A Student’s Guide to Managing Stress

When finals time approaches, many students are faced with an increasing amount of stress. Understanding how to turn this stress into achievement is important to make the grade, and stay healthy.

Some stress is good; It helps us meet challenges, achieve at our best and draw on reserves we didn’t know we have. Extended periods of pressure, however, can lead to health problems, depression and loss in performance and productivity.

While more students suffer from significant amounts of stress, many schools have taken a proactive approach to helping them manage it. In fact, some schools even offer stress management programs or classes. Do you need help identifying your stress level and coping with its causes?

Frequent stressors for people between the ages of 13-18 are school-related, including:

  • Upcoming tests
  • Projects and assignments
  • Lack of sleep
  • Friends
  • Rivals
  • An uncertain future or looming decisions about life after high school

Stress can be especially hard on teenagers because, in many cases, it is a new challenge they have not yet learned to cope with. It’s important to take a step back, look at stressors in perspective, and learn about coping mechanisms to overcome the tension.

Knowing what’s usual or unusual when dealing with stress is helpful in determining whether you need to make some changes. Can you relate to some of these signals of stress and its common partner — depression:

  • Do you feel like you have lost control of your days, overwhelmed and like you’re not making any headway?
  • Any new physical complaints such as headaches or stomach aches?
  • Are your grades suffering? How about your relationships?
  • Turning to substances to relax or to perform well?
  • Always tired, or even just sleeping too much?
  • Are you shutting down, giving up or not trying?

If you’re having trouble with schoolwork, here are some tips:

  • Communicate with your teacher, with your counselor’s assistance if that helps. In the work world, if you’re having trouble keeping up, you need to communicate with your boss or team to get help or to prioritize tasks. Part of your teacher’s job is to help you succeed in her class — what does she suggest?
  • Speaking of prioritizing, make sure you’re devoting the most time and attention to the most important projects. You can focus on that work first while still keeping tabs on the rest. A Johari Window can help you prioritize. Visit Striving Toward Excellence for details.
  • Make the most of your study time. Stay organized and avoid distractions so you can make solid progress on your projects and papers. You might want to take a look at these apps that block social media distractions. And know your own learning style to help you think and learn the way that works best for you.
  • Use scheduling and organization tools to calendar project timelines, due dates, study time, family time — whatever is important to you. Don’t forget to build down time in there — empty time where you can do what you like (or do nothing at all).
  • Get exercise AND outdoor time, whether competitive or just for fun.
  • Set reasonable bedtime and wake-up times and don’t encroach on this important regenerative activity.
  • Evaluate — how are you feeling; how are you doing; what’s on your mind?
  • Get help from a trusted adult when you need it. From talking through your worries to seeking professional mental health, know there’s support for you.

– Terry Mocettini,
training, support and marketing coordinator,
Idaho Career Information System