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Stress is any change in the environment that requires your body to react and adjust to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. It produces the “fight or flight” response. Our bodies are poised to either run away from the stressor or stick around and fight against it. Everyone experiences stress as it is a natural part of human life. Our bodies have a built- in mechanism for responding to stress. It is an inevitable phenomenon in all aspects of human life. It is the key of the lock which would open gates to negativity and our will-power is the weapon which would lead us to a happy life. It is a physiological and psychological

imbalance. It arises due to the demands of a person and that person’s inability to meet those demands.

Fig 1.

Types of stress -

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recognised two types of stress: acute and chronic.

1. Acute stress :

This type of stress is short-term and usually the more common form of stress.

This often develops when people consider the pressures of events that have recently occurred or face upcoming challenges in the near future. For example, a person may feel stressed about a recent argument or an upcoming deadline. However, the stress will reduce or disappear once a person resolves the argument or meets the deadline.

Acute stressors are often new and tend to have a clear and immediate solution. Even with the more difficult challenges that people face, there are possible ways to get out of the situation. It does not cause the same amount of damage as long-term, chronic stress.

Short-term effects include tension headaches and an upset stomach, as well as a moderate amount of distress. However, repeated instances of acute stress over an extended period can become chronic and harmful.

2. Chronic stress :

This type of stress develops over a long period and is more harmful.

Ongoing poverty, a dysfunctional family, or an unhappy marriage are examples of situations that can cause chronic stress. It occurs when a person can see no way to avoid their stressors and stops seeking solutions. A traumatic experience early in life may also contribute to chronic stress.

Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to return to a normal level of stress hormone activity, which can contribute to problems in the following systems:

  • cardiovascular

  • respiratory

  • sleep

  • immune

  • reproductive

A constant state of stress can also increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can develop when stress becomes chronic.

Chronic stress can continue unnoticed, as people can become used to feeling agitated and hopeless. It can become part of an individual’s personality, making them constantly prone to the effects of stress regardless of the scenarios that they encounter. People with chronic stress are at risk of having a final breakdown that can lead to suicide, violent actions, a heart attack, or stroke.

Causes of stress -

Common causes of stress include - school, work, homework, financial pressure, social issues, transitions (graduating, moving out, living independently), relationships, worrying about something, not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation, having responsibilities that you're finding overwhelming, not having enough work, activities or change in your life. The presence of stress depends on the presence of the stressor. Stressor was defined as anything that challenges an individual’s adaptability or stimulates an individual’s body or mentality.

The NIMH also identify three examples of types of stressor:

  • routine stress, such as childcare, homework, or financial responsibilities

  • sudden, disruptive changes, such as a family bereavement or finding out about a job loss

  • traumatic stress, which can occur due to extreme trauma as a result of a severe accident, an assault, an environmental disaster, or war.

Symptoms of stress -

People respond to stress in different ways depending on their personality, early upbringing and life experiences. Few symptoms of stress are :

  • Irritability due to lack of sleep at night causing difficulty paying attention, lower grades, higher stress, and trouble getting along with other people. Some students reported problematic coping strategies such as taking sleeping pills, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol to help them sleep.

  • Not able to concentrate on academics and sports

  • Unexplained fears or increased anxiety

  • Feeling of separation from friends and peers

  • Headaches and stomach aches

  • Poor appetite or low immunity

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody

  • Nail biting, pacing, frequent lying

Stress faced by a teenager -

Teenagers of the modern era are living in a highly competitive world which exerts lots of stress on them. Stress is an emotional imbalance which may occur due to various reasons such as tests, papers and projects, competitive nature within one’s chosen field, financial worries about school, etc.

Students commonly self-report experiencing ongoing stress relating to their education, which we refer to as academic-related stress, such as pressure to achieve high marks and concerns about receiving poor grades. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently conducted a survey involving 72 countries and consisting of 540,000 student respondents aged 15–16 years. On average across OECD countries, 66% of students reported feeling stressed about poor grades and 59% reported that they often worry that taking a test will be difficult.

In today's competitive world every student will feel the effect of stress at some point of time in their life. It can be explained in terms of sadness, worries, tension, frustration which leads to depression. Studies shows that the stress level among 18 to 33 years of age is very high in the world.

Impacts of Stress -

  1. Academically - Students are facing various academic problems in today’s highly competitive world, which includes exam stress, lack of interest in attending classes and inability to understand the topic. This may result in low self-esteem. Most of the psychological problems such as depression and suicide occur due to low self-esteem.

  2. Physically - Stress that goes on without a break can lead to a condition called distress, a negative stress reaction. It can also lead to a change in people's behaviours, such as nail biting, heavy breathing, teeth clenching and hand wringing. Individuals may experience cold hands and feet, butterflies in the stomach, and sometimes increased heart rate, all of which are considered as common physiological effects of stress, that can be associated with anxiety. Physical problems as sleeping disorders, breathing difficulties, headaches, and a loss of appetite are also common. Similarly, stress has been shown to be associated with increased appetite and higher body weight.

  3. Emotionally - It cases bad temper in students and kills their tolerance, making them vulnerable to temper issues.

Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.

Can stress have a positive impact?

Stress may be negative or positive for an individual, depending upon the strength and persistence of the stress, the individual's personality, cognitive appraisal of the stress, and social support. An appropriate level of it can effectively motivate your student toward growth, achievement, and self-satisfaction.

Some of the situations listed in the causes above are often thought of as happy events – for example, you might feel expected to be happy or excited about getting married or having a baby. But because they can bring big changes or make unusual demands on you, they can still be very stressful. This can be particularly difficult to deal with, because you might feel there's additional pressure on you to be positive. Another way stress can be beneficial is that it helps people learn the best way to overcome and manage stressful situations. Eventually, after a point, teenagers are not able to handle the pressure caused by stress.

College stress by numbers -

20% of college students say they feel stressed “most of the time.”

10% of college students had thoughts of suicide.

13% of college students have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other mental health condition.

Why makes you feel stressed?

The amount of stress you feel in different situations may depend on many factors such as:

  • your perception of the situation – this might be connected to your past experiences, your self-esteem, and how your thought processes work (for example, if you tend to interpret things positively or negatively)

  • how experienced you are at dealing with that particular type of pressure

  • your emotional resilience to stressful situations

  • the amount of other pressures on you at the time

  • the amount of support you are receiving.

We're all different, so a situation that doesn't bother you at all might cause someone else a lot of stress.

How to deal with stress -

The need of the hour is to change our lifestyles by becoming stronger and mentally fit. Teenagers must be guided to do regular exercise which includes - running, swimming, dancing, singing and aerobics in the morning at least for half an hour. After long hours of studying, relaxation is necessary using techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing. Recognize what causes you stress, at home or at work, and find ways to steer clear of those situations.

They must eat healthy and homemade food instead of junk food. A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure.

Communication is the best tool to eradicate the anxiety of the mind. They should be able to share their problems with their parents and teachers. Talking with a trusted adult helps teenagers feel they do not carry the burden of stress alone. One should encourage their children to discuss their feelings. Remember to listen. Parents who spend twice as much time listening as they do giving advice are more effective.

Try not to take on too much and prioritize your goals. Cut yourself a break and be more forgiving when you don’t get to everything.

Teach problem-solving skills and constructive action. Stress is often the result of feeling trapped and overwhelmed by the problems in our lives. Students are sometimes immobilized by their inability to see a positive outcome for a difficult situation. By teaching them to solve problems one step at a time, we provide them with a useful resource to deal with stress.

Slow down. The fast pace of our complex lives is often stressful in itself. Teens need a time when they can exercise their imagination and process the events of the day.

Set your standards high, but do not expect perfection. One of the most important factors is to have a sense of positive self-esteem. Attaining goals contributes significantly to the development of self-esteem. Having the unrealistic expectation of being perfect sets one up to experience stress, self-doubt and failure.

Put life into perspective. They have difficulty identifying options and alternatives. Help your child understand that problems have solutions. Also help them to recognize temporary concerns and lasting values. Stress can often be reduced by reminding them that life goes on and tomorrow can be better than today.

Seek out professional help. Sometimes the stress experienced by students is traumatizing and can be disruptive or dangerous. Parents do not always have the resources within the family to deal with stress.

Reduce the intake of alcohol, drugs and caffeine. These substances will not help prevent stress, infact they can make it worse.

Cut down on screen time at night. And a to-do list can set up the next day and help you get a more restful night’s sleep.

Getting enough sleep, practicing visualisation, practicing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), listening to music, organising, positive thinking and affirmations are other ways to deal with stress.

Fig. 2

Conclusion -

Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how one handles it. The ongoing stress relating to education has demonstrated a negative impact on students’ learning capacity, academic performance, education and employment attainment, sleep quality and quantity, physical health, mental health and substance use outcomes. Increasing students’ stress-management skills and abilities is an important target for change. Some students feel more stressed out in comparison to the others, some students handle the stress more efficiently than others but no one can completely roll out stress from their lives.

Written by - Meghan Singhal (Intern at Just A Teen)

Sources -


Fig. 1 was taken from

Fig. 2 was taken from

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