Let’s be real: Life can be stressful at times. And it’s not just the big things that can cause stress. Life’s everyday hassles, demands, and pressures can cause stress too.
When you’re stressed, your body responds by making hormones that provide extra energy, focus, and strength. This is called the fight-or-flight response.
At times, a small surge of stress can be a positive thing. It can help you do well under pressure, be on time, or meet a deadline. It can alert you to a problem you need to handle. It can motivate you toward your goals. It can push you to study, plan, and prepare.
But too much stress — or stress you can’t manage — keeps you from doing and feeling your best. It can wear you down, drain your energy, and make it harder to get things done. Too much stress can lead you to feel cranky, annoyed, or scattered.
You can’t avoid stress. But you can make it a goal to keep everyday stress at low levels. When you stress less over everyday stuff, you’re better able to handle bigger challenges you might face.
If you want to get better at managing everyday stress, here are ten things that can help you:
1. Balance work and play. Make time to work on your tasks and goals (like schoolwork, chores, or practice). But be sure to make time for things you enjoy, too (like playing music, working out, playing with a pet, or spending time with friends). Even if it’s only a few minutes, daily time to relax and recharge lowers your stress.
2. Plan your day. Use a calendar or planning app to keep track of your daily schedule. Fill in your class times, tests, and when assignments are due. Add your activities. Block in times to study for tests and work on assignments. Block in times to do things you enjoy. Having a plan and a daily routine lowers stress.
3. Stick to your plan. Of course, planning is no good if you don't do what you plan. Make it a routine to look at your planner every day. Check off what you’ve done. Get ready for what’s coming up. Make a routine time to study. Keep on top of assignments. This lowers daily schoolwork stress.
4. Ask for help when you need it. Schoolwork, grades, and tests are a big source of stress for many people. Keeping on top of it all isn’t always easy. If you need help preparing for tests, planning projects, or getting things done, ask a teacher, parent, tutor, or mentor to coach you. If you tend to procrastinate, pair up with a classmate to study or do homework at a set time.
5. Use the positive energy of stress. Don’t put things off until the last minute. That’s too stressful. And it’s hard to do your best if you’re in a rush. Instead, let stress motivate you to get moving on a task. If you have a deadline, give yourself a positive mental push. Think, "OK, I’ve got this — I'm on it." Then go ahead and get started.
6. Deal with problems as they come up. Don’t ignore everyday problems — but don’t stress out about them either. Instead, figure out how to handle them. If you’re not sure what to do, ask for help and advice from others.
7. Eat good foods. What you eat affects your mood, energy, and stress level. Choose foods that are good for you. You don’t have to avoid all treats. But if sweets are your main source of fuel, you're likely to crash or feel cranky — and stressed!
8. Get enough sleep. After a long day of school and activities, you might feel like staying up late. Maybe you’ve still got homework to finish. Or you want time to talk to friends or binge-watch that show you like. But going to bed late doesn’t leave enough time for sleep when you need to get up early for school. Without enough sleep, you’re more likely to feel stressed over the day’s ups and downs.
To avoid a stressful morning rush, stick to a set bedtime and wake time. Turn off screens well before bedtime. Wind down with quiet activities.
9. Exercise every day. Stress melts away when you’re working out, playing a sport, or dancing to your favorite music. Exercise does more than keep you fit. It’s a way to manage stress, lower anxiety and depression, and make your mood more positive.
10. Breathe deeply. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take some deep, slow belly breaths. Belly breathing is quick and sure way to turn off your body’s fight-or-flight (stress) response. Practice belly breathing or mindful breathing every day to help you lower everyday stress.