Want Less Stress? Get Perspective! A Great Tool for Kids
By Sharon Fischer, LCSW
Each of us has our own way of making sense out of the world and our experiences. Whenever we experience something new, our values, beliefs, understanding, and past experiences influence how we see it. The unique way that we look at and understand our experiences is called our perspective. You probably already knew that you have your own perspective, but did you know that you can use your perspective as a tool to help you deal with stress? Read on and learn how.
Perspective explains how two kids who go through the exact same event can come away with two completely different experiences. For example, say Joe is running late for school one morning. His first thought is “Oh no, I’m going to be late,” but then he thinks, “Oh well, I can’t do anything about it now.” On the same day, Sally is also running late, but her thoughts go something like this: “I’m going to be late and my teacher is going to be so mad at me and she will yell at me in front of all the other kids and it will be so embarrassing.” They’re both late, but they’re experiencing it in totally different ways. Kids have lots of reasons to be stressed in middle school.
You want to fit in, and you care a lot about what others think and what they say about you. Trying to be the best and do well in school can also cause stress.
What can kids do to deal with the constant stress in their lives? Put it in perspective! Let’s go back to Joe and Sally. I’ll bet Joe’s perspective on being late helped him be a lot less stressed out than Sally. What do you think?
Next time Sally is late she can put it in perspective. She can ask herself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing that could happen? What has happened before? Is it likely that the worst will happen or the best or somewhere in between? And most likely Sally will agree that her teacher probably won’t yell at her and embarrass her in front of her peers, but instead her teacher may just give her a look that says, “Don’t be late again.” So it really won’t be as bad as she thought.
Let’s take another example. Henry, a straight-A student, gets a D on his latest algebra test. He takes one look at that big red D on his paper and thinks, “I am a total failure. I will never be good at algebra. I should just give up now before it drags down my entire average.” Henry feels a lot of stress over his grade and his thoughts about it, but he can use perspective to help himself feel better. Maybe Henry can think about his friend Colin. What would Colin think in this situation? Would he think he was a total failure? Probably not—he would just say it is one bad grade and not the end of the world. By putting himself in Colin’s shoes, Henry sees that there are other ways of looking at the problem.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most trying things about middle school is fitting in and being liked. Let’s use Maria’s story as an example. There’s a cute boy Maria has liked for a long time, and one Tuesday he finally asks her out. She’s really excited and tells all her friends, but then on Friday the boy texts her to say that they’re not going out anymore. Maria is devastated. She feels totally rejected. What can she do to help herself feel better? She can ask herself, how will I feel about this in an hour, in a day, in a month, in 5 years? She might still be down in an hour or a day, but once she begins to think about the future, she will probably realize that this one incident really won’t matter in the long run.
She can put it in perspective and feel better.
Using perspective is a great way to deal with stress in the moment. But sometimes it might not work or it isn’t enough. Maybe you’re so caught up in one way of thinking about things that you can’t even see any other perspective. Or maybe you try to use perspective but you still don’t feel better. In those situations, it’s important to talk to someone about what you are going through. Seek out people you trust, like parents, friends, teachers, siblings, or counselors. Talking it out and sharing your feelings with others is another great way to relieve stress—and the people you talk to just might help you get some perspective.
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