Parents can help by acknowledging signs of stress in their children, understanding the causes, and helping their children determine the best course of action to reduce or redirect it. Fortunately, it’s possible to manage and maintain stress at relatively healthy levels. Here are some approaches to discuss with your child:
A survey by mtvU and The Jed Foundation found that 63% of college juniors had been so stressed that they couldn’t get things done at some point during the preceding three months.
- Get Active – Regular physical activity can help the mind and body deal with stressors. Research clearly demonstrates that getting regular exercise improves mood, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, and improves cardiovascular health. Studies have also shown people with mild to moderate depression experienced a 50 percent reduction in depressive symptoms when they participated in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week. Examples of aerobic activities include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking, and playing basketball.
- Find 20 Minutes — Encourage your child to find just 20 minutes of alone time to relax, take a walk, write in a journal or meditate. Research shows meditation may decrease stress, reduce anxiety, pain, and depression, and enhance mood and self-esteem
- Work the iPod — Many experts believe music really can help soothe the soul. One study showed that listening to classical or other calming music shortly after being exposed to a stressor can reduce negative emotional states.
- Manage Time & Energy — One cannot overstate the importance of developing a realistic schedule that allows for dedicated time to balance one’s academic, social and athletic responsibilities. Actively seeking out the academic advisor or learning center for help in developing a workable time and energy management strategy is one approach your student may wish to take.
- Hit the Sack — Lack of sleep can play havoc on student’s critical thinking skills, which can result in poor academic performance, regretful social decisions and a compromised immune system. It can also exacerbate existing mental health issues or trigger new ones.
- Good Nutrition — Lifestyle and diet changes can aid your child’s sleep and have a positive effect on her overall feeling of wellness. Many students report an increased consumption of sugary and starchy foods (comfort foods) during their first year at school or during periods of stress or depression. This type of diet can make them feel sluggish and interfere with their focus. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, while avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or heavy meals before bed, are proactive steps towards emotional health.
You can help your child manage stress by helping them determine what techniques work best. Encourage your student to access the resources provided by his college for improving stress management skills. Consider outside help from additional resources when necessary, such as a friend, family member, clergy, disability services, sports coach, tutor or advisor.
Motivating or Limiting?
Fortunately, the majority of stress your child will experience will be helpful and stimulating. Experts agree that, if balanced correctly, stress can be a positive element that increases our self-awareness and productivity. While some sources of stress cannot be avoided, others can be prevented or diminished. Discuss with your child how to tell the difference so that unnecessary stressors can be minimized.
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