Definition of stress, is the space between your thoughts how life should be and how life really is. This can be very helpful. Since is created by your thoughts, you can feel less stressed by becoming aware of the thoughts and looking either for ways to change how life is or what you think it should be. This method can be done without deep breathing (though it won’t hurt you to take a few deep breaths) or jogging (though we encourage exercise of all kinds) or taking pills or having a drink (really).

Definition of stress, without deep breathing

In the following activity, we’ll show you how easy it can be to reduce stress.

Grab a sheet of paper. At the top of the paper, start by writing down your view of how you think it should be with your teen. Now write down how it is across the bottom of the paper. Look at the space between the top and the bottom of the paper, and in large letters that fill all the space, write the word “STRESS.” Stress is represented by the space between how life should be (according to you) and how life is.

At this point you can see why you’re feeling so stressed there’s probably a big gap between the two. Now think about what you do when you’re stressed. Jot it down on your paper somewhere in the middle of the sheet. What you’re writing down are your coping behaviors for dealing with stress. If you look closely, your coping behaviors could be increasing your stress.

Paper folding, jogging, encourage exercise

Definition of stress: Here’s the tricky part. It’s called “paper folding.” Your job is to fold the bottom of the paper to meet the top of the paper so that both lines you wrote are now next to each other. (Parents, you may need to ask your teens to do this for you.)

As you look at the two lines close together without the stress in between, what are you thinking, feeling, and deciding?

Aimee tried this activity. At the top she wrote, “It drives me crazy when my son procrastinates and waits until the last minute to get his homework done. I hate nagging him all the time.”

At the bottom she wrote, “No matter what I do, he just gets angry and procrastinates more. The frustrating thing is that he usually gets his assignments done, but he creates so much stress for himself and for me.”

Aimee shared that the big gap between the top of the paper and the bottom was a good representation of her stress. The way she handled the stress was to feel angry and obsess about, “Why can’t he just do what he is supposed to do?” Then she interrupts whatever he is doing and bugs him to get his assignments done. She threatens him with loss of privileges and feels angry when it doesn’t work.

Then she thinks of herself as a failure as a mom because she can’t change him.

When she folded the paper so the lines were next to each other without the big gap, she said, “What a waste. All my anger and nagging doesn’t change a thing. I wonder what would happen if I just acknowledged him for pulling his homework out of the hat at the last minute? Would that just reinforce his procrastination? Well, what I’m doing isn’t changing anything.

I can at least give up my stress. And it would be fun to watch the look on his face when I compliment him instead of nagging him.”

This stress activity has helped many parents gain awareness that eliminated (or greatly reduced) their stress. You can also reduce your stress when you understand that who your teens are today is not who they will be forever.