March 14, 2018
Dr. Tami Petersen
Image Credit: Simple Site.com
Stress is probably the worst feeling or emotion experienced by any animal, but especially the human. As humans we keep track of stress occurrances and the subsequent outcomes. More people are hospitalized or die from an event that was caused by stress. Stress appears to be the common factor for most illnesses, social problems, and self-conflict. As adults we know aout stress. We hae responsibilities that include work, paying bills, caring for others, and assorted personal obligations. We all know about stress and have coping strategies from taking medications or combinations of medications to ease the physical symptoms. Some adults exercise, or have a hobby, or meditate. The trend has been to seek spiritual enlightenment to release the feelings of stress. As adults we know what stres is, how to recognize the signs, and that it needs to be addressed.
Obviously, adults have the upper hand when it comes to experience of stress. this experience allows us to take immediate action to control symptoms before it gets out of hand. Children are still learning. Young adults are learning to recognize stress, but have not developed working coping strategies. Teenagers appear to embrace the stress as an expected event, and this approach has two major outcomes that are disturbing.
Young adults are flooded with responsibilities that they are not prepared for. The school system used to prepare us better for the transition into adulthood. In Florida we were taught boat safety, hurricane preparedness, how to write checks, balance abnk accounts, create budgets, how to shop , prepare healthy meals, and even the best method of washing dishes. There were not as many surprises 40 years ago.
Millenials did not have the same training in school. They have not been taught to be adults. As strange as it seems, the school system actually expects the parents to teach their children these valluable lessons. Yes, these are the same parents who would rather give their children an electronic device to keep them busy and out of sight. The parents who are often referred to as telephone parents because they give the kids a cell phone and just check up on them. The parents who are not as involved in their lives.
Now, i am not saying that an entire generation produced neglected children, but the trends in behavior had an outcome that is quite noticeable. We see commercials on TV where it is accepted and even funny that most teenagers cannot change a tire. So we have young adults that are experiencing stress from everyday life experiences. Why? The answer is that they are not prepared and are not sure what to do in certain circumstances. Just last week I heard a conversation in the hallway at my university between two young adults who are trying to make sense of how to pay bills and what the reminders are for. The first student's phone beeped indicating that he had a text message. He pulls the phone out of his pocket and reads the message. That part was perfectly normal in behavior. He then became disturbed and stressed out over the message. The second student asked if he was Okay, and he started telling her, very loudly, that the telephone company must be running out opf money. He just paid his bill last week and now they are sending him a message about another oayment.
Obviously he was causing a scene about this text message. As the only faculty in the hallway, I felt obligated to calm him down for the sake of the other students. I asked him if it was a message about not recieveing the payment he made last week. His reply was that this was a newly generated message to let him know that his bill is ready to view. I explained to him that this was not about his late payment last week, but rather an automated message to let him know that the billing cycle has completed for the next payment. He will have until his due date to make the payment on time. It turned out that the other students were relieved because they have experienced the same thing as well. So, I had an impromptu lesson in the hallway about billing cycles, and if you pay this month late then you have to pay next month on time and that the due dates do not change from month to month according to the day that they actually pay the bill.
These are young adults and they are not eqiuipped with the base knowledge to function in society. They are stressed and fumbling around. They are confused and lost. Stress is a leading cause for health issues, such as diabetes, anxiety, and even disabling depression. Life is full of stress and these new young adults are not able to cope. They are learning to develop coping strategies to battle stress and stress related pathologies. Some young adults are becoming more physically active. They are going to the gym, running, and eating better. Martial arts has always been popular, but young adults are starting a trend to learn the fundamentals. They are seeking the beginning, so they are learning Qi Gong and Tai Chi. They are learning Yoga and meditation. They are becoming very transcendent in their life philosophy. All coping strategies mentioned above are very helpful in eleiminating or mitigating stress.
Teenagers are often very mellowdramatic. They always have been and always will be a little tightly wound up. Behaviors that are more nuerotic are common in teenagers because they are going through developmental changes that include hormones imbalances. They cannot control the roller coaster of emotion that they bring with them. Teenagers and stress are synonomous because they embrace it and expect it.
If stress is not around a teenager will cause stress over the fact that life is going smooth. They are prepared for a sharp turn in the other direction. Living with the expectation that something will happen in a way almost causes behaviors to create chaos where none existed before. This group is known for two disturbing outcomes, but do tend to pull through and become young adults.
The first outcome is the rebellion. Some tenagers feel the need to rebel against anything and everything. They create stressfull situations.We all know the type of teenager that never smiles, back talks, roll their eyes, and seeks isolation. They are easily spotted, and even make themselves unapproachable tot heir peers to drive the point home. They believe that they are better off alone and refuse to make connections or show interest in any activity. They present as someone who is waiting for the sky to fall on them. They are vivtims before the fact, and that can cause several disturbing outcomes. They can buy into the charade and really become depressed. The feeling of not being worthy or ostracised, which they actually created, is often the source for a harmful outcome. These older children have been known to harm themselves through different reckless behaviors, including drug over doses, attempted suicide, performing dangerous physical stunts, and even purposefully harming others. This is a touchy subject, but the profile for older children who commit crimes and acts of violoence often fit this description.
The second outcome is also disturbing and sad. Older children who tend to handle stress poorly are often the victims of their own doing for life. They force estrangement from tehir family and friends. Thye ruin all interpersonal relationships because of stress. They cope with stress by amking themselves impossible to interact with. They cease childhood friendships and walk away from family members. The reason that these older children isolate themselves from everything they once liked and loved begins to not matter. As silly as it is, a grudge can be held for a lifetime. This is a sad outcome because everyone has potential to be great, but when this path is chosen the only outcome accepted is failure. How do we help this demographic handle stress better? That is a question yet to be answered.
Children are also stressed in life. Children got o school, and the school system is causing the very thing that they are so determined to stop. They are creating stress in interpersonal relationships. Children at an early age are discouraged from forming tight bonds of friendship with a few peers and are instead directed to be friends with everyone. This Utopian creation will never work. Children are so focused on making firendships that learning is on the back burner. They are stressed tot he point of becoming ill because of social exclusion. If one memebr of the group does not like a child the entire group must not like the child. The schools are creating pre-ganglike behavior.
Children are not allowed to socia;ize in the cafeteria as thy once did. they are instructed to sit, eat, and be quiet. Suddenly, the student who is socialized properly becomes the trouble maker. The child who wants to be accepted tries to amke friends and is not allowed. This rule of unanamous conformity is creating stress on very young children. It is interesting, if a child has a hard time at school because of bullying the parents who complain are looked themselves for neglect. The school will look at the child being bullied as deserving and further ostracize the child. Unless the bullied child cannot handle the onerwhelming stress and reacts with violent self-harming behavior. Then the establishment is redirected to another culprit, the very bullies that they created.
Stress is happening. Stress has always happened. Social norms are changing to create a different environment that is more condusive to exclusion and bullying. Changed in the social environmet for students are making a once safe zone a potential war zone. The safety of our children are at stake and it all starts with stress. Yes, we have school violence, school shootings, and gang violence. Instead of looking to solve the problematic outcomes, we should be focussing on the cause. We as a society are causing harm to students of every venue from kindergarten to post graduate students.