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 www.eileencook.com. Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.