A couple of weeks ago, an unusual and frightening incident occurred at Swift Current. It really surprised me that a student would take a gun to school, even if it was on Saturday when classes were not in session. The 13-year-old perpetrator allegedly took a pistol and threatened other youth. He was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of pointing a firearm and carrying a firearm in a careless manner. He also faces a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm for a dangerous purpose and theft under $5,000.
There is a long list of things a person should never do and taking a gun to school is one of them. I dare to say it is very high on that list due to the killing sprees that have occurred at schools. There have been shootings and massacres at Canadian schools, but not to the degree that occur in the United States. I believe every student knows firearms are not to be taken to school, so why was that cardinal rule ignored at Swift Current? I have my own suspicions, but that’s all they are.
Therefore I am shifting gears and focusing on what the professionals say we should do in order to have and maintain good mental health. Below are some ideas from CBS media which they shared on their website.
1 – Continuously replaying worrisome thoughts only makes them worse. It reinforces the neural pathways for those negative thoughts, which allows them to become more vivid and intense. Focusing on stressful thoughts is similar to rehearsing them, and we all know anything gets better with practice and that includes stress.
2 – After a stressful experience, relax and take a breather so your mind and body can recover. Doing so calms the stress response and helps a person prepare for the next challenge.
3 – We (at least I) often respond to stress by reaching for sweets or fatty comfort foods. However, that is counterproductive in the long run. Binge eating quickly elevates serotonin levels and may cause a person to temporarily feel better, but the levels quickly fall. A person is left feeling worse and craving more comfort food. This roller coaster ride depletes the brain of serotonin, which exacerbates the problem over time.
4 – Is it good to vent your emotions as pop psychology advocates? For many individuals, sharing their tales of woe with friends and relatives simply helps keep negative emotions alive. Repeated venting can actually make such feelings stronger.
5 – A lack of sleep is a surefire way to break down a body’s defenses against stress. In fact, not getting enough sleep is an “accelerator” toward mental illness. Therefore, try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
6 – If we are what we eat (as experts claim), we may also be what we consume through our eyes and ears. For example, recent research indicates watching and reading reports of violence and tragedy seem to promote anxiety and depression. We should be aware of what is going on around us, but we must pay particular attention to what we consume while watching or listening to news reports. I believe this applies to gossip also and is especially applicable if we are going through difficult times.
7 – If your mind is working overtime due to stress, indulging in stimulants such as caffeine, tobacco or amphetamines may make matters worse. This is also true for stimulating activities such as working without breaks, skipping meals or driving fast. Most forms of stimulation tend to amplify stressful feelings.
8 – Violent games (video, computer or live action role playing) can be fun, but they can put a person in an anxious state of mind. According to researchers, such games seem to alter brain function and the changes can last long after the game is over. Non-violent games can provide relief from stress. In fact, a recent study found soldiers who played Tetris (a building block game) after witnessing violence were less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
9 – As human beings we are social creatures that are hard wired to connect with others. However, some people respond to stress by isolating themselves from their friends and family – the very people they need for support. Connecting with others does not eliminate or solve problems that cause stress, but it certainly helps us endure stressful situations.
10 – When a person feels anxious, stress hormones flood the body priming it for physical action. That is the basis for the fight or flight response. However, those hormones can have a detrimental impact over time if a person spends their day sitting at a desk or resting on a sofa. Getting exercise helps discharge those hormones and resets the mind to a relaxed state.
Now, it’s obvious I must change my ways if I am going to deal with stress more effectively and ultimately live well. More importantly, children need to be taught such lessons (hopefully by their parents) in order to avoid the pitfalls that destroy young lives. We certainly are a product of our environment, but we can change for the better (or worse).