Remember the moment you found out you were pregnant and the first time you saw your baby? So how can that baby be graduating from high school in four weeks?
The weeks leading up to graduation should be cherished, but instead I hear friends and patients telling me they are experiencing insomnia, moodiness, headaches and high blood pressure. They "don't have time" to exercise or eat right. Simply put - they are stressed!
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress leads to increased risk of:
- Heart disease, including stroke and heart attack
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Depression and anxiety, which affects relationships at home and at work
- Obesity from "stress eating," high levels of cortisol, a hormone which rises in stress, and lack of exercise
- Illness and autoimmune disorders, because cortisol levels rise and decrease the immune response
How is graduation stressful?
Let us count the ways: Final exams, proms (including the tux, dress, transportation, after party, flowers, shoes, nails, hair), will she/he even graduate (too many absences, finals, truancies), scholarships, senior events, and graduation weather and gifts.
And then we have the related celebrations. Decisions need to be made about the following: who gets invited, how many get invited, renting a tent, chairs, and choices in food. You’ll need to landscape, paint and make sure the toilet doesn’t clog.
All the while, time and financial commitments continue: that stressful job, the car that needs repairs, the showers, weddings and First Communions that take place this month. Your other kids need to get to work, school and sports. They need new clothes because somehow they grew five inches, three shoe sizes and gained 15 pounds.
There is the incessant laundry, the leaking dishwasher (you'd better cater that party), your mom is having "pains" and can’t find her glasses. On and on. As you lay in bed, you consider calling the doctor because the medication (for headaches, back pain, depression, or insomnia) he or she prescribed isn’t working.
It's not only adults feeling the pressure. “Like adults, teens are vulnerable to both physical and emotional stress," said Amy Leone of . "The transition from childhood to adulthood is difficult for teens as they go from control and schedules to expected independence and uncertainty."
Leone encourages adults to watch for symptoms of stress in teens. “Causes and management programs for teen stress are different," she said. “There are challenges everywhere for them, especially this time of year, which can lead to thoughts of suicide."
Unfortunately, stress in life is unavoidable and won’t end with graduation on June 5. Short of running away, how can you and your teen decrease stress? Here are some tips:
- Change the "shoulds" to"coulds" and prioritize. (I should make the food. I could order the food.)
- Make a list of only 10 things to do each day. Make a point to put a minimum of one guilt free thing on your list for you. That could include reading, walking, taking a nap, exercising or practicing yoga.
- Delegate. That senior will have excess time.
- Talk to your family. Have them choose how they can help, and let go of the idea of perfection.
- Remember to abide by the seven-to-eight a day rule for sleep, water, vegetables and fruit
- 30 minutes a day
- Consider , massage, meditation or yoga
- Talk to a counselor
You deserve a healthy life. Don’t wait for the "crash" or doctor visit. Empower yourself and your teen to control the stress instead of having it control you.