October 10, 2005
Whether a person is nine,
nineteen, ninety, or somewhere in between, there is going to be
a certain level of stress in life. And while the causes of stress
vary at different stages in life, the coping skills learned as a
child or preteen can often affect how teens and adult deal with
"Every kid (and adult) worries
and feels stressed out sometimes. But what do kids do about it?
The National Association of Health Education Centers [NAHEC]
and the Nemours Center for Children's Health Media (creators of KidsHealth.org), wanted to find out, so they asked 875 kids ages 9 to 13 to answer
some questions about stress. First, kids were asked to choose from a
long list of stuff that might worry them.
top five things kids said they worried about were:
* Grades, school, and homework - 36%
* Family - 32%
* Friends - 21%
* Brothers and sisters - 20%
* Mean or annoying people - 20%
"Then they asked kids what they
do during those times when they feel stressed or upset. Here are
the top things kids said they do most often. (Kids who answered
could say more than one thing, so these add up to more than 100%.)
* Playing or doing something active - 52%
* Listening to music - 44%
* Watching TV or playing a video game - 42%"
This study also found that what preteens
do, and what they want, can be in conflict.
"Only about 1 in 5 kids said they
talk to a parent when they're upset, but a whopping 75% of kids
said they'd like their parents to help them in times of stress.
Sometimes parents might feel like kids don't want them to get
involved. That's why it's good to talk to a parent - even if all
you want to say is that this problem is going on and that you'd
like to try to solve it on your own. More often, you might want
your mom or dad to offer ideas or at least a little encouragement."
But what is stress?
"Stress is defined as a feeling
of emotional or physical tension. Emotional stress usually occurs
when situations are considered difficult or unmanageable. Not surprisingly,
different people consider different situations as stressful."
What is "considered difficult or
unmanageable" to one person, might be a fun adventure to another.
Some things that might be stressful for one person, might be enjoyable
or interesting for another.
"Stress can come from any situation
or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or anxious.
Stress is a normal part of life. In small quantities, stress is
good -- it can motivate you and help you be more productive. However,
too much stress, or a strong response to stress, is harmful. It
can set you up for general poor health as well as specific physical
or psychological illnesses like infection, heart disease, or depression."
As preteens grow into teens and adults, how they deal with stressful
situations can grow and change. For those teens who might (directly
or indirectly) want the help of a parent, but don't want to ask,
some suggestions for the parents include:
"Parents can help their teen in
* Monitor if stress is affecting their teen's health, behavior,
thoughts, or feelings
* Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading
* Learn and model stress management skills
* Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities"
As a teen (or preteen), are these suggestions
you would like a parent or other adult in your life to follow? Are
these tips that might help you when dealing with a friend or family
member who may be stressed? While adults, friends, and family members
can help, each person really needs to take steps to take deal with
the stress in his or her own life.
"Teens can decrease stress with
the following behaviors and techniques:
* Exercise and eat regularly
* Avoid excess caffeine intake which can increase feelings of anxiety
* Avoid illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco
* Learn relaxation exercises...
* Develop assertiveness training skills....
* Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task
into smaller, more attainable tasks
* Decrease negative self talk...
* Learn to feel good about doing a competent or "good enough"
job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others
* Take a break from stressful situations....
* Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way"
Balancing a healthy level of stress
is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Since different people
find stress in different places, this healthy balance can be found
in a different place for each person. That said, some physical and
mental issues contribute to the level of stress in all of us.
"Attitude: The attitude of an individual
can influence whether a situation or emotion is stressful or not.
"Physical well-being: A poor nutritional
status places the body in a state of physical stress and at risk
of infection. ... A poor nutritional
state can be related to unhealthy food choices, inadequate food
intake, or an erratic eating schedule. ... This form of physical
stress also decreases the ability to deal with situations that are
perceived as difficult or unmanageable (emotional stress) because
malnutrition will affect the way our brain processes information.
"Physical activity: Inadequate
physical activity can result in a stressful state for the body.
Physical activity has many physiologic benefits. ...
"Support systems: Most everyone
needs someone in their life whom they can rely on when they are
having a hard time. Minimal or absent support systems make stressful
situations more difficult to deal with.
"Relaxation: People with no outside
interests, hobbies, or means of relaxation, may be unable to handle
stressful situations because they have no outlet for stress."
Questions of the Week:
stress to your life? What do you see adding stress to the lives
of your friends, peers, and family members? In what healthy (and
unhealthy) ways do you deal with stress? What could you do differently
to help you better manage the stress in your life? What healthy
(and unhealthy) stress-management habits do you see in your friends,
peers, and family members? What could you do to help them better
manage the stress in their lives? What would you like your friends
and family members to do to help you? How can you communicate with
them so that they know what they can do to help you? What can you
do if you are concerned about the stress level in your life, or
in the life of a friend or family member?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum