Updated: Nov 12, 2021
STRESS! No better time than the present to delve into this word that everyone used to shy away from. Back in the day, we would rarely sit around and complain about our stress. If we were burned out, we might come home and take it out on our spouse or kids, but we definitely wouldn’t talk so openly about it with friends and colleagues. Stress was considered a weakness. Stress meant that you were incapable of handling your crap. It meant that you couldn’t multi-task. It meant that you were just trying to avoid work or chores. Over the years, speaking our truth and saying “I am stressed out!” became part of our normal conversation.
Then something called COVID came around and all of a sudden stress was a word that everyone was talking about. If you weren’t feeling stressed out by the pandemic, something was very much wrong with you. People would make jokes saying “I want whatever you are taking that allows you to not be so stressed.” Moms and dads were stuck in the home all day together and it felt like it would never end. For the first time, kids were staying at home in their pajamas, trying to learn on a computer with better technology skills than their own parents. Adults turned to Netflix and kids turned to social media as an outlet for their stress.
How do we define stress? “Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Your definition of a demanding circumstance and my definition of a demanding circumstance could be on either end of the spectrum. Now imagine how a teen may conceptualize a demanding circumstance. We have to be careful not to downplay situations in their lives that they consider demanding. I have witnessed many adults in my time say things like “oh yeah, wait till you get older if you think that is stressful.” Or my old time favorite “big deal, you should only know what stress is.” The minute you discount a child for their feelings, you have lost them for good. Teens remember everything you say and how you made them feel. Be careful with your words….they are very impactful.
Let’s be honest...there is no way we could have all prepared ourselves with what took place in March 2020. But we still need to ask a very important question - how can we prevent stress? One way to prevent stress is to prepare yourself each morning and get yourself in the right mindset because you never know when the little surprises might come your way. What does this look like? Teenagers love to roll their eyes at me when I make this suggestion, so let the eye rolling begin. You should set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day, so you are not running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. This will allow you that time in the morning for a clear head. It might also allow you to do 15 minutes of something that brings you joy. Most kids want every last minute of sleep they can get before they dart out the door. In my experience 9 out of 10 arguments between teens and their parents happen in the morning while everyone is getting ready for work and school. So what is the end result? Mom and dad arrive at work in an angry state of mind and the kids arrive at school in a lousy mood. No one wins.
I know this sounds crazy, but starting off the day doing something you enjoy can also help put you in a positive mindset. Studies will tell you that the most successful people in the world wake up at 5 a.m. Just think about it - if you were to wake up at 5 a.m. and spend your mornings in a quiet space with your hot coffee in hand, how much better would you show up as a parent waking your child up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready for school?
Why is it so important that you start your day off with a positive mindset, you askt? The way you react in the initial seconds or minutes can determine if the situation elevates to a level of absolute craziness. Learning from these experiences will help you develop a more positive growth mindset. Don’t forget...stress is normal. If we never feel stress, it means we really don’t care, - right?