Stress. Modern life. The two have almost become synonymous. It seems everywhere we go and everywhere we turn in life today there are more stressors ready to pile on our already overwhelmed minds. As adults, our stressors might be the demands of working, parenting, and making time for everything we want to do. For adolescents, the ever-increasing demands and expectations of school, the pressure from peers to fit in, and balancing the natural desire for independence with the need for close family relationships often cause stress. So how do we handle all of this? How do we cope with a world full of stressors that seem impossible to manage? Mindfulness, positive recreation, and connecting with others are three ways to deal with stress.
3 Ways to Deal with Stress
1. Practice Mindfulness Daily
Mindfulness means that you are intentional about focusing only on what is happening with you in the moment. To focus on the moment, you must clear past and future concerns from your mind, and instead turn your attention to your current surroundings, your breathing, and what you are experiencing with each of your five senses. As you practice mindfulness, you allow your mind a sort of re-boot. Mindfulness helps to calm your mind and your emotions, which facilitates a more organized and clearer thought process.
You can practice mindfulness intermittently throughout the day as you notice your stress levels rising, or according to a schedule that you set for yourself. At Sunrise, we do mindfulness exercises regularly at the beginning of school classes and groups.
2. Schedule Time for Healthy Recreation
Developing good leisure habits and pursuing healthy recreation options are important in forming a healthy lifestyle. In a world where work is often emphasized over play, it can be easy to overlook the many mental, emotional, and physical health benefits of good recreation. Among the many benefits of healthy recreation is stress reduction.
As you practice healthy recreation, whether that be playing the piano, poetry, pottery or paintballing; you give yourself a much-needed break from stressors. Good recreation will take your mind away from work, school, and other obligations for a short time to focus on what you are truly passionate about. Developing and pursuing these passions can bring joy back into your crowded life. Many forms of recreation also involve physical movement which causes the body to release endorphins which act as natural mood elevators.
The key to using recreation as a tool to combat stress is to use it! Give recreation the same priority as you would to making healthy diet choices. As the recreation therapist at Sunrise, I use recreational and experiential activities as a tool to helping our students achieve their emotional and mental health goals. I require students to take a look at their recreation and leisure lifestyle and make plans for pursuing their interests both at Sunrise and following their discharge.
3. Purposefully Connect with Others
The positive relationships that you build can be a great tool for dealing with life’s stresses. As you turn to others and increase your open communication during times of stress, you will see many benefits.
Being open with those who care about you will help you feel emotionally validated and supported. Along with the emotional support, those who care about you can often offer added insights into your situation and help you to sort through and prioritize the stressors in your life. As you turn to trusted people in your life they may be able to assist you with the burdens that you carry at home, at work, or in your family.
Often as you turn to others and allow them to support you, your relationship will grow closer and they will often begin sharing some of their own stresses and struggles with you. Getting outside of yourself and being there to help others is another way that you can reduce your stress and another benefit that you can glean from your positive relationships. Staff and therapists at Sunrise put great effort into establishing positive, healthy relationships with each of our students in order to be this kind of support for them as they pass through the many stressors of adolescence.
Although life is full of stressors, it is possible to work through them and be happy. As you master mindfulness, prioritize play, and turn to trusted relationships, you will find your stress to be easier to work through.