Dealing with Stress
Dealing with Stress
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Being a high school student means that you will have many responsibilities at home, in school, and in your personal life. It can often be difficult to juggle these commitments and often that leads to being “stressed out.” Stress is a very real issue for high school students as the pressures and demands placed on teens is only growing with time. It is important to be able to identify warning signs that tell you that you are becoming overloaded with stress. You will also need to be able to identify ways in which you can decrease stress levels. If you are feeling too overwhelmed and need help managing your stress, please contact a counselor, teacher, or parent if you are having a difficult time managing levels of stress.
Signs of a “Stress Overload”: Knowing When Enough is Enough…
- Persistent physical illnesses such as headaches, stomachaches, and chronic fatigue.
- Increased irritability or moodiness which often results in lashing out at others over “little things” or for no reason at all.
- Increased anxiety about your responsibilities. You might even experience panic attacks or anxiety attacks if you are prone to them, or if your stress levels are too intense.
- You might find yourself pulling away from friends or family and also involve yourself in less of the recreational activities that you use to enjoy (sports, school clubs, skateboarding etc…).
- You may develop or activate allergic reactions more easily- like eczema or asthma
- You could experience increased tearfulness and feelings of hopelessness
- You might be experiencing changes in sleeping or eating patterns. Perhaps you are eating or sleeping too much, or perhaps you are not sleeping or eating enough.
- You may have a difficult time concentrating in school
- You may find yourself turning to drugs, food, alcohol, or smoking for comfort- something you wouldn’t normally do.
- You may also feel a persistent sadness or feelings of depression.
How to Cope With Stress…
- Solve the little everyday problems as they come at you.
Sometimes when we are really stressed out by big things it can be difficult to want to address the little problems that come our way on a daily basis. This process of putting those small things off can, however, cause more stress. Take the time deal with little stuff as it comes at you because dealing with one problem at a time is less stressful than dealing with a pile of little problems later.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
You can reduce stress just by allowing your body the time it needs, while you are sleeping, to re-group and recover from the activities of your daily life. It is important to get at least 7 or 8 hours of a sleep each night so that you are prepared to face the tasks and responsibilities that come with each new day.
- Avoid excess caffeine intake.
This means that Energy drinks like Rock Star and Monster as well as soda and coffee are beverages you might want to avoid. High levels of caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation- the very feelings you are trying to avoid. Substitute coffee or energy drinks with water, lemonade or low-sugar fruit juices.
- Eat regularly.
It can sometimes be difficult to find time to eat with our lives being so busy and when we do eat it seems easier to pop some Easy Mac into the microwave then to make a balanced meal. Nonetheless, fueling your body with the proper nutrients is an important way for you to reduce stress. When your body is nourished and energized, you will be more physically and mentally prepared to tackle the tasks of your day.
- Learn practical coping skills.
For example, break a large task like graduating high school into smaller, more attainable tasks like finishing a big math test or writing your last research paper. Learning how to make life tasks manageable is just one of many coping skills. Developing a repertoire of coping skills could help you to manage your stress levels.
- Use positive self talk.
When thinking about the mountain of responsibilities that contribute to your stress level, it can often be easy to exclaim “I will never be able to handle this, it’s simply hopeless.” This is what is called negative self-talk: the practice of using negative thoughts and ideas to reinforce your beliefs about your lack of ability or control. Remember that your attitude will color your perception of how well you can manage your stress. Turn your negative or pessimistic statements into positive and self-encouraging statements (e.g. “I have a lot of work to do, but I know that if I can do a little at a time I can get everything done in time”). Keep a positive attitude and use positive self-talk!!
- Focus on quality, not perfection.
Have realistic expectations about your work. Though it would ideal to be able to demonstrate a perfect performance on every school, home or personal task, the pressure of achieving that ideal can often produce anxiety and stress. Moreover, If you spend countless hours making sure that your History project is exactly perfect, you may have less time to work on a paper for English – a reality that could pile on more stress for you. It is important to always do your best work, but don’t drive yourself crazy striving for perfection.
- Take a break once in a while.
Everybody needs a moment to breathe, or watch TV, or have a snack. Sometimes we get to a “stress overload” because we haven’t taken any time to “stop and smell the roses.” If you are feeling really stressed out, take a moment and have a cup of tea or watch a half an hour of television to give your brain a moment to relax.
Learn to avoid the procrastination demon. By making sure that you aren’t leaving all of your responsibilities to the last minute and that you are allowing yourself the time to spread out your academic and social responsibilities wherever possible, you will reduce your stress levels. Planning ahead now will pay off in the future.
Organization is the sister to preparation. It is essential that you have a system for cataloging all of the responsibilities you have to accomplish in one day a month, or even one year. Using a daily planner, calendar, palm pilot, or even a computer program can aid you in the task keeping all of your responsibilities organized in a logical manner and not floating around in your head. Organization is a great way to ensure that you do not forget any of your responsibilities, miss important deadlines, or overload your schedule.
Whenever “stress overload” is in effect… (like when you have a history test, a research paper due, a soccer game, and your college application is due for early decision all in the same week for example) you want to make sure that you prioritize those responsibilities. You may decide that the college application can take a backseat for a moment so that you can do one more round of flashcards to study for your history exam. Once you have run through the flashcards then you might put the finishing touches on your college essay to complete the application. Place the most important, or most urgent tasks at the top of list and begin working your way down.
The best way to relieve stress is to expend the nervous and anxious energies by participating in physical activities. Running, playing basketball, or even participating in a yoga class will help you focus your energy into a physical activity instead of allowing you to focus on your stress levels.
- Focus on things you can control.
Many times the things that stress us out in our lives are the things that we cannot control, such as the recent divorce of parents or the reality that three projects are due on the same day. Knowing that we cannot control for those types of things, we must shift our focus to those elements of life we can control in healthy ways. So perhaps you throw yourself into practicing for soccer or you concentrate your energies on the algebra that you have been struggling with. Focusing on the positive changes that you can control instead of the stressors that you cannot control, can help you to put stress into perspective.
Sometimes when you are getting ready to pull your hair out or scream at the top of your lungs, you might find that stopping a moment to take a deep breath can be a healthier way to expend your energy. Sit for a moment in a chair, on the floor, or even on your living room couch. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep breath hold it for eight seconds and then slowly let it out over the course of eight seconds. Do this 8-10 times consecutively. What you might find is that doing this will help you focus on the breathing exercise long enough to distract you from feelings of anger and frustration. Clearing your head in this way can sometimes take the edge off when you do not have the luxury of expressing yourself in other ways.
- Express yourself.
Sometimes when we are so busy that we even forget to blink, we also forget to express our feelings or emotions. Keeping frustrations and feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted hidden can often result in even more stress. Allowing yourself a moment to cry may help you to regroup and keep plugging away at life. Other times, those feelings don’t go away and so it is suggested that you seek out someone to talk to. Parents, teachers, and counselors are all good resources. They will talk it through with you and possibly even help you learn ways that you can manage your stress.
- Make some time for things you enjoy.
It is often true that people spend so much time stressing over the responsibilities or the life events they “have to do” that they loose sight of the few things they want to do or even like to do. What we often forget is that sometimes we need an “outlet” or a place/activity that gives us a distraction or a mental release. This means that for a moment you might sit and write in your journal, play your Playstation, or go for a hike. Whatever that your outlet may be, it is important to make the time to do something you love every once in awhile.
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