Stress and Success - why these DO NOT go hand in hand and what you can do to control your stress.
1306 Days Ago
"But if I'm not stressed, it means I don't care"
So it seems stress is beginning to be a normal part of daily life for almost everyone, including our teens and children. Stress, worry, anxiety and fears all seem to be 'the norm', and the belief that if you're not stressed, then you don’t care, or success only comes from being stressed, is becoming common place. It seems people believe you have to be stressed to do well and show you're serious.
But success and stress do not go hand in hand.
When the brain perceives "too much stress" a small part of the brain, called the amygdala, goes into 'fight or flight' or FREEZE mode. A good way of explaining this (in fact, it genius!) is a computer; when you overload it with too much information - basically demanding too much from it and expecting it to quickly switch from page to page, run 10 documents at once, including 5 internet pages and expecting it to do this for hours on end - but it freezes, gets slow and eventually shuts down?
Well that's how your brain works. So the result of being too stressed, having too much going on? Your brain freezes up and you start getting confused, forgetting information, you resist learning new stuff, you appear distant and like you don't care, you act out, you get emotional, you can't meet deadlines and you feel like just giving up.
'Giving up now is better than going through all this and STILL failing.'
Stress is harming our children and teens to the point of them giving up, or being forced to give up because they simply can't cope with the pressure and they crumble under the stress.
The amygdala has a lot to answer for here. In primitive times, the fight or flight response was responsible for saving us when we were being chased by tigers and real life threatening danger. That doesn't really happen anymore, but the fight or flight response still gets triggered by daily life events; such as an exam, a deadline or a worrying situation. The brain perceives these events to be dangerous because we fear them so much, due to external factors and worrying/overthinking.
The amygdala is like a fire alarm; it can't distinguish between a real fire and burning toast, it can't distinguish between a real life threatening situation or an upsetting/stressful event. And so gets triggered in the same way, whenever a fear, threat or worrying situation arises; weather this be an exam or stepping out in front of a bus. Events like this trigger the amygdala to send signals to the brain to release a hormone called CORTISOL.
Cortisol causes all that forgetfulness, feelings of overwhelm and physical symptoms of stress such as headaches, tearfulness, butterflies, queasy feelings and a racing heart. All your blood and energy goes to your legs - everything else, like digestion, just shuts off, because your body believes you need to run....run away from that tiger. Anxiety attacks and symptoms of anxiety are triggered and these make teens feel like they aren't in control of their own body. Pretty scary stuff.
So what can you do?
Well, in short - reduce your stress.
There have been numerous scientific studies showing the effectiveness of EFT (Tapping) on cortisol levels and the amygdala.
1. Tap!! I’m an Emotional Freedom Technique Practitioner and use this amazing therapy to help people overcome emotional issues; such as stress and overwhelm. If you’d like to know more about EFT please see my website or get in touch. There is a simple tapping procedure which helps calm our emotional system without the need to be with a practitioner.
What to do:
Start by tapping (Do it just as you’d imagine it! Gently tapping your skin with your finger-tips) along your collar bone, for about 20 seconds, then move to tapping under your armpit, about where your bra strap would be, again for about 20 seconds and then move to the fleshy side part of the hand (the karate chop point). Repeat. Do two or three rounds of this anytime you feel stressed. Close your eyes and breathe through any emotions which pop up. If two or three times aren’t enough, keep going until you feel calmer. Don’t worry if you ‘release’, crying or tingling sensations would be normal.
Working with a practitioner is so helpful to get to the root causes of stress and to learn this amazing therapy for yourself.
2. Breathe. Focusing on the breath is calming for the whole body, mind and nervous system. Breathing is the only involuntary function of the body that we can control if we want to – so it must be important and it must be for a reason?!
Focusing on the breath brings calmness – it’s that simple. It can be uncomfortable for some people to start off with, but if you’re so used to being stressed out and busy, stopping to just ‘breathe’ freaks your body out a bit. Don’t worry - this won’t last long.
What to do:
- Lie or sit down, make yourself comfortable. Choose an amount of breaths you want to do, or feel comfortable doing, such as 10 or 20. You could always choose a set time; for example 3, 5, 10 or 20 minutes. My advice would be to start off small.
- Place one of your hands on your tummy and one on your chest, over your heart.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly. As you breathe in, feel your tummy expand/rise and contract/lower as you breathe out. Just focus on your tummy hand moving up and down for your set amount of breaths or time. If thoughts creep into your mind, let them in then let them go and bring your attention back to your hand and your breathing.
3. Get Creative. When stress is getting the better of you and you feel like you might explode from all the pressure, take time out to get creative. (Yeah. Serious!) I can’t explain all the benefits, there’s too many!
But colouring and getting creative is calming for the mind and stimulates brain activity.
You could set a timer in between revision, and do ten minutes here and there. PERFECT excuse to get some new stationery ... (and we all know how exciting new stationery is!!!)
4. Get Outside. I don’t need to explain the benefits of fresh air and exercise to anyone who’s ever Googled: How to deal with stress’.
Endorphins etc etc blah blah blah... it’s all true of course and I’m a big promoter of exercise, but what I’m suggesting you do is a bit different from going to a spinning class.
Get out in nature. Yes, nature, the outdoors. Look at the trees, listen to the birds, feel the wind, watch the clouds. See the colours, see the beauty, feel the calm.
So much of everyone’s time is spent rushing around, looking at our phones, computer screens, TVs etc, the beauty of nature probably never even registers right?
Well trust me when I say, it HAS to! I call it green therapy. Take the dog out and go somewhere pretty, look at the trees and the leaves, what can you smell or see? Let your senses be nourished by nature.
5. Look after yourself. It’s so hard to feel the benefits of a healthy lifestyle when you’re stressed, but trust me when I say eat well, drink water and get enough sleep. Sugar and alcohol are the enemy. Avoid at all costs. This should be standard.
I hope you find some useful information here!
Article written by Kathryn Pearson - Sheffield
Welcome to my profile. I am a qualigned Teen Yoga Teacher - which qualifies me to teach yoga and mindfulness to Teens.
I'm a (Level 2) EFT practitioner with the AMT. I'm an ex secondary school teacher with 7 years experience of working with teenagers and I've worked closely with GCSE... [read more]