We are excited to host another guest blogger this week, Austin Bridges! With AP tests beginning next week we wanted to gear you (and your kiddos) with information to be able to feel equipped to handle that stress (plus all the other stressors of our busy lives) in a healthy fashion! Enjoy!
It’s that time of year - whether you’re dealing with tests, college admissions, dating, sports commitments, or prom, stress and anxiety seem to go hand-in-hand with the spring semester.
Fun fact: Did you know that the part of your brain that processes stress and anxiety can’t tell the difference between positive and negative stress? This means that the nervous stress you feel before a test and the satisfying rush when you get that high score have a similar impact on your brain.
All of these positive and negative stressors can take a big toll on your day-to-day life. Since that’s not going to change anytime soon, the best thing you can do is learn how to manage it.
5 ways to help you keep calm and stay in control…
- Take some you time – Self-care is about doing things that make you feel good and help you relax. This could be playing sports, watching TV, getting outside, or hanging out with friends. Self-care helps de-stress and gives your brain and nervous system time to reset.
- Catch your z’s – Sleep helps boost your immune system, lower stress, and improve your mood. According to the National Sleep Foundation teenagers need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at their best, but most fall short of this. One study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
- Get moving – Exercise increases endorphins (the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters), increases self-confidence, and has been associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.
- Just breathe – Breathing exercises are one of the simplest and quickest ways to help manage your stress level.
- Exhale completely through your mouth
- Close your mouth and inhale for 4 counts
- Hold your breath for 7 counts
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for 8 counts
- Repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 cycles
Whether you’re sitting in class, studying, or about to take an exam, doing this can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and overall stress level. The key is to take your time and count slowly.
- Talk it out – It’s always good to talk to a friend, parent, or professional counselor about what’s overwhelming you. It can help you feel better and offer new perspectives on problems. And a professional can help you learn how to handle future stressors. Through methods like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, you can work to change activity in areas of the brain such as the amygdala and hippocampus that control emotion, stress and fear. CBT can teach you how to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive mental habits that create lasting and measurable changes.
Stress is a fact of life, and as you get older, things can become more hectic. But it’s doesn’t have to consume everything, and learning to manage it now can make it easier in the future. These are just a handful of simple yet effective ways to help you to de-stress in the short term, and create habits for positive stress management in the long term.
Austin Bridges, LPC Intern is driven to help individuals overcome the crippling barriers of anxiety and poor self-esteem specific methods, such as EMDR and CBT. His approach to therapy is based on clear communication, collaborative problem solving, and building a strong relationship between therapist and patient. Austin believes in the power of individual responsibility to help process trauma, foster healthy relationships, break negative patterns, and improve emotional intelligence.