Reduce Stress

OVERVIEW

In today’s very hectic, fast-paced, and often economically challenged world just about all teens deal with some degree of stress. School days start early and are frequently jam-packed with responsibilities. There may also be specific issues with teachers and peers; there may be problems mastering a specific subject or several subjects. After-school hours may include participation in a sports team and/or a part-time job. When a teen finally returns home, there may be hours of homework and at least a few household chores.

Moreover, teens may be dealing with even worse situations. The family may face severe economic insecurity resulting in a lost home, shelter living, or homelessness. Sometimes, teens may be forced to deal with the untimely death of a parent. Clearly, teens may become overloaded with stress. That is why it is important to learn ways to reduce stress.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Physical Exercise Reduces Stress

In a study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers from Minneapolis, Minnesota, wanted to learn more about the association between vigorous physical exercise and perceived stress, mental health, and socializing among 14,706 four-year college students. The data, which were obtained from the Harvard School of Public Health Study of College Health Behaviors, were collected from 94 schools in 2004. The researchers determined that the students who met vigorous physical activity recommendations were less likely to report perceived stress and poor mental health. The researchers commented that “interventions to improve mental well-being of college students should also consider promoting physical activity.” 1

Music Appears to Be Useful in Reducing Stress

In a study published in 2015 in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers from Germany examined the association between listening to music in everyday life and stress reduction. The initial cohort consisted of 55 healthy university students, with 35 females and 20 males. They ranged in age from 18 to 31 years, with a mean age of 23.2 years. The participants were studied during a five-day regular term week at the beginning of a semester and during a five-day examination week at the end of a semester. Four times per day, the participants rated their music listening behavior and their perceived stress levels. A subgroup of 25 students provided saliva samples on two consecutive days during both weeks. The researchers learned that listening to music decreased subjective stress levels and lowered cortisol concentrations, which suggested reductions in stress. According to the researchers, their findings indicated that “music listening can be considered a means of stress reduction in daily life, especially if it is listened to for the reason of relaxation.” 2

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Stress Reduction Interventions May Alter Stress Levels in College Students

In a study published in 2014 in the journal Health Promotion Practice, researchers from Oklahoma State University wanted to determine what stress reduction interventions would alter stress levels in male and female college students. They examined various aspects of stress such as overall perceived stress, test anxiety, and personal burnout. The cohort consisted of 531 students (293 males and 238 females) taking college courses that focused on cognitive-behavioral stress management, cardiovascular fitness, or generalized physical activity. They also formed a control group. By the end of the semester, the students in the stress management and physical activity groups had significantly lower levels of perceived stress, text anxiety, and personal burnout. The students in the fitness group had significantly lower levels of perceived stress and personal burnout, but there were no differences in scores for text anxiety. The researchers commented that “a combination of stress reduction strategies may be the most effective means of reducing stress indices in male and female college students.” 4

Qigong, a Traditional Chinese Exercise, Appears to Be Useful for Stress Reduction 5

Biofeedback Appears to Be Useful for Stress and Other Problems

In a study published in 2015 in the journal Nursing Research and Practice, researchers from California and Thailand investigated the use of biofeedback to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in Thai graduate students in public health nursing. Sixty students, who ranged in age from 21 to 52 years, were randomly assigned to either a four-week biofeedback intervention group or a control group with no intervention. The participants in the intervention group were told to use their portable biofeedback devices three times per day and to record their practice times in a log. By the end of the intervention, the intervention students experienced significantly reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. The students in the control group had increases in the medical problems. The researchers noted that learning stress reduction techniques should be very important for these students. “As future leaders in the public health nursing arena, it is important for graduate students in public health nursing programs to learn strategies and interventions to help them manage their lives and cope with life stressors.” 6

BARRIERS AND PROBLEMS

Teens May Have a Medical Problem, Such as Type 1 Diabetes, That Adds Stress to Their Lives

In a study published in 2016 in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, researchers from Philadelphia and Orange, Connecticut, wanted to learn more about the stressors associated with having type 1 diabetes in early adolescence. Type 1 diabetes is actually a somewhat common childhood disorder. Each year, about 15,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States. Type 1 diabetes necessitates a fairly rigorous self-management routine. “Diabetes self-management is complex and demanding, requiring frequent blood glucose monitoring, carbohydrate counting, administration of insulin, and treatment of events of hypo- and hyperglycemia.” Data were obtained from 205 students between the ages of 11 and 14 years; 58 percent were female. The participants were asked to identify their top three stressors, and they responded to open-ended questions. Eighty-two percent of the students reported that school was the top stressor. That was followed by social life (49 percent) and diabetes (48 percent). So, almost half the students considered their chronic illness to be a top stressor in their lives. The researchers also identified three diabetic-specific stressors—“just having diabetes, dealing with emotions, and managing diabetes.” 7

Certain Foods May Increase the Risk of Perceived Stress

In a trial published in 2014 in the Central European Journal of Public Health, researchers from the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia examined the association between nutritional behavior and stress and depressive symptoms. The trial included 3,706 undergraduate students at seven universities in the United Kingdom. The self-administered questionnaire included 12 questions on food frequency. The researchers found that the consumption of unhealthy foods, such as sweets and cookies, was significantly associated with perceived stress and depressive symptoms in females. Conversely, the consumption of healthier foods, such as salad, fresh fruits, and cooked vegetables, was significantly negatively associated with perceived stress and depressive symptoms for males and females. The researchers commented that “interventions to reduce depressive symptoms and stress among students could also result in the consumption of healthier foods.” 8

For Many Teens, School Is a Source of a Great Deal of Stress

In a study published in 2011 in the European Journal of Public Health, researchers from several different European countries investigated the association between adolescent perceived stress and adiposity. As part of this study, the researchers examined 10 different stress dimensions. The cohort consisted of 1,121 teens (484 males and 637 females) between the ages of 12.5 and 17.5 years from six European cities. The researchers found that although female teens reported more levels of stress than the male teens, they had similar stress profiles. Males and females both reported that their highest levels of stress came from school related events or situations. According to the researchers, “it is important that school communities and managers are aware of this and that they are involved in developing strategies to turn down the experience of stress in adolescents and to ameliorate their coping capacities.” 9

NOTES

1. Nicole A. VanKim and Toben F. Nelson, “Vigorous Physical Activity, Mental Health, Perceived Stress, and Socializing Among College Students,” American Journal of Health Promotion 28, no. 1 (2013): 7-15.

2. A. Linnemann, B. Ditzen, J. Strahler et al., “Music Listening as a Means of Stress Reduction in Daily Life,” Psychoneuroendocrinology 60 (2015): 82-90.

3. Divya Singh, Firoza Samadi, JN Jaiswal, and Abhay Mani Tripathi, “Stress Reduction through Audio Distraction in Anxious Pediatric Dental Patients: An Adjunctive Clinical Study,” International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry 7, no. 3 (2014): 149-52.

4. Timothy Baghurst and Betty C. Kelley, “An Examination of Stress in College Students Over the Course of a Semester,” Health Promotion Practice 15, no. 3 (2014): 438-47.

5. Ee Suen Chan, David Koh, Yan Choo Teo et al., “Biochemical and Psychometric Evaluation of Self-Healing Qigong as a Stress Reduction Tool Among First Year Nursing and Midwifery Students,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 19 (2013): 179-83.

6. Paul Ratanasiripong, Orawan Kaewboonchoo, Nop Ratanasiripong et al., “Biofeedback Intervention for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Among Graduate Students in Public Health Nursing,” Nursing Research and Practice (2015) Article ID 160746.

7. A. M. Chao, K. E. Minges, C. Park et al., “General Life and Diabetes-Related Stressors in Early Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes,” Journal of Pediatric Health Care 30 (2016): 133-42.

8. Walid El Ansari, Hamed Adetunji, and Reza Oskrochi, “Food and Mental Health: Relationship Between Food and Perceived Stress and Depressive Symptoms Among University Students in the United Kingdom,” Central European Journal of Public Health 22, no. 2 (2014): 90-97.

9. Tineke De Vriendt, Els Clays, Lea Maes et al., “European Adolescents’ Level of Perceived Stress and Its Relationship with Body Adiposity—The HELENA Study,” European Journal of Public Health 22, no. 4 (2011): 519-24.

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES

Magazines Journals, and Newspapers

Baghurst, Timothy, and Betty C. Kelley. “An Examination of Stress in College Students Over the Course of a Semester.” Health Promotion Practice 15, no. 3 (2014): 438-47.

Chan, Ee Suen, David Koh, Yan Choo Teo et al. “Biochemical and Psychometric Evaluation of Self-Healing Qigong as a Stress Reduction Tool Among First Year Nursing and Midwifery Students.” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 19 (2013): 179-83.

Chao, A. M., K. E Minges, C. Park et al. “General Life and Diabetes-Related Stressors in Early Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes.” Journal of Pediatric Health Care 30 (2016): 133-42.

De Vriendt, Tineke, Els Clays, Lea Maes et al. “European Adolescents’ Level of Perceived Stress and Its Relationship with Body Adiposity—The HELENA Study.” European Journal of Public Health 22, no. 4 (2011): 519-24.

El Ansari, Walid, Hamed Adetunji, and Reza Oskrochi. “Food and Mental Health: Relationship Between Food and Perceived Stress and Depressive Symptoms Among University Students in the United Kingdom.” Central European Journal of Public Health 22, no. 2 (2014): 90-97.

Linnemann, A., B. Ditzen, J. Strahler et al. “Music Listening as a Means of Stress Reduction in Daily Life.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 60 (2015): 82-90.

Ratanasiripong, Paul, Orawan Kaewboonchoo, Nop Ratanasiripong et al. “Biofeedback Intervention for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Among Graduate Students in Public Health Nursing.” Nursing Research and Practice (2015), Article ID 160746.

Regehr, Cheryl, Dylan Glancy, and Annabel Pitts. “Interventions to Reduce Stress in University Students: A Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Affective Disorders 148 (2013): 1-11.

Simon, Arun K., T. V. Bhumika, and N. Sreekumaran Nair. “Does Atraumatic Restorative Treatment Reduce Dental Anxiety in Children? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” European Journal of Dentistry 9, no. 2 (2015): 304-9.

Singh, Divya, Firoza Samadi, JN Jaiswal, and Abhay Mani Tripathi. “Stress Reduction through Audio Distraction in Anxious Pediatiric Dental Patients: An Adjunctive Clinical Study.” International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry 7, no. 3 (2014): 149-52.

VanKim, Nicole A., and Toben F. Nelson. “Vigorous Physical Activity, Mental Health, Perceived Stress, and Socializing Among College Students.” American Journal of Health Promotion 28, no. 1 (2013): 7-15.

Web Site

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. www.aacap.org .

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.