Rates of anxiety and depression in high school kids have been on the rise every year since 2012. In an annual survey published by the American Psychological Association teens reported their stress level was 5.8 on a10-point scale compared with 5.1 for adults. Teens also say their school-year stress levels are far higher than they think is healthy.
Have you ever thought it might be due to the fact that teens are constantly on their phones, tablets, computers and TVs—kind of like we are? Their brains are turned on constantly, exposed to stimulation minute by minute and they aren’t sleeping long enough or deep enough to repair the damage. Is it any wonder we marvel at the lack of engagement they seem to have? Could it be that their brains simply can’t cope and recover?
Among all the factors contributing to our modern health epidemic, stress is the leading culprit, yet it is mostly overlooked by conventional medicine. The sheer number of stressful events we are exposed to in our daily lives can make it difficult to turn off the stress response, which means we’re creating stress hormones around the clock that damage our health. Our bodies are not designed to live this way. We are designed to live in a relaxed, healing state. Whether it be work, family, or electronic-overload stress, your brain copes with all this over-stimulation by generating more high intensity brainwaves and suppressing those that calm and relax you. Once you become accustomed to this pattern, it can be very hard to relax your body and mind. You can experience foggy thinking, poor memory, lack of motivation, negative self-talk, low energy, weight gain, and unhealthy life habits such as overeating or smoking and, uh-oh, so can your kids!
In a normally functioning body, the stress reaction should dissipate as soon as the “danger” has passed. The term for this is resilience. Some people are more naturally resilient than others. Scientists have set out to find the reasons why, so they can help others who are less naturally resilient reduce the dangers of overloading the body with stress. The good news is you can build and improve your emotional resilience.
It’s very important to teach our young people, and ourselves, to build our emotional resilience so we can deal with stress more effectively. To do so, we need to make some simple changes in our lives. One way we can do this is getting enough deep, restful sleep. Sleep helps buffer against emotional distress and REM sleep has been shown to reduce the fight-or-flight response. The best first step you can take is to choose an early to bed, early to rise lifestyle.
According to one study by Shira Lupkin, a researcher with the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University, “One theory is that this allows you to wipe the slate clean before you start again the next day. If you have less REM, then you have less of an opportunity to reduce your overall levels of norepinephrine, which will make you more reactive the next day to given stimulus.” We all know that it’s true. If we get a great night’s sleep, we are cheerful and relaxed the next day. A poor night’s sleep can make us cranky, overreactive and miserable and unable to deal well with daily stress.
Reducing screen time can be another way to improve resilience. Using TV, phones, or tablets before bed disrupts the melatonin production in our bodies which can interfere with getting enough rest. Exposure to too much light in the evening can also disrupt your circadian rhythms, which plays a role in how deeply you sleep and how well rested you feel the next day; so, it’s important to make your bedroom as dark as possible. EMFs from electric devices in your room have also been shown to disrupt sleep and melatonin production, so unplugging or reducing the number of plugged-in items in your bedroom can help.
Other things such as regular physical exercise, meditation, mindfulness training, yoga and laughter are all helpful in reducing stress and bringing resilience to your body. You can also use BrainTap to help you practice mindful meditation and visualization. You can learn to achieve the relaxation response—that deep state of rest your body and brain need to restore your emotional resilience. The visualization sessions found on the BrainTap app were specifically created to help you relax, rejuvenate and reboot your over-stressed brain, building emotional resilience and helping you function at your peak in today’s stressful society. To try it for yourself, just click HERE!
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