What are the common signs of anxiety and stress?

Students across the world having been dealing with stress and anxiety. This has been enhanced over the past two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the everchanging protocols and learning environments. It is important that students receive as much possible support in and out of school and for parents to be aware of how they can assist.

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When thinking of Stress and anxiety, many people are unaware of the how are they different from one another. There’s a fine line between stress and anxiety. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by external triggers. These triggers can be short-term, such as a school assignment deadline or a fight with a loved one, or more long-term, such as facing discrimination, or dealing with chronic illness. Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor

When looking into stress and anxiety, there is great versatility in the signs, symptoms and what causes it. People under stress can experience mental and physical symptoms. Some of these symptoms include irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping.

Stress and anxiety can present itself in many ways. It’s important to understand that both stem from something different for each person. Some common causes to a person’s stress or anxiety include health, workload, finances, isolation and what is seen on the news or social media. Over the past two years, these factors have been heightened and is something many school counselors including myself have taken notice to.

Techniques students can use to cope with and manage stress

Stress and anxiety can leave individuals feeling hopeless for their constant worrying to decrease. Some might ask themselves how and why these feelings can’t go away. Permanently getting rid of stress and anxiety will most likely be impossible, but there is a great abundance of techniques and strategies that can be used to help your child cope. As a parent or guardian, you can use the following to incorporate in your child’s life to help support them cope:

Understanding the root causes: Parents being able to identify stress and anxiety can help their child understand the root of what is causing them to feel stressed. Parents can explain to their child what stress and anxiety mean including the signs, symptoms and common causes.

Providing social support: Have you ever heard of the phrase “weight off your shoulder”? When our minds are racing and in a constant state of worrying, it’s important to have a listening ear to vent these feelings to. As a school counselor, a part of my role to support my students is by being an active listener. My office is a place for these students who are overwhelmingly stressed to vocalize their day-to-day stress. After discussing this stress and providing support through listening, developing coping strategies and encouragement, most of my students react positively. It is important that students have the social support from the people they know built into their life’s. Parents or guardians can have an impact on their child’s stress simply by communicating and listening to their children concerns. It’s important that students also have peers they can go to for support and support back as well.

Breathing exercises: Sometimes a quick way to relieve stress is a simple as breathing in and out. Breathing exercises can provide quick results with helping your child manage their stress and anxiety. This tool can be encouraged to be used prior to or during stressful situations and be incorporated in your child’s day to day schedule.

The importance of physical exercise and healthy eating: The way you treat your body has been proven to affect your mind. Incorporating physical activity in your lifestyle can combat stressors, improve sleeping habits and physical health. Using physical activity as a coping mechanism does not need to be at a competitive standard for everyone. Simply being immersive in nature and taking a 30-minute walk can do the trick. Along with being physically active, what you put into your body will also affect the way you feel physically and mentally. Overeating, undereating and consistently not eating the right foods will bear negative results on your body and mind. Having a well-balanced and proportionate diet will help individuals reek the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and mind.

Sleep patterns: Lack of sleep can make one physically unenergized, cause difficulties concentrating and increase stress. Sleep can be impacted by issues with time management, existing stress, technology use, and our diets and exercise habits. Keeping up with a healthy sleep schedule will make a difference in how your child feels overall and parents should monitor this. Putting technology away an hour before bedtime, meditation, reading or partaking in relaxing activities some methods that can help your child relax their minds before bed.

Incorporating enjoyable activates or interest in your schedule: Another effective way parents can help their children cope with their stress is by incorporating activities they enjoy into their schedules. Partaking in activities your child enjoys can take their mind off their stressors and instead increase positive thoughts.

Seeking help: Although there are many proven methods for one to cope with their stress and anxiety, sometimes further assistance is needed, and this is ok! If self-help is not helping, a psychologist, or other mental help provider can aid with learning how to manage stress. In many cases, medication prescribed by a psychiatrist has also proven to effectively help reduce stress.

Talk with your children and encourage them to be kind to themselves when dealing with stress and anxiety

As a parent, one of the first steps you can take when identifying stress or anxiety in your child is reassuring them that they have your support, and you provide them with warmth and understanding. Find what tactics work best for your child, and actively practice healthy habits together. Overcoming difficulties, at any stage, can be best resolved or relieved as a team; in school, they will have our staff’s support, and outside they will have yours.

About the Author:

Christopher Dunlop

Christopher Dunlop is a school counselor with Catapult Learning. He received his Master’s Degree in School Counseling from St. John’s University and has worked with diverse groups of students of all different ages. Some of Christopher’s school counseling experience includes individual and group counseling, classroom guidance, and facilitating parent workshops.