Stress and the Teenage Brain (Part 2): 10 strategies to combat toxic stress

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combat stress

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Can’t think properly?

You need to stop and recalibrate. When you find yourself in a funk, your goal is to get yourself back to a normal state.

How do you do that?

You need simple tools and strategies to combat the stress hormones flooding through your brain.

Here are 10 stress-busting strategies I find effective …

1. Stop giving yourself a hard time

serenity now

In one episode of Seinfeld, Frank Costanza yells Serenity now! to try to calm himself down. But this doesn’t seem to work. Poor Frank just ends up feeling even more stressed than before (you can see the video clip here)!

What can we learn from Frank Costanza?

Basically, yelling at yourself and berating yourself only make things worse.

A much better strategy is to practice self-compassion. Speak to yourself as you’d speak to a good friend or a small child who was feeling stressed. In short, be kind to yourself.

2. Practise meditation

When I first heard the term meditation, what came to mind were images of incense, monks in robes chanting and people wearing peace symbols. Little did I know at the time that meditation was actually a powerful technique that could decrease stress levels and enhance focus and wellbeing.

When you first start practising meditation it may feel like nothing is happening (Am I benefiting from this? Is this worth doing? you may think). But just know every time you sit down and practice, you are sculpting and toning your brain to be able to deal more effectively with the challenges life throws at you.

Check out meditation apps such as Smiling Mind, 10% Happier and Insight Timer.

3. Keep a worry notepad

worry pad

Every time you have a stressful thought, jot it down on a notepad. Tell yourself you’ll come back to it later at a certain time (e.g. 4pm = Worry time!). When it’s worry time that’s when you’ll brainstorm solutions to your worries. But for now, just park your worries until then.

4. Practice the reality show technique

Feeling stressed about something that has happened? Take a step back from the situation and replay the events as if you were watching a scene from a reality TV show.

Ask yourself:

• What lessons can I learn from this?
• What would a home viewer make of what just happened?

Asking these questions can give you some emotional distance and objectivity, which can help decrease your stress levels.

5. Power pose

Simply striking a power pose for 2 minutes has been shown to reduce stress and enhance confidence and feelings of power. So stand tall: place your hands on your hips and pretend that you’re Wonder Woman for 2 minutes!

6. Move your body

exercise and stress

Exercise is a fantastic way to decrease stress and clear your mind. It’s also the most effective way to create new neurons in the brain.

So put your comfy shoes on and start moving. It doesn’t matter what you do: walk, jump, dance, surf or skate. All that matters is that your limbs are moving and you can feel your heart pumping.

7. Talk to a friend (real or imaginary)

It can help to talk to someone about the stressful thoughts swirling around in your head.

But what if no one is around and you’re on your own? Pull up a chair and pretend there’s a kind person sitting right next to you ready to listen. Tell this imaginary person what’s on your mind. This may seem crazy but it works. Try it and see.

8. Define your worst nightmare

What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? Imagine the worst-case scenario in painstaking detail.

Then once you’ve done this, ask yourself the question:

What can I do to stop this situation from coming true?

Create a list of actions you can take. Then be in action.

9. Get a dose of nature

dose of nature and stress

Studies have found that natural environments have a calming effect on stressed out minds. Scrolling through your Facebook feed when you’re stressed and overwhelmed will only exacerbate any bad feelings in your body. Force yourself to get away from your devices and head outdoors.

10. Stop multi-tasking

Research shows multi-tasking floods your brain with stress hormones. It’s also really exhausting for your brain. Instead of rapidly switching from one task to another, try focusing on one thing for an extended period of time.

This may feel strange at first (our brains are hardwired to seek out new and novel things!), but with time you’ll get used to it and your chilled brain will thank you for it.

To sum up

If you want to learn information effectively and grow a healthy, resilient and strong brain, you need to find ways to stay calm.

Pick a strategy from the list above and test it out. Notice how you feel before and after. Feel less stressed? Great! Keep doing it. Feel the same or worse? Try another strategy. Keep experimenting until you find something that works for you and your lifestyle.

Got a stress-busting strategy that works for you? Feel free to share your best strategies below!

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