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Why Learning to Stress Less is Important for Teens

Educating teens about managing stress is a passion for 2019’s Miss Auburn, Amanda Enz.  As a Junior at Auburn Mountainview High School, she launched Stress Less Week.  What began as a portion of a DECA project has now been her platform twice in the Miss Auburn and Miss Auburn Outstanding Teen, and the Miss Washington competition.

Auburn Examiner: Stress Less has been your platform since you were Miss Auburn Outstanding Teen.  Why is this important to you?

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2019 Miss Auburn Amanda Enz with Auburn Mountainview High School DECA Students during Stress Less Week | Photo courtesy Amanda Enz

Amanda Enz: I started [Stress Less Week] and have worked to keep it alive since graduating from high school, because I found myself in multiple situations in high school that left me feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. I, like many high school students, took AP classes, was involved in many clubs such as DECA, had a job, and was a competitive dancer at a local dance studio.

Starting my junior year, too, we started talking about college. So, I was researching colleges, making sure I was taking all the right courses to get into the schools I wanted to, studied for the SATs, and started applying to colleges. There are a lot of new things to worry about starting at about age 16 for most kids. The issue is, we are not taught how to deal with this overwhelming amount of weight we are asked to bear. Therefore, I took it upon myself to teach my peers and I how to deal with stress in healthy ways.

AE: Why should teens learn how to manage their stress at an early age?

Amanda: It is so important for teens to learn how to deal with stress at an early age because from then on there will always be major stressors. Once in college, there is the stress of classes, trying to figure out how to be an adult living on your own, getting a job or internships, and figuring out what you want to do in your adult life. As an adult you deal with stress such as finances, where to live, if your job is a good fit, having kids, and so much more than even I don’t know yet. Having a sort of “toolbox” of ways to deal with stress that works for you individually will make those stressful things a little less overwhelming.

AE: Do you think students have more stress now than they did when you were in high school? What about 20 years ago?

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Auburn Mountainview High School DECA students accept Mayor Nancy Backus’ Stress Less Week proclamation at City Hall | Courtesy Photo

Amanda: I do feel as though stress in high schoolers is rising, even in the last few years since I have been out of high school. There is a rising pressure to go to college, causing students to feel anxiety about applications, grades, SAT scores, extracurriculars, and so much more. Because more students are going to college, colleges have to be more selective, causing their acceptance rates to go down, and students’ stress to rise. On a larger scale, there is more stress in the last 20 years due to this issue. Also, none of this is taking into consideration the Internet and social media. As great as these resources are, they are causing new kinds of stress most adults don’t understand. Being able to deal with all this new stress teens are facing is so vital.

AE: What are some hidden stressors teens and college students deal with people don’t think about?

Amanda: There are countless stressors high school and college students may not think about. A big one is stress from social media. It is a kind of stress most parents and adults don’t know how to deal with because it isn’t something they had to deal with as teenagers. Others include family drama, test anxiety, social anxiety, or personal things. For me, the big thing that caused (and still causes) me stress is pleasing others. When I spread myself too thin and I have to drop something from my schedule I feel so anxious about disappointing someone. It is something that used to cause panic attacks. I still get them every so often, but since learning how to deal with my rising stress levels, I am able to stay relatively calm.

AE: What are everyday stressors people don’t consider that are likely impacting their lives, that they can manage for a healthier lifestyle?

Amanda: Smaller, everyday stressors, can include things such as getting to school/work on time, turning in an assignment at its due date, having to participate in class or present a project at a staff meeting, etc., etc. Most of these, are not negative stressors. There is such thing as good stress— healthy stress. It is these things that motivate us in our daily life to get things done, to be productive humans. These are motivating stressors. It is when these stressors pile up, cause anxious feelings, or are negative that we need to be concerned about our mental health and stress levels.

AE: Why is managing stress important in general?

Amanda: Managing stress is important to everyone all the time! As I have said, stress is something we all deal with. Whether it’s applying for colleges or applying for mortgages, we all deal with stressful situations. As long as we are able to recognize what it is that causes negative, unhealthy stress, AND what we can do to counteract that, we can all be happier, healthier people!

AE: What are some ways to manage stress?

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Auburn Mountainview High School students show art they’ve colored. Coloring is a known way to help reduce stress | Courtesy photo, Amanda Enz

Amanda: Something I have learned through this project over the last 5 years I have learned that everyone deals with stress differently. This isn’t even something that is age-dependent. My mom likes to drink tea and read a book to relax, I love to dance and move my body to release stress, other people enjoy coloring, volunteering in the community is another thing people love to do to relax. It all depends on the person. Once you find that thing that feeds your soul and releases your stress you are good to go!

There are plenty of situations that cause temporary stress- for example running for Miss Washington. I couldn’t exactly stop on stage to lay down, read a book, or take a dance class! But things like breathing techniques and a positive mindset are what helped me calm my nerves in that stressful situation.

Stress and anxiety are things we are finally starting to discuss more in schools and in life. I am by no means an expert, but it is something I feel passionately about. If anyone needs help finding ways to deal with their stress my advice is to talk to someone! Try new things! See what it is that works best for you and your situation.

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