Question of the Week

December 15, 2008


People of all ages have stress in their lives from different sources and for different reasons. Many teens spend most of their days at school, so even if they don't see school as a source of stress, they may bring stress from other sources with them to school. For more information about stress in general, please visit:

School is only one place that teens bring (and/ or experience) stress. For those teens with jobs, and for many adults, stress is in the workplace.

"The 2000 annual "Attitudes In The American Workplace VI" Gallup Poll sponsored by the Marlin Company found that:

Finding help to manage all that stress can be difficult. While some turn to friends and family, others either don't want to, feel that they can't, or don't have a support network of friends and family already established when those times of stress present themselves.

"The positive effects of a support network include:

  • Sense of belonging. Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness. Whether it's other new moms, dog lovers, fishing buddies or siblings, just knowing you're not alone can go a long way toward coping with stress.
  • Increased sense of self-worth. Having people who call you a friend reinforces the idea that you're a good person to be around.
  • Feeling of security. By reaching out and sharing yourself with others, you have the added security of knowing that if you start to show signs of depression or exhibit unhealthy lifestyle habits, your friends can help alert you to the problem."

Having a support network is not just about having someone to talk with during stressful times. While a "support group" is typically just for helping a person through difficult times, a "support network" is there during both good times and bad.

"A social support network is different from a support group. A social support network is made up of friends, family and peers, while a support group is generally a structured meeting run by a mental health professional. Although both can play an important role in times of stress, a social support network is something you can develop when you're not under stress, providing the comfort of knowing that your friends are there for you if you need them. You don't need to formalize your support network with regular meetings or an official leader. A coffee break with a friend at work, a quick chat with a neighbor, a phone call to your sister, even a visit to church are all ways to reduce stress while fostering lasting relationships with the people close to you."

For some, part of the problem may be that they don't feel as though they have a social network. For someone who is new to an area, or doesn't feel they have friends they can trust, finding someone to turn to can be difficult. It is not always easy to establish good friendships; it can be especially difficult to establish healthy, supportive relationships in times of crisis or high stress.

Before pouring out their heart to someone new, most people need to have some history with that person. This is where just spending time with others and getting to know them can be a fun way to get to know new people establish that support network.

  • "Many people make friends at work. Open yourself up to the possibilities by participating in social occasions....
  • Follow your interests. For example, if you like walking, join a neighbourhood walking group.
  • If you don't work and have no particular hobbies, consider joining a volunteer group with a charity that interests you.
  • Use your existing network of family and friends to meet new people.
  • Don't turn down party invitations."

Stress enters everyone's life at some point or another. Teens (and adults) benefit from having a support system to help them through those times, but even the best of friends is not always enough.

"[Y]ou or your friends may encounter some tough times. But if you ever find that personal issues get really overwhelming, find someone to talk to. Just because you're becoming more independent does not mean you're alone. Friends and parents can be great resources, but sometimes that's not enough. School counselors or other therapists can be very helpful if you want to talk with someone outside of your friends and family. So many people are available to help you."

Questions of the Week:
When do you see yourself, your peers, and your family members feeling the most stress? How might a support network help you and the people around you deal with stress? What are things that you can do to establish and nurture a support network when things are going well? How might this be different in stressful times? Who can you turn to for support when a support network is not there or not enough? What resources are offered at your school or place of work that are there to help students and employees through difficult times?

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

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