A Guide to Managing Stress & Improving Mental Health at Any Age

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are the best coping strategies to manage stress for each generation.
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It’s been said that stress is a cause of all diseases and for good reason. Stress is way more than the overwhelm of a tight deadline or when an argument breaks out at the dinner table, it’s the combination of physical, chemical, and emotional stressors that you may be unaware of. It can come through school, work, relationships, or even at home and affect you at any age. Mapping out a sustainable plan for managing stress will help you take better care of your mental health. Let’s look at some of the best coping strategies for each generation.  

How Can Kids Take Care of Their Mental Health? 

While we can’t completely eliminate stress for our children, we can employ strategies to raise resilient kids. Shielding them from the difficulties of life isn’t possible, they need to learn through practice, and bouncing back from hardship and challenges is just a part of everyone’s life, no matter the age. Instead, try these 5 steps to help your children cope with stress.  

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Teach your child how to cope with stress while also keeping their inner essence alive. Image | Unsplash

1. Reframe Stress  

Train your child to shift from a “stress hurts” mindset to a “stress helps” mindset. Stress does propel growth and presents opportunities for us to look at problems in different ways.  

2. Shift from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset  

Every situation isn’t fixed, things can always be resolved with the right mindset. If your child has a growth mindset, they can look at problems as something that can be improved. Teach them that they have the power to influence the situation.  

3. Stop Catastrophic Thinking  

Whenever your child is going through a difficult situation, ask them, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Don’t dismiss their worry but help them understand that catastrophic thinking will block their constructive thought process. Being prepared for the worst doesn’t mean that the worst will happen. It inculcates the idea that they’ll be okay no matter what.  

4. Practice Problem-Solving  

Brainstorm solutions with your child. Let them talk about their worries and be a mindful listener without judgment. List down the positive and negative consequences of each idea and help them choose one that they feel will occur. Don’t force your opinion on them. This will help them learn through their own methods.  

5. Try Stress-Management Techniques  

Lastly, use techniques like mindful breathing, stretching, listening to soulful music, meditation, and mindfulness practices to help them control their body’s response during a stressful situation.  

How Can Students and Young Adults Cope Improve Their Mental Health?  

It’s only natural to experience academic stress when you’re constantly under evaluation and faced with a stressful workload and endless tests. But students need to realize that college can be an opportune time to fortify their relationship with time, productivity, and stress management.  

1. Manage Time Wisely  

Time is of utmost importance when you’re running on a tight deadline. Set up a schedule for study and break your studies into smaller chunks to avoid last-minute overwhelm. Know what your SMART goals are; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

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Having a schedule can help you not miss important tasks. Image | Unsplash

2. Get Organized  

Organize your notetaking and keep track of assignments and other important papers to always be on schedule. Having great organizational skills is also a form of Zen as it can give you peace of mind knowing where everything is, remembering deadlines, and test dates, and clearing any unwanted mental clutter.   

3. Practice Visualization  

Visualizations and imagery are two of the proven stress management techniques and can help improve test performance by imagining yourself achieving your goals. Every day, visualize details of what you’d like to happen in a certain scenario. It could be giving a presentation without getting nervous, acing an exam, winning a debate with ease, etc. A vivid image will propel you to work hard and make it happen.  

4. Create a Good Study Environment 

Creating a calm environment can relax you and help you learn. Using aromatherapy can wake up your brain and relieve stress. Play classical music to help you soothe any worries and learn without getting distracted.  

How Can Grownups Handle Everyday Stressors?  

As we grow older, our responsibilities get transformed from school and tests to bills and work. And while some stress is a normal part of life, too much stress can lead to early burnout and mental health issues. Grownups don’t just have to stress about themselves but also about others; their kids, their parents, the people they work with, their partners, and many more. But this type of stress can be easily managed with these techniques.  

1. Turn Positive Self-Talk into Action 

Challenge unhelpful thoughts and things that bring you stress by countering this type of thinking. Positive feelings can help you cope better with stressful situations and increase your ability to bounce back stronger.  

2. Focus On What’s Essential  

You cannot control everything in life, even if you wish to. Setting realistic goals for your day will help you handle what your limit permits and avoid overcompensating. Create a schedule that allows you time for every aspect of your life; from work and family to fitness and diet.  

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Always make time for people you care about. cause they’ll be here when no one else will. Image | Unsplash

3. Make Time for Your Mental Health 

If you’re a workaholic that indulges in long hours, rethink this habit of yours and include more flexibility to include other things in life. Make time for the things you love doing, be that reading, writing, watching Netflix, gardening, playing a sport, or anything else. This will inculcate a semblance of balance while also fulfilling your individual needs.  

How Can Older Adults Reduce Stress and Enhance Mental Health? 

Retirement is the time of life when you can finally let go of a schedule and do whatever your heart desires. This newfound freedom sounds wonderful but can also be stressful when not planned well. Retirement does bring autonomy, but it also brings reduced savings due to market crashes, increasing health care costs, and high rates of divorce. Mapping out a holistic plan before retirement can make the transition easier.  

1. Plan Activities With Purpose  

It’s lovely to focus on how much you’ll enjoy leaving the stress of your job behind, but retirement brings a potential social or spiritual void that may have been filled in the past by office interactions and stimulating conversations. So, you need to plan activities that will replace this fulfillment that you experienced at your workplace. This could include going to social clubs, taking up hobbies like cooking, gardening, reading, baking, etc.  

2. Ground Yourself in Reality  

It’s easy to indulge in worries about future situations before they’ve even arrived. Before you stress about something, ask yourself, “Is this problem real or imagined and anticipatory?” For example, are you stressing about your monthly financial expenses because of actual financial troubles or in anticipation of added health care expenses? Stressing when you don’t have to can be counterproductive. Remind yourself that there’s no need to worry about things that haven’t arrived yet or that aren’t in your control.  

3. Adjust Your Stress Management Style to Improve Mental Health 

Retirement can be a new chance to really commit to examining how you handle stress. If you’re someone who goes for a run or reaches for a cold drink or calls their best friend, you can start including more such activities that bring you calm. Examine which of these are healthy and unhealthy and opt for practices like exercise, meditation, prayer, and social support to cope.  

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Indulge in the things that bring you joy. Image | Unsplash

If you’re still feeling stressed every day, it might be a sign to seek professional help. You could start with a GP who could help you manage your stress and mental health better. Furthermore, they could refer you to a professional who specializes in this.  

Read more: Exploring the Relationship Between the Selfless Act of Seva and Sikhism

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