N.U.T.S. - Understanding Stress


What causes you to stress out?

We each have unique triggers that cause stress but according to Dr. Sonia Lupien, the director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress[1], all stressors have something in common. Scientific research has shown that for a situation to be stressful it must contain one or more of the following characteristics:

N - novelty; something new

U - unpredictability; no way of knowing it could occur

T - threat to the ego; feeling your competence is questioned

S - sense of control; feeling you have little or no control in a situation

Don’t go N.U.T.S. with Stress!

Age Matters

People of all ages experience stress when they encounter N.U.T.S., but how old you are does influence why some situations are more stressful than others. For example, school age children are particularly sensitive to what happens at home. Any family conflict, struggle with poverty or parental anxiety amplifies a stress trigger when you are young. On the other hand, adolescents (12-18 years), while still affected by what is happening at home, are also highly sensitive to situations connected with friendships and popularity.

Parent’s stress is contagious

In her research, Dr. Lupien found a spillover effect of parental stress on children. The more parents are stressed, the more their child will produce high levels of stress hormones.  Why?  Because when a parent loses control of their emotions and behaviour they become the factor of unpredictability in their children’s lives. Children as young as one year of age show this stress response.  Even though they are not conscious of their parents’ stress, their brain mounts the stress response.  It’s a survival system. The good news is that when parents act in a way that decreases the novelty and unpredictability in their child’s life they increase their sense of control - and reduce stress.

Using N.U.T.S. to De-Stress

  1. Recognize when you (or your child) are stressed and identify what is driving you N.U.T.S. (which of the 4 N.U.T.S. characteristics is causing your stress?)

  2. Take steps[2] to prevent and cope with stress.

Access blogs and research articles about the different effects of stress in our lives (for parents, at work, with youth) at the Center for Studies on Human Stress.

Need a stress intervention? Check out these ideas.

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.