Young People Ask
How Can I Deal With Stress?
How much stress are you under?
Stress? I don’t even know what that is
I can handle it
I’m at my limit
I’m drowning in stress
HANDLING stress is like pulling a heavy shipping container. A large truck can haul it across the country with ease. But a car cannot. Pulling such a load even a short distance could ruin a car’s engine. The same could be true of your “engine” if you’re overwhelmed with stress.
Is the situation hopeless? Not at all! To keep from burning out, you’ll need either to lighten your load or to get a more powerful “engine.” Actually, you can do both. Let’s see how.
Lighten Your Load
THE CHALLENGE: Overscheduling.
“Someone will ask me to help out with something or to socialize when I really have things that I need to do. I just don’t want to let anyone down.”—Karina.a
THE REMEDY: Learn to say no.
“Wisdom is with the modest ones,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 11:2) Modesty, or accepting your limitations, empowers you to say no when the load will be too heavy for you to carry.
Of course, saying no isn’t always an option—for example, when your parents remind you about your chores! But if you let everyone add to your load, you’ll eventually give out. Even the biggest trucks have a load limit.
Tip: If it’s hard for you to turn down someone outright, try saying, “Let me get back to you.” Then, before giving a definite reply, ask yourself, ‘Can I really afford to invest the time and energy needed for this activity?’
THE CHALLENGE: Procrastination.
“If a task seems difficult, I’ll put it off. But then I’ll worry about the fact that I still have to do it. When I finally start on it, I have to rush, which stresses me out.”—Serena.
THE REMEDY: Get started—even if you don’t finish now.
“Do not loiter at your business,” advises the Bible. (Romans 12:11) Confronting a hard task is bad enough, so why add to the load by procrastinating? That just keeps it before you longer!
To create incentive, make a to-do list. Break down big tasks into manageable sizes. “I love lists,” says a young woman named Carol. “Usually I put the things I dislike the most first, and then as I check them off, it gets easier. Before you know it, you can move on to the things in your life that are more fun!”
Tip: If you struggle to get started on a task, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and begin working on it right away. When the alarm goes off, you’ll have 10 or 15 minutes of the job completed. Now that you’ve started, you might be surprised at how much easier it is to do more on the task.
Cut out the clutter! When you have to rifle through chaos to find your homework or clean clothes to wear, you raise your stress level. For a less hectic morning, set aside five minutes to tidy up before going to bed
Get a More Powerful “Engine”
Take care of your body.
Experts agree that a healthful diet, regular exercise, and proper sleep will help you to get more done.b Don’t worry—taking care of your body isn’t all that complicated. A few simple steps will get you started. Take sleep, for example. Try the following.
Get enough sleep. Set regular times to go to bed and to get up, at least on school days and workdays.
Allow yourself enough time to unwind. Don’t exercise within three hours before going to bed, and avoid heavy snacks and caffeine as bedtime nears.
When it’s time to go to bed, try to make your bedroom dark, quiet, and comfortable.
Connect with others.
Don’t hesitate to turn to your parents and friends for assistance. Will that really help? Yes, for studies show that emotional support reduces the damage that increased stress can cause to your heart, blood vessels, and immune system.
Those findings agree with the Bible, which says: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down, but the good word is what makes it rejoice.” (Proverbs 12:25) When “anxious care” weighs you down, true friends can offer you a “good word” of encouragement, which may be just what you need to make it through.
Do you still need help in coping with stress? See the following chapters in the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volumes 1 and 2, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Chapter 18: How Can I Cope With Stress at School?
Chapter 21: How Can I Manage My Time?
Chapter 26: How Can I Control My Emotions?
Chapter 27: Why Do I Feel That I Have to Be Perfect?
a Some names in this article have been changed.
b For tips on diet and exercise, see chapter 10 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 1, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?
What kind of stress do you face in your life? What methods of coping with stress have you found to be the most effective?