Managing High School Stress: 5 Key Tips
Posted on September 25 2019
Does it seem like everyone else is just floating through school without a care in the world?
Well, did you know that 49 percent of all high school students say they feel a great deal of stress on a daily basis? Another 31 percent say they feel somewhat stressed. That’s 8 out of every 10 students! Grades, homework, and preparing for what comes after graduation were top stressors, and the stress levels are particularly high among female students, who were 50 percent more likely to say they’re stressed out than their male peers.
So, what can you do about it?
Here are five tips for bringing down the high school stress:
HIGH SCHOOL STRESS REDUCTION TIP 1: THINK THROUGH YOUR AP COURSE SELECTIONS
Advanced Placement classes are more popular than ever. But are they helping you?
You might be surprised to learn that the research is rather mixed on that question. When Denise Pope, from the Stanford Graduate School of Education, examined 20 studies on AP courses, she concluded that students should think carefully before taking such classes.
“Frankly, many high-achieving high school students are really stressed out,” she said. “They have a lot to do between extracurricular activities and homework and also trying to get the sleep they need. They need to be prepared for what an AP course involves.”
Pope said that if students are truly interested in the subject, there’s a good teacher and they are surrounded by other motivated students, an AP class might indeed be worthwhile. “But if you’re pushed into it without good preparation and without a safety net in place,” she said, “then it may be more harmful than helpful.”
Declining an AP class might give you the room you need to focus on other classes and feel less stressed — and, in the end, that might in fact help you do better overall in school.
HIGH SCHOOL STRESS REDUCTION TIP 2: HAVE A ‘LISTENER’ ON SPEED DIAL
Sometimes all you need to do is vent. But parents, friends and teachers often struggle to completely listen.
There’s nothing like someone who will listen — just listen — to your worries. That’s why, when you’re dealing with high school stress, it can be incredibly helpful to have someone in your life who understands that when you call, all you want is a friendly ear.
No advice. No moralizing. No judgement. No “well, when I was your age.” None of that.
Grandparents can be particularly good in this role. Everybody’s relationship with their grandfolks is different and, of course, some people aren’t fortunate to know their grandparents at all, but if you can find someone who will let you spill your worries, and then tell you they believe in you and say little more than that, you’ll find yourself feeling a lot less stress.
If you don’t have a grandma or grandpa like that, try an aunt or uncle, an older cousin, a neighbor, or a friend’s parent. Keep trying until you find someone who says “call me any time, and I’ll just listen.”
HIGH SCHOOL STRESS REDUCTION TIP 3: JUST KEEP MOVING<
In the Disney movie Finding Nemo, Dory the fish’s mantra is “just keep moving.” Staying active keeps her from worrying about things she can’t control (like the fact that her long-term memory is almost completely gone) but there’s another benefit that isn’t hinted at in the film.
Movement is exercise. And exercise is great for stress relief.
Remember how we told you that about 80 percent of students are feeling some degree of being “stressed out”? Well, it might not be much of a coincidence that about the same percentage of students aren’t getting enough exercise.
Exercise might be the best medicine in the world for reducing stress, because it promotes the production of the “feel-good neurotransmitters” that are created in our brains, called endorphins.
Believe it or not, even if you are a high school athlete, you might not be getting enough exercise to keep the endorphins flowing, because you’re getting most of it all at once, in the span of a few hours each day. And while endorphins can last for about 24 hours, they begin to peter out, little by little, as soon as they are created.
Even five minutes of exercise at the start of your day — and another five minutes after lunch — can keep the endorphins going, carrying you into the period of the day in which you are getting longer and more intense exercise. And that can help mitigate stress all day long.
HIGH SCHOOL STRESS REDUCTION TIP 4: STAY ORGANIZED
A lot of stress comes from not feeling like we don’t have things under control. And while you can’t do much about the fact that life, by its very nature, is unpredictable, there’s a lot that you can do to control the parts of your life that are, in fact, controllable.
Keeping a single, detailed schedule <hyperlink to AA Blog #3> is a great way to not let little things build up to the point that they become stressful. And the best way to do this is to use a calendar app to identify times to get tasks done.
For whatever reason, a lot of students don’t do this. They simply say “I’ll get to that” and then, when other things come up, they lose track of how much time they’d wanted to dedicate to the original task. The result is often that a task that might have been quite simple — filling out the paperwork for a college application — gets pushed to the last minute, and now any sort of obstacle — like a computer glitch isn’t just a problem to be solved, but a race against a fast-coming deadline.
Schedule your tasks, and watch how fast the stress falls away.
HIGH SCHOOL STRESS REDUCTION TIP 5: FIND GRATEFULNESS
It’s no fun to have other people tell you “you don’t know how good you have it.” So we’re not going to tell you that.
In fact, we’re pretty sure that you do, in fact, realize that in the scope of human history, this is a pretty good time to be alive. (And it might just be the best, according to psychologist Steven Pinker.)
That doesn’t mean your problems are meaningless. Not at all. Feelings of stress are a very natural way for your body to tell you “that might be enough!” So, when you feel stress — no matter the reason — you are having a very natural experience, and it absolutely doesn’t matter that other people might have had it worse.
With that said, sometimes stress makes it hard to remember the gifts we have — and so a little intentional reflection on the things for which you are grateful can be a great way to bring your stress levels down. Studies show, after all, that gratitude can enhance your emotional well-being.
HIGH SCHOOL STRESS REDUCTION: YOU CAN DO IT!
No matter if you are a straight-A student or you are struggling to pass all of your classes, stress is a very common and very natural experience for high schoolers.
And while we’d love to tell you that stress is nothing to stress over, that would be silly. Embrace your stress. Recognize that it’s your body’s way of telling you that you are nearing, at, or past your physical, emotional or mental limits, then use these tips to help address those issues.
You can do it.
- The American Academy: “How to take effective study breaks”
- The American Academy: “How to eliminate study distractions”