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Of late I have counselled some very stressed out young people. For some getting a good nights sleep seems all but impossible without the aid of sleeping pills.

When asked to list their five strengths they seem hard pressed to name them. After some prompting they are able to reluctantly agree that they have not given the time to spend the time thinking about them. After some hard work on my part they agree that they are smart, very diligent with their studies.

There doesnít seem any problem identifying their weaknesses. Top of the long list is " they do not feel good enough for their parents or themselves". They are not positive - seeing my cup of water as half empty not half full. Being perfectionists they see the world as either black or white with no room for errors. For the most part they are loners not wanting to be risk takers.

It is no wonder that millions of Americans/Canadians suffer from generalized anxiety disorders with women twice as likely to develop the disorder as men. The anxiety is characterized by constant worry, insomnia, muscle tension, fatigue, inability to concentrate.

In other words it is not generic or hormonal vulnerabilities but rather social or cultural reasons that one experiences as anxiety. Many of my young people ask me if they inherit their parents phobias. I answer no but one is influenced on how we are raised. However, it has always amazed me that two siblings raised by the same parents turn out differently.

In North America, we live in a culture that is constantly feeding us stress-producing messages. We are bombarded with ads, junk mail, TV, text messages, email. With todayís round-the-clock access to news we can receive a twenty-four-hour-a-day parade of mostly negative information about random shootings, drug wars, environmental disasters, racially motivated hate crimes etc etc.

As they say in the media news production, " if it bleeds it leads." Perhaps people should have periodic times of "news fast" to improve their psychological health.

One thing the experts seem to agree on is that stress is particularly bound up with our conception of time. Multitasking feverishly, we try and cram more and more into every waking moment, Our mantras are "time is money, deadlines and just in time delivery technology will get the job done faster.

Taking the time to nurture a family and friendships, enjoying nature, cultivating the arts and maintaining our cultures and tradition takes time and cannot be rushed.

A sense of hurry sickness where there is never enough time in the day to accomplish oneís tasks is sure stressful.

From an early age we are taught to look ahead, be goal orientated and plan for the future. Too much emphasis on to-morrow can be harmful to our health to-day. I try and teach my clients that: "yesterday is history and to-morrow is a mystery, to-day we call the present" because it is a gift that we should learn to appreciate.

Worry we are told increases our risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke regardless of gender.

There are solutions to living a stress free healthy lifestyle. We have to teach our children that they are good and we love and appreciate them. We have to stop programming them twenty-four seven while encouraging them to laugh and enjoy their lives.

Too few of our children have learned to veg and pursue a relaxing day without time constraints. My daughterís high school, Marc Garneau, in Toronto there are six periods and every student has one spare and a lunch period. The TDSB has acknowledged that 67% of their students have experienced stress and they are implementing programs to help.

Londonís secondary schools have five periods a day with students in grades 9-11 taking five courses. The semester system is not in the best interest of students with a years curriculum crammed into one semester of five months. The students have been stressed out this last week with the dreaded final exams. Friday the 31st. is a turn-around day and Monday is a brand new semester.

London Central students are most fortunate having the two day cycle with the whole year to complete their studies. I promise to have more to say about how Secondary School Semester systems fails our students in a future column.

Athletics for fun without the need to compete or be oneís best can lead to less stress while restoring oneís batteries. A brisk hour walk while taking in mother natureís splendor reduces stresses. We should encourage our children to be involved with their peers to provide the intricate link to a positive life healthy life style.

Music and appreciation of the arts for their own sake teaches them to enjoy the essences of beauty.

Optimism is a key component for feeling in control and successful coping in stressful situations works. Cups that are half full instead of half empty allow us to persist and believe that eventually things will turn out for the best.

I follow the axiom that the when the answer no it is maybe and maybe with some persistence in time will be yes.

I have had the pleasure to have counselled thousands of young adults. Supportive positive parents/schools/teachers help to enrich their childrenís lives and help reduce stress.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com