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Stress Awareness Month: Helping ND Students Cope

As part of Stress Awareness Month, state health officials are reminding parents and educators that the end of the school year can be a stressful time for some students. (iStockphoto)
As part of Stress Awareness Month, state health officials are reminding parents and educators that the end of the school year can be a stressful time for some students. (iStockphoto)
April 20, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. - April is Stress Awareness Month, and North Dakota health officials say it's a good time to remember that young students sometimes can need help in managing chronic stress.

Alison Traynor, suicide-prevention director at the North Dakota Department of Health, said stressors such as bullying or transferring to a new school can sometimes be difficult for young people to handle. To help, the department has been helping some schools roll out the Sources of Strength program, which helps students reach out to their peers who may feel isolated.

"Maybe they take the bus right away after school, they can't participate in after-school activities," she said. "Students that may not otherwise have a chance to interact with other students get a chance to do that and form really strong friendships."

Traynor said traumatic stress can be a risk factor for suicide, but added that talking with peers can help reduce that risk. The Sources of Strength program is looking for more peer mentors in order to expand to more schools later this year.

According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term exposure to stressful situations also can lead to other serious health problems, including anxiety, depression, even sleep disorders and heart disease. Traynor said those negative health effects can build up over time, but there are simple ways to manage how we respond to stress.

"Some of the things that we recommend," she said, are "taking some time for joyful activities, social activities with friends, exercising -- and participating in mindfulness activities is also recommended."

Traynor also said one of the first steps to managing stress is become aware of warning signs such as tense muscles and shallow breathing.

Information about Sources of Strength is online at sourcesofstrength.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND