Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stress Relief 101

The year was 1986 and I had just entered my Sophomore year in high school. Although I was a fairly smart kid, there were tons of really smart kids in my class and often times I felt a bit inferior. I was very blessed to have an amazing group of classmates that were smart, athletic, and incredibly talented (Yes, it is possible to be smart AND athletic at the same time). Anyway, one of my classes my Sophomore year was Biology. My teacher that year for Biology was one of the coaches. Now don't get me wrong, my father was a coach and I think many coaches are great teachers. This coach was also a good teacher; however, he had a VERY dry delivery. It also happened to be at a time during the day when I would rather be sleeping than sitting in any class. The coach had pre-written ALL class notes to be used on an overhead projector, which he simply read through and turned to the next page.

The first few weeks of class I became mesmerized by the hummmm of the projector, the bright light, the warm room, the full stomach, and the smell of formaldehyde. I fought sleep almost daily and the days that I didn't fight sleep I fought day dreaming. Out of desperation I decided to try something that would at least keep me awake during class. I decided to simply copy down the Coach's notes exactly as is. This seemed to work. It helped me to stay focused during class. It wasn't perfect, but it was a vast improvement from fighting sleep and day dreaming. In addition, I found that these notes came in very useful while studying for tests. Although I did learn Biology in the class, I believe the best thing that Coach taught me was the proper way to organize and take notes. This skill took me through several degrees and is still used today. By the way, I ended up minoring in Biology in college.

Note taking is a great way to stay alert and engaged during class as well as make the studying process easier. In addition, it can also be a good coping skill. Years and years ago we were a society that taught both print and also cursive or script hand writing. Studies have shown again and again that writing in a journal is a fantastic way to cope with the normal stressors of life. Many other studies show that hand writing in a journal has a greater effect than typing in an online journal.

We teach our kids and teens how to be "successful" in the real world, yet we have changed our definition of success. In many ways this has created a decline in society and also in our education system. We must change our definition of success if we want to raise children who will be happy and healthy adults. We currently measure success often by ones position in a job or by the amount of money that person makes. Instead, we should measure success not by what someone does or how much they make, but by who they are and how much they give back to society. In order to have a happy and healthy adult life we must learn how to cope with life. Instead of only pushing academia and athleticism, we should also be instilling in our kids valuable coping skills. More and more kids are turning to alcohol, drugs, and sex as coping skills to "feel better" about themselves and their life circumstances. We must teach our kids that alcohol, drugs, and sex are not the best coping skills. They have too many negative repercussions.

Good coping skills include journaling (by hand) how one feels during the day. You can also add what it is that made you feel that way. Note taking is a great way to keep the mind focused on one task at a time. Hobbies such as painting, building, working on cars or other projects are great at releasing stress. Exercise and being active in sports are also great ways of releasing stress.

Although there are tons of great ways to cope with stress there are also some things that are not a stress relief but rather entertainment. Movies, television and video games are often classified as "stress relievers", but instead they are "numb-ers". They don't release stress, but they numb us out for a while. Don't get me wrong, entertainment has a place in life, therefore video games, television and movies are fantastic. However, they should be classified as entertainment, not as a coping skill and therefore should be limited on a daily basis.

I hope you all will take time every day to relieve excess tension and stress. Then be sure and teach your kids how to do it by modeling what you are doing and encouraging them to try healthy ways of relieving stress.

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