Young People Ask . . .
Can I Beat Stress?
HAVE you ever kicked a chair that you stumbled over? Or have you been so sick of your homework that you just threw all your books down? Then you have experienced how stress can trigger foolish actions that you later regret. Are there better ways to beat stress than by kicking and smashing? Yes, but first you need to know something about stress.
“Broadly defined, stress is what happens to the body when it is exposed to anything—nervous tension, disease, cold, heat, injury, and so on,” say the authors of Teenage Stress. In “anything” they include even good things. “Some of your happiest moments can also be your most stressful,” they say.
How does stress affect you? You know what happens when you get nervous and frightened: heart pounds, palms sweat, hands shake, face blushes, stomach gets knotted up, and mouth dries up. A lot of things take place in your body to cause these effects.
Glands begin dumping powerful hormones, such as cortisone and adrenaline, into your bloodstream. Your liver adds more sugar to your blood. All of this stimulates heart contractions, constricts blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and causes muscle tension.
Teenagers Are Stress Targets
Teenagers are naturally exposed to much stress. Puberty causes your body to undergo a number of changes. And we live in an ever-changing world. (Compare 1 Corinthians 7:31.) Adults, though, may gloss over this, saying, ‘You are young, you are free from care, you should be happy.’ But perhaps they have forgotten what it is like to be young. After all, you do have worries—about your appearance, sex, health, parents, friends, teachers, grades, money, the world situation, death. Why, being young is probably the most stressful time of your life! But do not panic. There is hope.
For one thing, a little bit of stress can be good for you. How? Consider the matter of taking a test. “According to experts, a little stress keeps your mind alert and your juices flowing,” writes Judith Kelman in the youth magazine Seventeen. Concert pianist André-Michel Schub, a winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn Competition, was once quoted as saying: “Every performer feels some degree of stage fright. . . . It’s a way of having extra energy and extra intensity, of focusing so you communicate better.” So stress should not be avoided at all costs.
The Young Take Stress Best!
Moreover, youths are usually equipped with a good supply of energy and a hopeful attitude to counteract pressures. The Bible says: “The beauty of young men is their power.” (Proverbs 20:29) “Young people . . . are able . . . to recover from the ill effects of excessive stress more rapidly than older people,” say the authors of Teenage Stress. Twenty-three year old Vincenza from New York is an example of this. She tells:
“When I was in my teens, my mom died of cancer. Eighteen months later, my dad suddenly died of a heart attack. I was left alone with my two younger brothers. Then I met this guy and became his girlfriend. But after a couple of months we broke up. Sometimes I wondered, ‘Should I kill myself, or go crazy, or end up in a madhouse?’” Could Vincenza survive this most stressful situation? Says she: “Now when I think of it, I can’t believe I lived through it. But I did! And I learned a lot.”
Additionally, Vincenza learned from her aunt, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, about the Bible hope that the dead will be resurrected in a future paradise on earth. (John 5:28, 29) “Although a Catholic at the time, I put all my trust in this newfound Bible hope. It helped immensely,” she says.—Compare 2 Corinthians 1:9.
You Cannot Beat All of It
Nevertheless, one can never really get rid of all stress. “We are always in stress,” writes the author of Childstress! “When there is no more, we are dead.” Way back in Bible times people were also under stress. We read about Hannah, who for years often wept and refused to eat because she desperately wanted a child but was barren. (1 Samuel 1:7) Similarly, young Jeremiah was hesitant when God wanted him to preach to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:6) Job, after losing his property, his family, his health, wished he had never been born. (Job 3:10) On one occasion, Jesus was in such agony that his sweat became as drops of blood.—Luke 22:44.
So no one can escape stress. What will you do, then? Learn to handle it. You need to do that because excessive stress can make you physically ill and emotionally depressed. It can create mental confusion and spur you to say and do things that you will regret. It can cause wear and tear on your mind and body. Here, then, are some ways to handle stress:
1. Reduce irritants. A dripping tap, a creaking door, a wobbling table can cause irritation. Small irritants add to your total load of stress. Do something about them. Get things tightened, oiled, and repaired. Have within reach things that are often needed. Organize. Experts say we spend 20 to 30 percent of our time just looking for things. Rearrange, tidy up, and decorate. Make it comfortable. Do not become a perfectionist, though. Perfectionism is a stressful burden for anyone to bear.
2. Organize and limit your activities. There’s a saying that if you try to catch two hares at the same time, you will miss both of them. List what you have to do each day, and do one thing at a time. Work out a schedule with your parents about when and how to care for duties at home. Then do these willingly and cheerfully. Do not join in reckless, stressful activities that bring you into situations that cause you anguish and fright. It might be exciting for the moment but destructive in the end.
3. Lessen fear of failure. School tests can really put stress on anybody. You can lessen fear of failure, though, if you prepare well, get everything in order the day before, go to bed early, and sleep well. Do not take stimulants. They might put you on edge—not give you one. Relax, but do your best. Remember, one test seldom makes or breaks a person for life. If you fail, there will be other chances. Do not give up. At Proverbs 24:16 the Bible encourages a positive attitude: “The righteous one may fall even seven times, and he will certainly get up.”
4. Talk to somebody. Steam boilers need escape valves. We humans even more so. When you feel anxiety and concern all bottled up in you, you should talk to somebody—a friend, a parent, a brother, or a sister. Sometimes you need to talk with somebody who can help you apply God’s righteous principles, such as an elder in the Christian congregation. Feel free to do that.—Proverbs 12:15.
5. Use prayer. Think of the four Bible characters mentioned earlier, Hannah, Jeremiah, Job, and Jesus. What helped them most to handle heavy stress? All of them talked with Jehovah God about their problems. Hannah did, and Jehovah blessed her with a son. (1 Samuel 1:11, 20) Jeremiah did, and God made him a strong and fearless prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:6-10) Job did, and Jehovah compensated him abundantly for his loss. (Job 42:10-17) Jesus did, and Jehovah strengthened him so that he could rise and continue his sacrificial course.—Luke 22:44-46.
What happened to Vincenza after having lost her mother, father, and boyfriend? She tells: “I had to find someone that I could not lose. I had to love someone that I knew was never going to leave me. Then I thought: ‘God, of course! He is always there. He must become my Father. He is the Creator of the Universe.’ So I prayed: ‘If you, Jehovah, are the real God, the Creator of the Universe, I am one that wants to serve you. Please, come and tell me that.’ Later, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door and she said: ‘I’m here because somebody loves you.’” Vincenza accepted a Bible study. She learned to do what is said at 1 Peter 5:7: “Throw all your anxiety upon him [God], because he cares for you.” She is now teaching others to do this.
So let us repeat: You cannot eliminate stress. But you can learn to lessen it, control it, and throw your anxiety on God. Then stress will never beat you.—Psalm 55:22.