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Managing Stress in High School



Managing Stress in High School

Your high school days can be stressful. With increasingly difficult academics, participating in extracurriculars, preparing for college, socializing with friends and working a part-time job, it's crucial that you manage your time and your stress level. Managing stress in high school can be a daunting task. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the many demands on your time and energy, these stress management techniques for students can help you alleviate your worries and calm your mind.

What Causes Stress in High School Students?

Before getting into some of the ways you can manage your stress, let's take a look at some of the underlying causes of stress in high school. We've all wondered at some point about why high school is so stressful, but when you step back and look at your daily high school routine, it's not hard to find the causes of stress. In life, there is good stress and bad stress.

Stress can drives people to accomplish great things, and a little bit of pressure can be a good thing, especially as a young person. It teaches you to handle real-world situations and challenges by rising to the occasion. If you're stressed about something, such as your grades or overall academic performance, that's a sign you care and are passionate about your success. Bad stress occurs when these worries begin to consume your thoughts or otherwise negatively impact other areas of your life.

As a high school student, you likely have a rigorous schedule of academics, extracurriculars and a part-time job or other additional responsibilities that quickly fill your days, leaving you without much free time.

High school certainly stretches your time and energy thin, leaving you overwhelmed and exhausted. This is a perfect recipe for being stressed out and, at times, burnt out. You must take time to recognize and acknowledge your sources of stress. Some of the most common sources of stress during your time in high school include:

  • Academic demands: It goes without saying that high school classes are hard, especially if you're enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses or college introductory courses. During your sophomore and junior years, you have a large academic workload that will dictate your college or post-secondary learning experience. From calculus to chemistry, the academic demands alone are stressful and time-consuming.
  • Time management: School during the day, clubs or sports in the afternoons and a part-time job in the evenings all quickly fill your days and consume your time. Factor in the occasional homework assignment or class project and it's a wonder you have any time for anything other than work and school. Be aware of the demands of your time and take it one step at a time.
  • Increased responsibilities: As a high school student, you suddenly find yourself thrust into adulthood with little time to prepare.
  • Social pressures: The social pressures in high school are immense. You're expected to conduct yourself as a grown-up without having the freedoms and liberties afforded to an independent adult. Dating, friends, family, pressure to succeed, pressure to plan your life after graduation and social media are all sources of social stress that can be overwhelming.
  • Fear of failure: High school is a pressure-filled time that has likely been presented to you, at some point, as your only chance to be successful in life. True, you can set yourself up for a lot of future success by performing at a high level in high school, but remember that one low grade or one poor test score is not the end of the world.

These are just a few of the many sources of stress in your life as a high school student, and you've likely experienced one or all of these on a daily or weekly basis. Keep in mind high school is just the beginning of your adult life, and it's OK to make mistakes. Set expectations and goals for the future, and try to be patient and lenient with yourself. When you feel yourself becoming too stressed, overworked or otherwise exhausted mentally and physically, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you're strong, resilient and capable.

Long Term Effects of Stress

As mentioned earlier, there is good stress and bad stress. Bad stress has negative long-term effects on many different areas of your life including your mental, emotional and physical well-being. You've probably heard the term "fight or flight" as a way to describe the emotional and physical response people experience when they're placed in a stressful situation. This term typically refers to life-threatening scenarios where you find yourself either fighting for your life or escaping to safety.

Many of the stress-inducing situations we experience today are not life or death situations. But our body's response to stress remains the same. When experiencing environmental, emotional, physical or social sources of stress, your body produces hormones that quickly trigger physiological changes in you.

Situations such as looming work deadlines, social conflicts and worries about time or money can trigger these responses. This is your fight or flight kicking in, telling you that you need to take one of two actions. Over time, frequently responding to stressors in this manner is detrimental to your overall mental, physical and emotional health. This is known as chronic stress. It happens when your brain and body are consistently placed in "fight or flight" mode, and it has serious long-term effects on your overall well-being.

Chronic stress has been linked to numerous issues including:

  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Obesity
  • Anxiety

Those with lasting effects are often diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The good news is you can take steps to manage your stress. Handling stress in class or dealing with stress in high school requires you to take an active role to eliminate or reduce the effects stress has on your life and overall well-being.

How to Manage Stress

Now that you understand more about what causes stress and the ways it can negatively impact your overall health and emotional well-being, it's time to dive into a few ways you can manage stress. Here are some helpful stress management techniques for students, especially if you're often stressed out at school.

1. Focus on a Healthy Sleeping Pattern

High school can be a time of long days in the classroom and insufficient sleep. One of the best ways to handle stress while in high school or any other time in your life is to have a routine sleep schedule that allows you to get plenty of rest at night. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teenagers 13-18 years old should get at least 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

As a developing and growing teenager, your mind and body are undergoing many changes and you need to have plenty of quality sleep to be at your best during the day. Studies have shown that teens and adolescents who don't get the recommended amount of sleep on a nightly basis are more likely to experience health issues such as obesity, diabetes and poor mental health. They may also have trouble paying attention during the day. Roughly 72% of teenagers surveyed in the CDC's study reported not getting the recommended amount of sleep on a consistent basis.

If you want to reduce your stress levels and prepare yourself for the challenges of the day, you'll want to start by focusing on a healthy sleeping pattern with 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

2. Speak With an Adult

You might feel like no one understands or can identify with the stress you're experiencing in high school, but many people have experienced similar feelings. Take time to talk with an adult about the issues and concerns that regularly stress you out. Many times, just sitting down to talk about your problems and stressors with an adult such as a counselor, teacher, coach or parent helps more than you'd think. Vocalizing the issues and challenges that serve as sources of bad stress in your life can help you cope and manage your stress in a healthy way.

3. Exercise and Get Enough Physical Activity


One of the best stress relievers at any age is exercise and physical activity. As a high school student, you sit in class all day and are mostly sedentary for a large portion of the day. If you're not on a sports team, finding time to exercise in high school can be a challenge. However, exercising for as little as 30 minutes per day can have lasting impacts on your health, mood and overall well-being. Whether it's walking with friends, lifting weights or playing a friendly game of pick-up basketball, exercise and physical activity are proven stress relievers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of exercise are proven to reduce stress and enhance your mood in several ways, including:

  • Taking your mind off of stress-inducing situations: Exercising, walking, lifting weights or playing a game such as basketball or tennis with friends takes your mind off those areas of your life that cause you stress. It's a way to clear your mind and recenter yourself after a long, stressful day at school and work.
  • Stimulating your brain to release beneficial, stress-fighting chemicals: When you exercise, your brain releases beneficial chemicals known as neurotransmitters, most notably endorphins. Endorphins are your body's feel-good chemicals that are released through cardiovascular activities such as tennis, basketball, running or hiking.
  • Imitating the effects of stress: When you exercise, your body imitates the effects of stress without the harmful side effects. Your body is put through a similar situation as it would if your fight or flight reaction kicked in, just without the danger of a life or death situation.
  • Allowing you to sleep better at night: Physical activity helps you get the tension out of your muscles and increases blood and oxygen flow to your brain, heart and other vital organs. Together, this can help you relax more easily and ultimately sleep better at night.

4. Create a Support Group

Surrounding yourself with others who are experiencing similar challenges and who face the same sources of stress as yourself is an incredibly beneficial and therapeutic activity. Create an after-school club that offers a safe space where you and other high school students can share your thoughts, aspirations and advice for dealing with challenges associated with being a high school student.

Just like talking with a trusted adult can have a stress-reducing effect on your life, sitting down with other students dealing with the same issues as yourself is extremely helpful when managing your stress. You're not alone in the challenges and adversity you face, and sometimes you just need confirmation that others are going through the same things as you.

5. Practice Mindfulness

According to Mindful.org, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by what's going on around us. It's something we're all capable of practicing and that we all possess, and it's a human characteristic that works best when it's practiced regularly.

Mindfulness is a practice where you allow yourself to take a step back and observe. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a natural healing approach that combines meditation with yoga. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s, MBSR takes mindfulness practice to another level and was initially intended to help those struggling with life's difficulties. You can practice MBSR in the following ways:

  1. Set aside time each day to sit peacefully and quietly and think. Combine this with closing your eyes, visualizing your challenges and deep breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. You can start with small 15-20 minute blocks and work your way up to 45-minute blocks. Spending time in quiet and being alone with your thoughts is an excellent way to improve your mental health and reflect on everything that happened throughout your day.
  2. Lay flat on your bed, the floor or the ground outside with your hands by your side and your body relaxed. Close your eyes and move your awareness through your body. Start at the top with your head, face, mouth, nose and work your way down, stopping to think about each part of your body. If you get to a spot on your body that seems unusually tight or tense, stop and focus your breathing on that area until it relaxes before moving on. This helps your mind and body get in sync with one another, bringing awareness of "yourself" into focus.
  3. Stretch your muscles with yoga as you practice mindfulness. Yoga and mindfulness work together to melt away your stress. A form of exercise, yoga is a series of poses you hold in place for several seconds or minutes while focusing on your breathing and clearing your mind. Focus on the pose, breathe and repeat. Soon, your stress will begin to fade away, leaving you relaxed and focused.

Mindfulness is more about you and less about others. There is no wrong way to practice mindfulness, and the purpose of engaging in these types of activities is to create harmony in your mind, body and spirit. Approach mindfulness activities with an open and accepting frame of mind. Allow your worries to come and let them pass by again, taking each thought as it comes and goes. It's meant to relax your mind and body as a way to shift your mindset and regain focus in chaotic, stressful situations.

6. Healthy Diet

It may seem difficult to eat a healthy diet as a high school student, but making a conscious effort to put nutritious food in your body can have a range of health benefits, including reductions in your stress levels. Stress negatively impacts your body's natural blood flow and has negative effects on things such as blood pressure, heart rate and inflammation in your body.

Unhealthy foods that contain high amounts of sugar and fats and low amounts of beneficial vitamins C, D and B compound these negative effects, increasing your likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean proteins such as fish and chicken breast combat the negative effects of stress by reducing inflammation and lowering your blood sugar levels.

Eating your meals at home rather than getting fast food is a great place to start your healthy diet. You can bring healthy snacks such as almonds, bananas and apples with you to school. These options are all healthier than vending machine chips or candy bars. Start taking an active role in your diet now to set yourself up for success down the road as you move toward college and living independently.

Learn More About Managing Stress in High School With Lessonbee

High school is undoubtedly a stressful and challenging time in your life. Academic demands and added responsibilities such as working and driving accompany your rise into adulthood. Academic demands and added responsibilities such as working and driving accompany your rise into adulthood. Your time and energy are pushed to the limit during your high school days, expanding your horizons and often leaving you exhausted and stressed to the max.

Luckily, you can manage your stress by following some of the tips and techniques outlined above. Getting plenty of sleep, taking time to exercise and eating healthy foods are all proven ways to effectively manage stress and reduce the negative impacts stress takes on your mind and body.

At Lessonbee, we offer free educational content designed for high school students like yourself who are experiencing the challenges of adolescence and growing into young adulthood. When you sign up for Lessonbee, you'll receive instant access to valuable interactive content, classes and other culturally relevant learning materials designed to foster a healthy lifestyle. This content can help you develop lifelong habits that have positive impacts on your health and well-being.

Check out Lessonbee's free videos and other content to get started on the path to a long, happy and healthy life today!

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