We are all living in a fast-paced world. Children and youth are experiencing more and more a sense of being stressed and overwhelmed and need to learn coping strategies.
I started to fill this article with research and statistics about stress, childhood trauma, and rates of anxiety in teens. Just reading the information was making ME feel anxious. I didn’t want to just depress everyone. So, instead, I’m going to jump right in and give you some ideas for coping strategies for young people.
• Laugh. Be silly. Break the tension.
• Smell or taste some peppermint. Some say this can help settle a nervous stomach, relieve anxiety and help with focus.
• Plan. Knowing what comes next and being strategic about schoolwork can make a big difference.
• Move. Run. Exercise. Hike. Dance. Walk. Post a list of ideas on the fridge.
• Breathe. Count to four while you breathe in, and count to six while you slowly breath out. Do this twice. Do this before a big game. Do this before a test. Do this before you sleep. Learn to do this.
• Connect with friends in person. Ditch the screens for a couple of hours.
• Sleep. Umm, yeah, I already said this, but it bears repeating.
• Take really good breaks – and then go back to studying really hard. Everyone focuses differently and for different lengths of time.
• Get outside.
• Eat good food. Eat an apple with peanut butter. Eat a few pretzels. Eat four M&M’s instead of the whole bag.
• Help children learn to make good decisions, think critically, communicate, manage their feelings and set goals. Learning these important life skills will help them approach the world proactively rather than reactively and will help them feel more in control. Here’s to better health and well-being and less stress and anxiety. At 4-H we’re all about life skills. Contact me if you’d like to get involved.
• Oh, by the way… this works for adults too.
Heather Gordon is extension agent, 4-H Youth Development, Jackson County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension.