With the pressure of results day this summer, it’s a good time to help teens cope with stress. We’re all for nurturing healthy habits long term as the best way to build mental resilience, but there are times when all of us succumb to a moment of stress and what’s needed is a quick fix. With that in mind, here’s 10 instant ways to reduce stress. They’re easy to put into action and most of them can be done anywhere at any time; they will all have a positive impact in minutes.
1. Get laughing!
Laughter literally changes the chemical composition in the body. Put on a favourite comedy show, sit back and watch. Great if both concentration and energy levels are low, as it requires minimum effort. Half an hour is ideal, but there are lots of short clips on You Tube and a burst of laughter will reduce stress instantly. Unbelievably, faking a smile will have a similar effect, so if your teen’s somewhere they can’t get a comedy boost, pretending to smile (even if they’re not feeling smiley) will quickly result in them feeling more relaxed.
Stress can cause unhealthy breathing, so teach your teen some breathing techniques to help them instantly restore balance, reduce their heartrate and feel calmer. Simply breathing in through the nose for five seconds and then out through the mouth for five seconds can help – repeat this for two or three minutes.
3. Take a brisk walk outdoors
Being physical is fantastic for both physical and mental health. This needn’t be a great long trek – just ten minutes of brisk walking can get the circulation flowing, activate muscles, clear the head and stimulate the mind with more positive thoughts.
4. Look at something inspiring
Whether it’s a photo, picture, painting, fabric, building or statue, looking at inspiring things will give you a lift. Encourage your teen to keep photos of anything that sparks joy in them on their phones so it’s easy to look at; each time they do, they’ll get a boost of feel-good hormones.
5. Read (or listen to) a book
One of the great things about reading a book is that it’s a creative process. Unlike a film where you’re presented with images and just need to watch, as you read a book the writer is inviting you to picture the situation in a way that resonates with you. It’s a terrific way to step into another world and place – even if only for a few minutes at a time.
6. Do something for someone else
Good deeds create virtuous circles. They’re not only helpful to the recipient, the giver gets a feel good boost from helping someone else. Win-win all round. It’s one of the reasons volunteering is a great idea. Doing the occasional thing for our friends, family and neighbours can create the same effect.
7. Play some music
There is no quicker and easier way to completely change your mood than listening to a piece of music. Make sure your teen’s playing a feelgood vibe if they need uplifting, or a calming tempo if they’re trying to relax.
8. Take a bath
Another easy one when energy levels are low. For best effect, add some essential oils, bubble bath or anything that creates a smell that makes them feel nurtured (good examples are lavender, vanilla, chamomile or cinnamon). Lay back, relax in the warm water and stress will wash away. Great idea to try ahead of bedtime, to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
9. Snuggle up with your pet
Having a cuddle with our furry friends can be very soothing and help relieve anxiety.
Stress tends to make us tense up, contracting muscles, folding inwards on ourselves, compressing the lungs and body. Make a conscious effort to combat stress by stretching one body area at a time (such as arms, legs, neck, feet, hands), pulling shoulders back to expand the lungs, and loosening the tension that’s built up.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time and short bouts are not harmful. However, it’s worth knowing some techniques to combat stressful feelings when they strike. Why not try out some of these ideas with your teen, so they know exactly what to do on the spot if stress starts getting the better of them?
There’s plenty more you can do at home to help your teen create lifelong healthy habits and help them study in: The Parents' Guide to Study and Exam revision - GCSEs and The Parents' Guide to Study and Exam revision - sixth form