I wrote this post for my blog after being excluded from my senior homecoming, feeling overwhelming stress, and judging myself for it. inspirED has given me the tools to deal with my stress, rather than judging myself for stressing.

Have you ever had something linger in your mind, that you know is not worth stressing about? That was me. I learned from it. Let me tell you about it:

I was excluded from my senior homecoming. From finding a date, to a group to attend the dance with, I was stressed out. I allowed this to hang over my head when doing my homework, when being with my family, even when trying to relax. I recognize that there are much greater problems affecting teenagers than school dances. I cringe as I write this, knowing that my experience is insignificant to the world’s pressing problems. I would read the New York Times and see countless stories that deserved my attention more than my homecoming worries. I should have focused my attention on my studies or anything more important. That was just the problem– judgment of my stress inhibited me from simply moving on and facing what was truly causing my stress: exclusion. I let my stress build because I thought it was not worthy of my attention.

Stress gets a bad wrap: we live in a society that fears it. Stress isn’t always “bad”: it can motivate us to be better people, or to work harder. Our response to stress is the reason for our fear. This is why stress can be detrimental to our emotional health.

If our emotional health is the foundation of a house, stressing is the act of repainting an entire wall, trying to cover a small chip of paint. Stress can smother something seemingly insignificant. Stress can also place a façade over an underlying problem.  Worrying does not fix chipped paint, neither does denying the chip’s existence or weighing the chip’s importance. If we can change the way we view stress, maybe we can learn to deal with it in a healthier way– and fix the chipped paint in our emotional selves.

My mother always told me, “Don’t sweat the small things.” However, if I am already sweating, denial will not help the situation. We need to deal with what stresses us regardless of what causes it. Perhaps not all stress is created equally, but all stress should be addressed. Judgment is only an inhibitor.

The night of homecoming, I slowly became more comfortable with what stresses me.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Sometimes it takes exclusion for us to face what stresses us.
  2. It is okay to feel stressed!
  3. 3. Judging your stress will not make it go away.

Bio: Daniella Cohen is passionate about empathy. Inspired by her pen pal from Bangalore, India, she co-founded G.I.V.E. (go.innovate.volunteer.educate), an organization that promotes cultural understanding through pen pal letter writing and enhances education by bringing Internet access to schools in the developing world. She is currently working on inspirED: a social and emotional learning program at Facebook will be interning at Ashoka’s Youth Venture in the fall.