Dear Alice,

I have many problems that I would like to discuss with you. I will not tell you my age, but I am a teenager. My first question is very simple. Can you tell me how I can relieve myself of stress? Even though school is out, I am still stressed out for some reason. So far, I've had two muscle spasms which are very uncomfortable. My doctor said that it might be because of stress in school. What should I do?

My second question is about dealing with my thoughts about death. When I was a kid, I used to constantly think about death and its effects. I used to even cry over it, but now I am all right. Well, not completely. I do sometimes still think about it, and when I do, I work myself up pretty good.

And my third problem is about suicide. Whenever I feel down and very tired, I think about how horrible my life is. I say, "Life sucks and then you die," and "What's the point of life since you're going to die anyway?" Well, whenever these things come up, I think about suicide. When at home, I open up my window and look all the way down. I think about my body splatting down on the ground, and then I forget about it out of disgust. Well, I hope that you can help me, and please hurry up. This is urgent.

— Dazed

Dear Dazed,

Your ability to look inward and express your thoughts is impressive. You can be proud for reaching out to get help dealing with these difficult issues. You may need some help during the harder times — more immediate and personal help than can be provided over the computer. You deserve support that will acknowledge you as a unique individual. If you are a student, you could talk with a counselor at your school, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), or try Befrienders International to find a support hotline or resource near you.

It's helpful that you see how stress, body pain, and thoughts of death are related. Many people feel tense muscles and other bodily symptoms in times of stress. Also, you say thoughts of death and killing yourself happen mostly when you're tired and/or stressed out. There is hope. You might benefit from working with a mental health professional who recognizes that the mind, body, and stressors are interrelated.

It's possible that, as a kid, you learned to cope with stress by tensing your muscles and thinking about death as a way out. While you recognize these coping techniques are bothersome, it sounds like you've been doing them for a long time. You might want to learn new ways to prevent and cope with stressors and signs of a stress reaction in yourself. It's likely that preventing and dealing with stress in healthy ways will help lessen your muscle tension and thoughts of death.

There are some questions you might ask yourself. What's the earliest time you remember thinking about death and killing yourself? What stressors were around at that time? How did you get through? Since then, have there been particular stressors (you mentioned school) that trigger these thoughts? What's been keeping you from killing yourself? What are your reasons for living? Family, friends, hobbies, etc.? What positive qualities do you like about yourself? How have these qualities kept you going through the hard times? Similarly, what seems to trigger muscle tension, and how do you get rid of it? And, importantly, how would you feel about talking with someone in person?

Again, it's admirable that you're so intuitive and ready to seek and receive help. You've identified links between stressors, mind, and body. Also, you've found a desire to learn some new ways to prevent and cope with stressors. With your self-awareness and openness, you'll be successful in working with a mental health professional to target these issues. Please take care and seek support soon,

Alice!

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