Every student has experienced the negative symptoms of stress: the nervous rumbling of the stomach, the constant anxiety, the pounding headache. It's all part of everyday high school life. However, in the long run, too much stress may be seriously harmful to your health, even for teens.
Over the millennia, humans and animals have developed different biological reactions to stress. Animals typically react to stress immediately, in the first stage of General Adaptation Syndrome. That is, once the stressor is physically absent from their environment, the animal's body no longer recognizes a danger and returns to its normal condition.
The first stage of the syndrome - known as the immediate reaction - states that when the body (either human or animal) identifies a stressor, it releases adrenaline. This leads to a faster heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and a faster breathing rate, all of which cause more blood to be delivered to the various areas of the body. This, in turn, activates the "fight or flight" syndrome, which is associated with panic attacks and hyperactivity.
If the stressor remains in either a psychological or physical form once the immediate reaction has ended, the second stage begins. During this period, other hormones are produced that hinder the immune system's response to viruses and bacteria. This is known as the adaptation stage.
It is rare for the body to allow the onset of the third stage, known as exhaustion, because most people know to slow down when sick. This rest allows the body to rehabilitate its immune system.
During this period, one might have a nervous breakdown, and hospitalization would be required. Although it is unlikely that any student will be hospitalized for stress due to a math test or an English paper, our daunting schedules do make us more susceptible to illnesses. When stress is constant, medical problems can develop.
So how can we reduce the level of stress in our lives? Most important, everyone needs to find some "downtime" each day, when one participates in a relaxing activity (such as playing sports, listening to music, or meditating). However, for downtime to be most effective, all worries (including school and personal problems) must be tossed aside. Downtime helps us to maintain a sense of control and to prevent our bodies from becoming susceptible to illnesses. As a result, although it is sometimes referred to as "wasting time," taking downtime may not be such a waste after all. ?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.