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Stress Awareness Month

April is Stress Awareness month and now, more than ever, we need to engage in the conversation about stress-management and self-care. The pandemic has brought out the worst in most of us and children seem to have suffered badly as the result of this. From having to adapt to an entirely new environment that is governed by rules most of us are unaware of, children and teenagers have had to attend online school and deal with the usual pressures of school life in a different atmosphere. This is in addition to the struggles of socializing made ever more difficult through lockdown rules and keeping up with lessons in a different format.

The unprecedented conditions that have been brought on by lockdown have pointed out the flaws in our system of teaching self-care and stress-management during difficult times. This article will delve into the causes of stress in children and teenagers, the importance of stress awareness and how it can be practiced in order to ensure relative peace in the face of turmoil.

Causes of stress A study conducted in 2000 revealed that children in the 1980s reported higher or similar stress levels to patients in psychiatric hospitals in the 1950s. It’s safe to say that since no major measures were taken to reduce these stress levels, they have only increased since then. Children and teenagers of the modern- day face stress on many levels with the rise of technology and a shift of priorities.

The primary causes of stress in children revolve around school. The issues that cause this stress rage from minor to major triggers. A common cause of stress is homework and everyday schoolwork. Healthy levels of stress may help children stay on top of their work and do their best during exams, but when a certain level of anxiety is reached, this may turn toxic. With children and teenagers, thoughts often turn inward, and to recognise this early is to avoid unnecessary negative consequences. For example, when a child seems to fail at a subject in which they are otherwise proficient, they may begin to doubt their capability and reconstruct their entire self-evaluation as a result.

Another major cause of stress is peer-related stress, especially in teenagers. Teen years are difficult to navigate especially because of the shift in group dynamics and cliques. Teenagers as a collective group face immense pressure fitting in, this increasing even more if the child is uprooted from their residence to a new city or state just as high school starts. In facing what is arguably their worst fears in the trials and tribulations of friendships in high school, teenagers are often exhausted by the end of each day. The psychology of friend groups is interesting to observe, but difficult to experience. Ostracization and exclusive friend groups serve to make every teenager insecure, and while some manage to survive these experiences and emerge unscathed, most are scarred or have their emotional intelligence tested to its limits. Bullying is also a related problem that leads to high levels of stress and anxiety. At the risk of being ostracized, teenagers are often bullied and are subject through peer-pressure to participate in activities they are otherwise not comfortable with.

Importance of stress awareness and management The importance of stress awareness is best illustrated when compared to the consequences of neglecting self-care. As children and teenagers ae not fully-fledged adults expected to identify stress and manage it themselves, it falls on parents, guardians and those around the child to help them work their way through stress awareness and management. Left neglected and unidentified, constant stress take toll on both the mental and physical health of the child. Physical side effects include frequent chest aches, heart racing, high blood pressure, dizziness, exhaustion, digestive issues and little to no sleep. Mental side effects include the onset of clinical mental illnesses like severe anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, in addition to general restlessness, uncontrollable anger, irritability and feeling overwhelmed.

Being aware of these side effects and taking proactive measures to prevent them are key to maintaining a standard of physical and emotional health. Tolerance to stress and how it can be effectively transferred to productivity need to be taught in order to facilitate a system of easy communication and healthy coping mechanisms.

Practising stress management Stress management is a rewarding process that can leave the individual feeling calmer after every session. Methodical self-care is something that must be taught to children and teenagers that would help them far into adulthood. Self-care as a consistent routine is essential, despite all external factors that may bar a peaceful environment. The website helps maintain a self- care routine that keeps you feeling healthy and makes you prioritise your needs effectively.

Meditation is also a great way to manage stress by helping to focus on mindfulness and inner peace. Five minutes of meditation a day can do wonders to help children through any stress they may have, helping them identify the root of the stress and how best to make peace with it. In addition to this, simple breathing exercises also help to center the mind on a single thought and thus avoid a restless, anxious mind.

The services below can be used to provide immediate help to anyone struggling with stress or anxiety:

Anxiety UK – calls picked up by volunteers with personal experience of anxiety – call 08444 775 774

Samaritans – free, online support for any mental health issues – call 116 123 Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - confidential web chat and call support – call 0800 58 58 58

Written by Mishani N.


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