Not enough and life is dull and boring. Too much and you feel like you're going to jump off the deep end.
I asked a group of teenagers what they do when they're too stressed out for comfort. Here are some of their suggestions:
Exercise. Nothing beats a good workout to let off steam. Michelle likes to run. "It's free, I can do it anywhere, and when I'm done I always feel better."
Basketball, aerobics, biking, swimming and walking are also popular. According to Jack, nothing beats karate. "I take all my frustration out on the punching bag. I punch it, kick it, and yell. It gets the anger out."
Music. Karlee's been playing piano for years. After a particularly rough day, she pounds the keyboard. "I lose myself in the music," she says.
A lot of kids said that listening to music was a fabulous release. While loud music tends to make parents tense, it seems to have opposite effect on their "offspring" (pun intended.)
- Massage. A group of girls gave me an emphatic yes on this one. "We take turns," explained Janine, "rubbing each other's shoulders and necks. When your muscles are really tight you know you're stressed."
Another way to reduce stress is to examine what's causing it and attempt to eliminate the source. Here are a few suggestions for finding the root of the problem:
Over-scheduling. Is it possible you're doing too much? Make a list of all your activities, then rate each one in terms of importance.
Consider your motives. Are you working weekends because you really need the money, or to afford designer sneakers?
Are you taking an honors class because you enjoy the challenge, or because it'll look good on your college applications? Consider doing less and enjoying it more.
- "Should" s. Do you find yourself saying yes when you want to say no, because you think you should? If pleasing others is your sole motive, ask yourself: What do I really want?
De-cluttering relationships. Do you have friends you don't particularly like? Do you hang around with them out of habit?
Just as you clean your drawers out after each growth spurt, and try on new clothes, try on some new friends. If the old ones don't fit, who needs them?
Finally, here are a few tips that work for me:
Breathe. When I'm tense, I forget to breathe. A few deep breaths help to relax.
Meditate. You don't have to climb the Himalayas to meditate. Simply close your eyes, breath deeply and concentrate on a simple, positive thought. The experts recommend 20 minutes a day, but even five minutes a week is helpful.
Talk. A trouble shared is a trouble halved. After griping to a friend I always feel better. When I hear her troubles I'm glad that at least I don't have that problem!
After my grandmother died I felt as if no one understood. Talking to friends just made me feel worse. A therapist who specialized in bereavement helped me express my sorrow and accept the grieving process. If a problem doesn't go away, consider seeing a professional.
Laugh. Nothing beats a funny movie, comedy tape or the latest joke.
Cry. Tears have a way of washing away tension. Holding them back, on the other hand, causes more stress. Let it all out.
- Mini-Vacation. While I'd like to fly to Hawaii for two weeks on the beach, I make do with a bubble bath or a trip to the ice-cream parlor at the mall. When I feel like I'm too busy to take a break, that's usually exactly when I need one.