“A score over 150 indicates a significant level of stressors within the last year”, I read as I scanned the paper my psychology teacher had handed out. On it was a quiz, the Eklund Stress Scale for Youth. “If you you have experienced total stress within the last twelve months of 250 or greater, even with normal stress tolerance, you may be overstressed.”
The quiz consists of a list of several situations ranging from divorce and trouble at school to vacation and hours of sleep. Each situation has a value next to it–the highest being 100, all the way down to five. To take it, you simply circle the values for the situations that you have experienced within the last year, and add all of the numbers up. The sum you come up with is your stress level score.
As I took my quiz, it quickly became apparent to me that my score would be relatively high. I circled number after number, and at the end my premonitions were validated as I wrote my sum: a grand total of 685.
Needless to say, my stress level is pretty unhealthy. But the sad thing is, I wasn’t anywhere close to the only one with a stress level well above 150. In fact, the majority of the students in psychology got scores over 200.
It’s an unarguable fact that teenage stress levels are high. However, not all of this can be attributed to controllable factors such as school. In fact, of the 49 questions, only four had to do with school. Many were factors that are outside of a youth’s personal range of control, such as parental divorce, death of a loved one, and even the current weather season.
We know that some stress is inevitable. In some cases, even a lot of stress. But no matter what, everyone needs to find a healthy way to deal with it to prevent the more serious consequences of sickness, a feeling of hopelessness, or even mental illness.
Different people release tension in different ways. For some people, reading a book is a relaxing activity. Others would declare that the best way for them to relieve stress is through intense physical exercise.
Some of the most common ways that people successfully reduce stress are to:
Unplug. Turn off the phone or put it on “Do Not Disturb”. Have a little time where you’re not having to focus time and energy on contact with others, and you get to be alone with yourself instead.
Say No. A very basic but extremely prevalent cause of stress is committing to too many things. Remember that sometimes, it’s OK to say no, especially if you aren’t the sole person who can accomplish the same task. Prioritize and eliminate.
Think about the Big Picture. It sounds simple, and it is. When life becomes overwhelming, think about how your stressors will affect your life down the road–next week, next year, five years from now. Realize that most things that are demanding of you right now aren’t significant to cause major problems.
Take a walk. Get outside, get away from people and screens and noises. Breathe the fresh air and clear your head so when you return to your tasks, you’ll have a new perspective.
Let the Little Things Slide. Be honest. Those two or three extra minutes spent in line at the grocery store or behind a slow driver aren’t as important as you thought they were at the time.
Remember that every person will have different things that work for them when it comes to reducing stress. No matter what works for you, the important thing is that you actually put effort in to take care of yourself. Remember to relax, and don’t feel bad about taking some time now and then to spend time on you.