Feeling stressed, you’re not alone

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2006

By Staff
Stress. We all know it, we've all dealt with or are dealing with it. If you're not, you're one of the lucky ones.
If you find yourself feeling like there are too many pressures and demands on you, then you're probably stressed. Losing sleep worrying about schoolwork or your job? Eating on the run because your schedule is just too busy? You're not alone. Everyone experiences stress at times - adults, teens and even kids.
So, what is stress? Stress is a feeling that's created when we react to particular events. It's the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina and heightened alertness.
The events that provoke stress are called stressors, and they cover a whole range of situations - everything from outright physical danger to making a class presentation or getting your bills paid on time.
How do yo know if you have stress? You may notice some of these signs:
Anxiety or panic attacks
A feeling of being constantly pressured, hassled and hurried
Irritability and moodiness
Physical symptoms, such as stomach problems, headaches, or even chest pain
Allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
Problems sleeping
Drinking too much, smoking, overeating, or doing drugs
 Sadness or depression
Here's are a few things you can do to deal with stress or, better yet, to avoid it in the first place.
Take a stand against overscheduling. If you're feeling stretched, consider cutting out an activity or two, opting for just the ones that are most important to you.
Be realistic. Don't try to be perfect - no one is. And expecting others to be perfect can add to your stress level, too (not to mention put a lot of pressure on them). If you need help on something, like schoolwork, ask for it.
Get a good night's sleep. Getting enough sleep helps keep your body and mind in top shape, making you better equipped to deal with any negative stressors. Because the biological “sleep clock” shifts during adolescence, many teens prefer staying up a little later at night and sleeping a little later in the morning. But if you stay up late and still need to get up early, you may not get all the hours of sleep you need.
Learn to relax. The body's natural antidote to stress is called the relaxation response. It's your body's opposite of stress, and it creates a sense of well-being and calm. The chemical benefits of the relaxation response can be activated simply by relaxing. You can help trigger the relaxation response by learning simple breathing exercises and then using them when you're caught up in stressful situations. And ensure you stay relaxed by building time into your schedule for activities that are calming and pleasurable: reading a good book or making time for a hobby, spending time with your pet, or just taking a relaxing bath.
Treat your body well. Experts agree that getting regular exercise helps people manage stress. (Excessive or compulsive exercise can contribute to stress, though, so as in all things, use moderation.) And eat well to help your body get the right fuel to function at its best. It's easy when you're stressed out to eat on the run or eat junk food or fast food. But under stressful conditions, the body needs its vitamins and minerals more than ever. Some people may turn to substance abuse as a way to ease tension. Although alcohol or drugs may seem to lift the stress temporarily, relying on them to cope with stress actually promotes more stress because it wears down the body's ability to bounce back.
Watch what you're thinking. Your outlook, attitude and thoughts influence the way you see things. Is your cup half full or half empty? A healthy dose of optimism can help you make the best of stressful circumstances. Even if you're out of practice, or tend to be a bit of a pessimist, everyone can learn to think more optimistically and reap the benefits.
Solve the little problems. Learning to solve everyday problems can give you a sense of control. But avoiding them can leave you feeling like you have little control and that just adds to stress. Develop skills to calmly look at a problem, figure out options and take some action toward a solution. Feeling capable of solving little problems builds the inner confidence to move on to life's bigger ones. And it and can serve you well in times of stress.