Supporting Young Minds this Stress Awareness Month

April is a time for spring, flowers, and sunshine (hopefully!). And alongside the small joys of Spring is Stress Awareness Month where we join a number of other charities and organisations to raise awareness about the factors which predispose stress, and recommend our favourite methods to alleviate this feeling. This year, the theme for stress awareness month is community, and I think as we emerge from the pandemic, we are realising now more than ever just how important a sense of community is for our wellbeing.

All of us at some point in our lives will probably be affected by stress, whether that’s during your teenage years, adulthood or in later life. Stress can have a profound impact on our physical, psychological, and emotional health, so it’s crucial we use Stress Awareness Month as a time to try and identify the factors which induce stress so we can put measures in place to counteract this.

Adolescents (as well as adults) often experience stress if they perceive a situation to be dangerous, difficult, or out of their control, so let’s identify some of the sources of stress that might occur and see if you can relate with any of them:

School demands, perhaps you are getting near to exam season and revision is on your mind.

Low self-esteem and poor perceived body image. This may also be because of events at school such as bullying.

Bodily changes due to puberty.

Issues with friends or peers at school.

Moving schools or neighbourhood.

Family difficulties, parents divorcing, illness in the family etc.

Taking on too many responsibilities at once.

Now, whilst it’s important to talk through the stressors, what we really want to do is give you some tips on how to manage stress. Perhaps you have your own coping strategies that work or maybe you have no idea about how to deal with overwhelming situations.

Well look no further! Here are some of our top tips:

  1. Eat well, and try to avoid unhealthy habits like excessive caffeine! (Stimulants can sometimes heighten feelings of stress and anxiety!)
  2. Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco too.
  3. Stay active and try to exercise most days (if you’re able to) e.g a walk around your local park
  4. Try to maintain a good sleep routine. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep! Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day.
  5. Also! Try to avoid using screens a few hours before you are due to go to sleep so you can properly relax and unwind
  6. Signing out of social media for a while can help. Often, we get sucked into a virtual world and we forget to appreciate all that we have around us. Unplug, regroup, have a social media detox for a while, or just unfollow people who don’t make you feel good. If you want, replace them with positive affirmation or body positivity accounts. (Check out our previous blog ‘Think Before You Scroll’ for our top tips for a more mindful approach to online!
  7. Learn some relaxation techniques – progressive muscle relaxation, simply taking deep breaths, or using the 5-1 technique (5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste) to ground you in the present moment and to take your mind off the stress.
  8. Organise and prioritise. I’ll be honest, I live by my ‘to do’ lists. They keep me organised and on top of all the things I must do. I won’t lie, the satisfaction from ticking something off the list is also great
  9. Positive self-talk – challenge negative, stressful or unhelpful thoughts you may have with positive thoughts. E.g. “I will never be able to do all this revision in time” can be turned into “yes I have a lot of revision but let’s think rationally. If I make a timetable, prioritise subjects I need to revise first and take regular time out for self-care, I will be able to do this”
  10. Self-care, always. This is different for everyone but you could listen to music, draw, write, spend time with a pet.
  11. Engage in some practical coping skills. You can set goals and break them into small components to make them more manageable, for example.

But most importantly…Community. Make sure you keep in touch with friends, family, and spend time with those who help you cope in a positive way or make you feel good.

Contributed by Naomi Crowson
Specialist Support Officer at First Steps ED