Stress Management for High School Students: Strategies and Activities

Posted on November 09 2020

A high school student wearing headphones sits cross-legged on the floor in her living room holding a laptop and a coffee cup.

Chances are, you or someone you know suffers from chronic stress and anxiety. A report released by The Child Mind Institute found a 17% increase in anxiety among young people over the past decade. Among teens, 9.1% experience anxiety, but only 20% go on to seek help. 

Finances and a lack of access to mental health professionals are among the roadblocks that can prevent young people from receiving therapy to alleviate anxiety. Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. Some easy and effective stress management strategies for high school students can help reduce anxiety and promote a balance between school, extracurricular activities, work, and social commitments.

What Causes Stress in High School?

High school can be stressful in itself. With the competition for college admission, demanding curriculums, and social expectations, today’s high school experience can be quite a pressure cooker.

Academic Pressures              

Students feel the pressure to excel academically from all sides. Families, teachers, and peers impress the importance of getting good grades. As a result, students can come to view their grades and academic achievements through a perfectionist lens. 

From acing exams, to perfecting projects, to overachieving in advanced placement classes — high school students set high, and often unrealistic, expectations for themselves in an attempt to meet the demands of the world around them. 

Deadline Pressures 

Most high school courses come with their own set of deadlines. Students are expected to learn new material in a variety of different subjects, and they are often given little time to master and retain the material. On top of this, many deadlines overlap, especially during finals when students are expected to take multiple exams on the same day. 

Social Pressures

Social pressures in high school have never been easy. Striving to feel comfortable socially is hard enough, but staying active on social media and creating content that gets noticed can add another layer of stress for teens today. Relationships, both romantic and platonic, can be an additional stressor, as shy teens may find it difficult to form new connections.

Trying out for teams, keeping up with extracurricular activities, or auditioning for a school play can present even more stress. Students are asked to display their skills in front of coaches, teachers, and other students without knowing if they’ll be accepted. To be successful, students must fit practices and games into their schedule, juggling these responsibilities with homework and other obligations, contributing to overall stress levels. School functions, such as Friday night football games and school dances, present opportunities for fun, but they can also magnify existing social pressures.

Stress Management for High School Students 

Simple stress management strategies for high school students can be effective. While there is no cure-all, incorporating the following activities can help lower stress levels, mitigate anxiety, and make things feel more manageable for teens.

Develop Good Time Management Skills

High school students can benefit from keeping a daily planner or agenda to track their schedule. Noting class times, assignment due dates, exam schedules, and extracurricular activities allows students to spread out their obligations and create a manageable schedule.

Maintain a Positive Mindset

Establishing realistic educational goals, especially during examination periods and times of high stress, is extremely important for high school students. By setting goals that can be reasonably achieved, students are setting themselves up for success, which improves confidence and motivation levels.  

Enjoy Time Outside of School 

Participating in sports or clubs, volunteering at nonprofit or religious institutions, spending time with friends, and enjoying relaxing hobbies can all help students lower their stress levels.

Take Time to Meditate

Meditation can take place before, during, or after school. Even short breaks of a few minutes for meditation have been shown to decrease cortisol levels, which is the hormone attributed to stress. Breathing exercises can be incorporated in meditations, or used separately, to calm the nervous system before participating in stressful activities such as taking a test, performing in a play, attending a difficult class, or playing a sport. 

Strategies for Succeeding in High School

To succeed in high school, students should take a careful look at what’s contributing to their overall stress. In turn, they should also evaluate the elements of their life that contribute joy and happiness. Each student has individual needs, but there are some common factors that play a part in successful stress management.

Form a Support Network

Anxiety can get worse without a support network. Left untreated, stress and anxiety can lead to other serious conditions, including depression, substance abuse, and increased risk of suicide. 

Support networks can include anyone in a student’s life who is trustworthy. Friends, teachers, mentors, coaches, or family members can help stressed students feel safe and encouraged. Having someone to talk to when pressures become overwhelming can help students feel like they’re not alone and ease their stress levels. 

Practice Mindfulness

Instead of worrying about the next exam or a past argument with a friend, high school students can practice mindfulness. This can be accomplished by focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness reduces stress by placing attention on the current task, which can be something as simple as walking to class, leaving no room for stressful thought patterns to take over. 

Be Patient and Stay Focused on Long- and Short-Term Goals

High school students are under a considerable amount of pressure, so one of the most important things they can do is be patient with themselves. By focusing on their goals and practicing techniques for stress management, high school students can reduce anxiety and find a balanced mindset.

Consider Alternative Education Options

The pace of traditional high school isn’t for everyone. Students today have a number of alternative education options to choose from, such as accredited online schools, which enable students to learn at a pace that works for them.

Find Out How Online High School Can Reduce Student Anxiety

High school students today have a choice. They don’t have to be part of the 9.1% of teens who experience anxiety. Online programs such as The American Academy’s online high school diploma provide students with a flexible option for completing their high school education at a pace that fits into their life without causing extra stress. The accredited program includes all the courses to prepare students for college and offers a customized graduation plan that works with each student’s schedule. 

Recommended Readings:

Managing High School Stress: 5 Key Tips

How to Succeed in an Online High School

How to do Well on a Test: Preparation and Resources



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health”  

Child Mind Institute, “Understanding Anxiety in Children and Teens” 

National Society of High School Scholars, “7 Tips for Academic Success in High School”

Psychology Today, “Dealing with Stress at School in an Age of Anxiety”

Psych Central, “Stress Management Tips for Students”  

Understood, “5 High School Stress Factors” 

Very Well Mind, “Top 10 Stress Management Techniques for Students”