What follows aims to help you become informed on the topic, to see the core research I trust and to access some of my own materials written for you.
If you have just attended one of my talks at conferences or in schools or training sessions around the world, these resources will support and extend what I said. If you’re just interested, you’ll find lots to inform you. If you’re wondering whether to invite me to speak, you will get a sense of the evidence-based and carefully thought-through messages I share. Whether you’re a teacher, mental health professional, senior manager in education, social worker, or parent or carer, I bring you robust information to help you understand, support, nurture and empower the young people in your care – and yourselves.
WHERE TO FIND MORE FREE RESOURCES
In the Resources section of my site, you will find information grouped into these topics: ADOLESCENT BRAINS AND LIVES, WELLBEING AND STRESS MANAGEMENT, the READING BRAIN and LIFE ONLINE.
In the Additional Resources below the Core ones, you will find individual documents designed for display, sharing or printing, for schools and families. I particularly draw your attention to the following (but please note I have not quite added them all yet. Patience!) – Tips for Exams ~ Tips for Stress ~ Tips for Sleep ~ Tips for Screen-time ~ Ten Things for Parents to Know ~ Ten Things for Schools to Know ~ Stress Strategies for Schools ~ Steps to Online Wellbeing pledge ~ FLOURISH tips
These resources are only starting points. They represent a fraction of the research I’ve read and that I talk about when delivering a talk at a conference or school. If you’re interested in that, please see my Speaking area here.
MY CLASSROOM RESOURCES: see my quality materials, Brain Sticks and Stress Well for Schools. They provide a comprehensive way to teach wellbeing management to people of all ages.
Introducing this topic
My first work which could be called wellbeing-related was the publication of Blame My Brain – the Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed, in 2005 (since updated twice and sold around the world in many languages.) When that was published, I began to be invited into schools and other organisations to talk about this to teenagers and to adults. I also, of course, kept up with the research and was often invited to speak on radio.
Then, from about 2009/10, I began to notice that schools began asking me to “add something about teenage stress” and I quickly realised that her was another enormous area, which Blame My Brain didn’t cover. The Teenage Guide to Stress was published in 2014 and has now been followed by The Teenage Guide to Friends and the forthcoming Positively Teenage and The Teenage Guide to Life Online.
All this is now very much “my area” and I am often invited to speak at conferences or in schools all over the world. I work extremely hard to keep on top of the research but also to take a determinedly practical and common-sense approach. I question research strictly and I am critical of snap judgments by people who leap on a small study and make great claims for it.
Everyone has different pressures, lives, circumstances, personalities and reactions to biological stress. If – like me – you are prone to anxiety and rumination and also ambitious to achieve, perfectionist and self-conscious, you have a greater need to be aware of the biology of stress and how it affects you. Otherwise – again like me many years ago – you can be beset by stress-related illness and under-performance. But I believe we should welcome stress into our lives: when we know what it’s for and how it affects us positively and negatively, then we can make it work for us and thrive, rather than simply surviving.
Why should schools care about stress?
Three reasons: first, because they are and should be caring places. Second, because stress affects performance and results. And third, because stress management is a life skill and schools have a duty to teach it.
If you represent a school, easily the best way to educate your students about wellbeing and stress would be to buy a licence for Stress Well for Schools: it’s a complete and ready-to-use set of materials designed for you.
Positively Teenage and FLOURISH
Positively Teenage is based around eight principles which I put together some years ago as being great ways to make our brains work well. FLOURISH is a useful way to remember them.
F is for FOOD – our brain needs fuel, just as the rest of our body does. Energy comes from food and some drinks (but not water on its own).
L is for LIQUID – we need enough water. All drinks are water-based but some are better for us than others and some are definitely not healthy.
O is for OXYGEN – we get oxygen just by breathing but there are situations when we might not getting enough to feel and function well. There are simple ways to make sure you’re getting enough. Lo
U is for USE – Different brain areas are used in different activities. If we don’t use certain areas, we lose connections in those areas.
R is for RELAXATION – If we work all the time, our brain doesn’t work so well. Stress chemicals build up and cause problems if we don’t give ourselves breaks. Relaxation is an important part of wellbeing.
I is for INTEREST – Our brains work best when we are interested in what we are doing. There are ways we can help this happen.
S is for SLEEP – Sleep has a huge effect on learning, mood, stress and every aspect of wellbeing. Don’t worry if you have bad nights every now and then but do learn how you can have more control over your sleep.
H is for Happiness – There’s no need to try to have every moment (or even every day) as a happy one, but it’s important to bring enough happy moments into your life.
If you’d like to download a FLOURISH poster or postcard, there are some on the Positively Teenage page.
52 Ways to Well-Being
I’m creating 52 Ways to Well-Being. To find the ones I’ve done so far, see here. They are suitable for all ages.
Resources I didn’t write!
Websites to help you understand and manage stress and boost wellbeing:
Experience life: https://experiencelife.com/article/the-science-of-stress/
BBC Science: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/21685448
National Geographic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyBsy5SQxqU
Negative effects of cortisol build-up
From Psychology Today, “Cortisol: Why the “Stress Hormone” Is Public Enemy No. 1”: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1
Personality and Stress
Type A personality trait and stress, from Simply Psychology: https://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html
From Psych Central: https://psychcentral.com/lib/stress-and-personality/
From NCBI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22271841
Positive effects on stress of physical exercise
Scientists are united on the benefits of physical exercise on stress. Here are some references:
From Science Direct: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027273589900032X and a population study in Finland http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743599905972
From the BMJ – Physical exercise and psychological wellbeing: a critical review by D Scully et al http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/32/2/111.short
Interested in mindfulness?
Personally, I’m not. I’m quite drained by people seeming to think it’s the answer to everyone’s stress. Undoubtedly it helps some people – even many people – but it doesn’t help everyone. Ever the idea makes me stressed! Keep it away from me but do try it yourself. If you do try it, be taught it properly, by someone who has done more than attend an 8-session course… And don’t worry if it doesn’t work for you. Someone who suffers a diagnosed or severe anxiety disorder or a mental illness should only do mindfulness under the guidance of a clinical psychologist, in my view.
Some stress-busting Apps are reviewed here: https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/13-of-the-best-apps-to-manage-stress.html
Learn to Stress Less by Dr Vee Freir is very practical and simple http://www.dr-vee.co.uk/
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Dale Carnegie is a bit fluffy for my liking but everyone’s different!
And here is a useful list with comments about each title: https://www.developgoodhabits.com/stress-books/
I hope you have found this selection of resources useful. Remember they are only starting points and there is much more in the rest of my website, books and classroom resources. Do ask me to come and speak to your audience – teenagers or adults. Adults need this just as much as young people and if we’re struggling with stress ourselves it’s much harder to care for other people. See the Speaking section of my website.