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Most adult people feel stressed from time to time. Some even feel stressed almost all the time. But stress affects children and teens, too. When you feel pressured, your body reacts. Then you may not feel well anymore.
What Is Stress?
A person is under stress when he or she faces a big problem. This can be an educational, professional, or personal situation. When you have worries, you sometimes feel powerless. It’s like carrying around a lot of heavy stones on your back. Most of the time it is hardly possible to get rid of these stones without outside help.
Stress also arises when something happens in the life that puts a strain on you. This can be a death in the family, a change of school, or the birth of a sibling.
The feelings that arise from such a situation are deeply rooted in us. Anxiety and worry play out in parts of the brain that were present in our earliest human-like ancestors.
What Goes On In A Stressed Body?
The pulse rate quickens, the heart beats faster. Many thoughts race through our minds when we are stressed. You may even start to sweat or breathe faster. The body is on full alert. In this state, it gets ready to escape.
When one is in danger, the body reacts with stress. So it gets ready to fight for survival. In times long past, people had to fight with wild animals or run away from them. Even the slightest crack in the forest or the smell of an animal put them on alert. Stress is therefore nothing other than the survival mode of our body.
Nowadays, we hardly have to flee from wild animals or fight with all our might against conspecifics in order to survive. Nevertheless, we suffer from stress.
This is because there are nevertheless threatening situations for us humans. Such situations usually have something to do with changes that scare us.
For children, it is specifically the following circumstances that can trigger stress in the body:
- Sudden changes.
- Change of school.
- Birth of siblings.
- Divorce or separation of parents.
- New class teacher.
- Threats or abuse from other children.
- Self-esteem problems (feeling that one is not good enough).
- Pressure to study for upcoming exams.
- Upcoming competitions or performances in free time.
- Serious illness of a parent.
- Change of residence.
- Loss of friends.
- Deaths of family, friends or pets.
- Neglect by parents and family (When parents no longer care for the child).
- Bullying, cyberbullying, and other taunts.
- First breakups and “relationship crises” (When couples break up or fight with each other).
- Arguing with parents, friends, or family members.
- Constant hunger and neglect of other needs.
- Being ashamed of something.
- Fear of failing.
Negative Effects Of Prolonged Stress
Short-term stress does not normally harm the body. However, it is important that the stress phase is followed by a recovery phase in which you can relax. The so-called eustress, i.e. the “good” stress, drives you to peak performance in demanding situations. This allows you to concentrate well for a short period of time (for example, during an exam). In such phases, you work quickly and effectively. You draw on what you have learned and manage to deliver your results within the allotted time. Eustress enables us to perform under time pressure.
Stress can also last a long time in children and adolescents. If they live in poor conditions for a long time, for example, this can have serious consequences for their health. This is because prolonged stress has an extremely harmful effect on the body. This type of stress is also called distress. In contrast to eustress, it puts a strain on us.
The first complaints are usually headaches, concentration problems, insomnia, and restlessness. This applies to almost half of all young people. Many feel lonely, angry, or upset about something. If such feelings persist, the child is under stress.
If the child is not helped, then his or her school performance may drop. Such children cannot help it if they suddenly have bad grades and can no longer concentrate.
The physical consequences of stress include the following:
- Indigestion, abdominal pain.
- Stomach ulcers (Because the stressed stomach produces too much gastric juice).
- Tinnitus (A persistent whistling in the ear).
- Tension in the muscles.
- Changes in menstruation in girls.
- Appearance of new allergies.
- Skin rashes.
- Cold sores.
- Sleep problems (difficulty falling asleep, problems sleeping through the night, etc.).
- Lack of concentration.
As you can see, stress is not something to be taken lightly.
But stress doesn’t just affect the body. It can also affect the mind. Stressed children quickly feel overwhelmed or react irritably. They “explode” very quickly. Even the smallest thing can make them angry. In very bad cases, they are completely exhausted, no longer want to live or develop addictive behavior. Addiction means compulsively doing the same thing over and over again to feel good. Many adults are addicted to cigarettes, for example, while children are often prone to television addiction. They then have to constantly turn up the TV and spend a lot of time watching movies and series. This makes them feel better and helps them forget their problems.
However, such addictive behavior is not a permanent solution either. Because by watching TV you don’t solve any problems. That’s why you definitely need help if you are addicted to something.
By the way, stress also affects the brain’s performance. Stressed children can no longer learn well and become forgetful.
That’s why it’s important to relax once in a while. Relaxation exercises, hobbies, and sports can help you do this.
Worksheet For The Text
1) Explain the difficult words in the text.
2) What are the physical consequences of being under stress for a long time?
3) Talk about the topic of stress in a circle. Let your class teacher guide you. Share the experiences you have already had with the topic with your classmates. Also, talk about the following points:
- What situations at school were stressful for you? When did you feel uncomfortable?
- Have you ever felt the physical effects of stress yourself? (Remember the text!)
- In what situations are adults stressed? Have you ever seen your parents irritated or stressed?
- How do they act when they do?
- What do you think can be done about stress?
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