In the world of young entrepreneurship, we know there’s no shortage of things that stress you out. On top of all the outside stressors like school and friend drama, you’ve got internal stress, too. Your changing body. Possible mental or physical health issues. Low self-esteem.
You can’t always change your circumstances, but you can change the way you cope with them. This is called a stress management plan. Here’s how you can create your own so you can feel happier and healthier.
DO A REALITY CHECK
Stress – and its twin, anxiety – exist because our primitive ancestors needed it to survive. If a mountain lion is about to attack you, you need that jolt of adrenaline and hyperfocus that comes from fear so you can run away and protect yourself!
The problem is that the primitive parts of our brains still perceive life-threatening situations when there aren’t any. Friend drama isn’t going to maul you to death. Homework can’t eat your family. But try telling that to the part of your brain that hasn’t evolved for tens of thousands of years!
The first part of your stress management plan should be to look at what’s stressing you out and ask yourself if it’s truly life or death. Will this cause someone (including yourself) to get hurt? Will this cause real damage to a person, place, or thing? If the answer is no, remind yourself of that fact. And if the answer is yes, find an adult right away.
IDENTIFY THE ACTUAL PROBLEM
Now that you’ve reminded yourself that no mountain lion is eyeing you for lunch, work on identifying the real source of your stress. Is it something you’ve been ignoring? Are you overwhelmed with homework? Have you changed schools? Is there something going on at home?
Before you can cope with your problems and learn how to handle stress, you need to identify the problem. You can’t deal with something if you don’t know what it is.
CREATE A SOLUTION
The problem: You’re overwhelmed with tons of homework on top of college applications and all your afterschool activities.
The solution: Time management apps. These will help you sort through your tasks and determine which ones are the most urgent versus what can wait a while.
The problem: Too many chores.
The solution: Break the work down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Get the unpleasant stuff out of the way by doing them first.
The problem: Friend drama.
The solution: Take a step back and try to look at the situation objectively. Ask yourself:
- Does this directly involve me? Will this affect me? If not, take yourself out of it. Set boundaries with those who try to pull you in. “I’m not part of this.” “I’m not the one to talk to about this.” Block calls and texts.
- If this does affect you or directly involve you, find time to quietly think about what happened and your part in it. Do you need to apologize to someone? Clear up a misunderstanding? Confront someone about their behavior? Whatever it is, do it soon so everyone can move on.
- Is this a chronic problem? Does this keep happening with the same people? If so, ask yourself whether this friendship is toxic. Maybe it’s time to find new friends.
The problem: Fighting with your parents.
The solution: First, understand that this is very typical teenage behavior. You may feel more mature than you appear in their eyes. Time moves more quickly for adults, and to your parents, you’re still a little kid. Go easy on them. Second, ask yourself whether they’re pushing you because they want what’s best for you. Believe it or not, parents sometimes know about things because they’ve already gone through them! Finally, pick your battles strategically so your parents know when you’re serious about what you want versus assuming you’re just fighting all the time to be difficult.
NOT ALL PROBLEMS HAVE SOLUTIONS
Sometimes the thing that’s stressing you out the most can’t be fixed with an app or blocking a friend’s number for a while. You can’t bring back a lost loved one. You can’t un-move to a new town because of your parent’s job. You can’t skip puberty. You can’t keep your parents from divorcing.
Problems like these require you to dig deep and develop coping mechanisms. Recognize that sometimes the way out of a problem is to go through it. Although it’s a cliché, take it one day at a time. Try to avoid forcing yourself to “get over it” sooner than you’re ready. Try to avoid letting others pressure you to do that, too. Everyone copes with grief (major life changes like moving and divorce count as grief as you say goodbye to your old life) in their own way and at their own pace.
Adapting to major life changes can seem like you’ll never feel better. Find a way to remind yourself that the situation may be permanent, but how you feel isn’t. This analogy is a great one.
As for puberty, well, you don’t really have a choice, do you? (Sorry.)
Sometimes the stress you feel from a major life change requires outside help. Check to see if your school has a counselor or therapist on campus. Talk to a teacher you know and trust. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents are great resources. If you feel safe doing so, ask your parents to help you find a professional therapist.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR PHYSICAL BODY
Coping with stress requires a lot of mental energy. It also requires physical energy. Give your body the fuel it needs to face stress by eating foods full of nutrition. Make yourself strong through exercise or regular physical movement. Take vitamins or supplements if your diet isn’t great. Find healthy habits that work for you. When your body is strong, your mind will follow.
Everyone experiences stress. Everyone. But you don’t have to let it run or ruin your life. No matter how big the stress feels, you can find ways to cope. You deserve to feel happy and healthy. You deserve a life full of love and joy!
The Kantner Foundation is proud to offer college scholarships to Florida’s high school entrepreneurs. To learn more about our program, and to start your application, click here.