Hot Topic Tuesday- You’re Stressing Me Out - A Guest Post by Eileen Cook

I think anyone who tells you that high school will be the best years of your life is nuts, and possibly should be smacked around until he or she sees reason.  I spent most of high school stressed out.  I worried a lot.  I worried about how I was doing in school. I worried about my friends. I worried that the wrong guy liked me and that the right guy didn’t seem to know I was alive. I worried about getting into college and what would happen after college. I worried about my parents finding out where that strange dent in the car came from and ending up grounded until I was 35.  I worried about what other people thought of me, and I worried that I worried too much.

Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. Anxiety is a normal response to stress and being a teen is the very definition of stressful. However, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 25% of teens have difficulties with anxiety.  Signs of anxiety vary from person to person, some people can’t eat at all, and another goes on Oreo binges. One person lashes out with anger, and another is quiet but practically makes a four-course meal out of their fingernails. Some people find they sleep all the time. I was the opposite. I had perfected the art of lying in bed late at night staring up at my ceiling and imagining each possible awful that might happen. I had a very good imagination. It’s not surprising I became a writer.

It seems things have become even more stressful. There’s huge pressure to make sure you’re involved in all the right clubs/teams/volunteer work or you won’t get into the right college and then before you know you’ll be a washed up has been, pushing a grocery cart around, collecting empty cans for a living. There’s the stress of trying to figure out who you are and what you want out of life.  There’s stress that comes from other people’s expectations about everything from how you cut your hair, to your sexuality to what you like to read.

So if stress can’t be avoided, how do you cope? I’ve decided one of the biggest accomplishments in our life is figuring out what makes us happy and then taking time to do those things. There’s a quote that says: “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it yourself.”  I realized somewhere along the way that I couldn’t worry about what other people wanted or expected, that there was plenty to worry about just trying to figure out what I wanted.

I vote that everyone does one thing today that reduces his or her stress. Walk the dog, take a nap in the sunshine, read a book, bake cookies, or simply sit and enjoy the moment.  If you spend your whole life worrying that you don’t have any energy left over to enjoy the good things.  From now on I’m leaving the imagining the worst case scenario for my books and spending the rest of my efforts catching happiness.

Curious to hear from people- do you think teens are more stressed than ever before and what do you do to keep your stress down?

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.  Her latest YA release, The Education of Hailey Kendrick came out in Jan 2011

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at  Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.


Angelina C. Hansen said...

Excellent post, Eileen. Took me right back. I just finished GETTING REVENGE ON LAUREN WOOD. Such a thought-provoking novel with interesting characters. So happy you chose to be a writer.

Lisa Schroeder said...

I love this post. I especially love this sentence, which I'm going to share with my senior son:

"I realized somewhere along the way that I couldn’t worry about what other people wanted or expected, that there was plenty to worry about just trying to figure out what I wanted."


Joanne Levy said...

Great post, Eileen. I think kids are under so much pressure these days from all sides and I really don't know how they (and their parents, quite frankly) manage to keep it all together.

Ditto what Lisa said above.

Denise Jaden said...

I'll take that challenge (to do one thing to reduce stress today) and I'll raise it to two things.

Who else is in?

Thanks, Eileen! Great post that put things a little more in perspective for me today.

Eileen said...

Thanks for having me! Here's to taking time to relax!

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