Relax. Renew. Refresh.

Stress is such a complex thing and summer is a perfect time to relax and unwind from a stressful year and a half from a pandemic. We can get stressed out as parents, and often times don't understand the amount of stress our teens are under as well. Wither its homework, social situations, sports, jobs, or just the day to day activities, it can be a lot for our young people to handle. They may have learned to deal with this stress by smoking, vaping, or drinking. But there are ways to handle stress without the use of these substances. Here are a few ideas you might find helpful. Some of these tips may take practice, but others you can do right away. Try one or more to learn what works for you.

Relax Our bodies respond to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. Practicing relaxation techniques, like the ones below, may improve your health and help you handle your stress in positive ways. This could include taking a bubble bath, listening to calming music, or even yoga.

Breathe Take a few slow, deep breaths—in through your nose, out through your mouth. You will feel your body start to relax.

Locate Your Stress Take a minute to figure out how stress affects your body. Where do you feel tension in your body and what is causing it? Finding ways to reduce that tension will also help your mental stress. A warm bath, a massage, or stretching can help you release built-up tension.

Visualize Think of a place where you feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed. Picture it as clearly as you can, including imagining what you would feel, hear, and maybe even smell if you were in that relaxing place. Let yourself enjoy being there for a few minutes. This is a great technique for teens to use both at school and at home and requires nothing more than 10 seconds of their time.

Exercise This one is my favorite! Being active sends out natural chemicals that help your mood and reduce your stress. Sometimes a short walk is all it takes to relieve stress. And walking is free!

Talk Let them know you don’t have to deal with stress alone and listen! Sharing your feelings with friends, family, and other important people in your life who are able to support you in staying smoke free and alcohol free.

Focus Life can sometimes be overwhelming. Try not to get caught up in worrying about what’s next. Instead, try to focus on what is happening right now in this moment, not what you might have to deal with in the future. This could look like evaluating the choice or situation you are faced with and deciding if it will help you get closer to your overall goal.

Care Make an extra effort to take care of yourself. This includes basic things like eating a balanced diet, drinking lots of water, and getting enough sleep. These things are essential when we are talking about stress. When your body isn't getting the proper care it needs, we can feel run down, tired, and more overwhelmed which can lead to use or increased use of alcohol and tobacco products.

Do Good Encourage them to do something nice for others. Being caring toward others helps you reduce your own stress. This can be as simple as helping out with chores around the house or something a little more involved like baking cookies for a neighbor. Small acts of kindness can help build our own self-esteem and self-worth, creating happier humans.

Decaffeinate Caffeine can help you stay awake, but it also can make you feel tense, jittery, and stressed. Cutting back or even doing away with caffeine can help reduce your feelings of stress. This one is probably my least favorite, but can make a huge difference if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Instead of coffee or energy drinking encourage your young person to switch to herbal tea or even hot water with lemon gives them a chance to enjoy a a flavored drink without the caffeine.

Accept In the end, life is full of twists and turns. You’ll always have some stress in your life. It helps to understand that there will be good days and bad days and have a plan for what to do when things seem too much.

Helping your teen to learn some of these coping strategies and ways to implement them when they have a rough day at school, are fighting with a friend or sibling, or just not feeling themselves are great ways not only to reduce the amount of stress in their lives but can also be a great bonding experience as well. Modeling these techniques for them and helping them have a exit strategy and a way to deal with life's pressures can make all the difference when faced with the choice to use substances or thrive substance free. Resource: Coping With Stress Without Smoking | Smokefree

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