Substance use or poor eating patterns: OK this is a big one. Without awareness, sometimes we over associate relaxation with say, wine, chocolate cake, or marijuana. If you find the only way to really unwind is to have that glass or two of wine, some good chocolate cake, or marijuana, it could just be a sign to look at other ways of dealing and coping through. Many of us may over or under eat when under stress. We take things out on our bodies! This too is a wake up call, just as it is with substance use. So, without judgment, try to pay attention to these patterns you have or are adopting in your life. Notice them, and pay attention to your cravings. Our minds, bodies and hearts are often whispering cues to us that something is off before it gets out of hand :).
SO HOW DO WE DEAL??
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This involves the squeezing and releasing of each muscle group. It allows your body to fully experience the ability to tighten and then, to release with ease. There are some great tips on this subject I’ve saved on my anxiety board on Pinterest if you are interested in checking them out. You can find the link to my Pinterest board at the bottom of my website. Or just look up “Selah Counseling.”
Deep breathing: I can’t tell you how simple yet profoundly unaware so many of us are on the correct way to breathe :). I mean, we all need to breathe to survive, but for many of us, we are constricted chest breathers. Our subconscious ways of breathing can be a huge indicator of where we are at with our anxiety or stress level. So when you breathe, be sure to fill your belly full of your breath, not your chest. Take long deep breaths. Here’s a great simple exercise I teach others at least on a weekly basis. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 3 seconds,and exhale for 4 seconds. Do this anywhere between 4-7 times to experience a deeper more felt sense of relaxation. Imagine inhaling the Holy Spirit or the goodness of the earth, and when you exhale, envision your entire body releasing and dispelling the toxins and stress you are holding onto. There are things we hold onto that we were not meant to carry or hold onto. Release and ease your mind and heart of the burdens not meant for you.
Yoga and stretching: Allowing your body to stretch and loosen up can do wonders on easing major tension points in the body, and ultimately on the mind. Even just spending a minimum of 5 minutes of stretching in unison with some calming music at some point during the day does wonders. I like to encourage others to try to spend a good 10-15 minutes doing this each day if they are experiencing serious tension of the muscles.
Creating a routine time for meditation and prayer: Allow space to connect to yourself and your higher power. Whether its for 5 minutes or an entire hour. Every little bit can help make a big difference. This can even be a time where you incorporate prayer, worship, stretching and deep breathing exercises.
Seek Counseling: When it comes to anxiety, its good to find the root cause. Perhaps, there is something specific, or multiple triggers you are facing. This is not always the case either. Sometimes, those with anxiety simply have a disordered response to everyday life, and its important to know the difference, and gain insight into how to train your mind and body to decrease its symptoms.
Ultimately, creating both routine in unwinding and awareness with how your body and mind hold onto tension is key in your overall success on tackling that obnoxious stress or anxiety.
Stress and true anxiety do not go hand in hand. High levels of stress can absolutely introduce the potential for the awakening of an anxiety disorder. Low to medium stress, and even in small bursts, high stress is not always negative either! I believe stress propels us and prepares us for tasks and can serve an important role. Anxiety may mimic others types of mental health issues, such as depression or adhd for example.If you feel you are experiencing sincere signs of true anxiety, it never hurts to reach out for support. I offer a free consult to see if counseling may be right for you and in your journey through major stress or anxiety. This topic is a passion of mine, and I truly know what it’s like to experience high levels of stress and anxiety, so you are not alone! Check out my Pinterest board for other tips too that I utilize as a platform to serve the community in different ways to help!