Since you first entered the world of academia at a very young age, typically only 5 years old when you stepped foot into a kindergarten classroom, you’ve been exposed to the pressures of succeeding. Success through schooling varies from person to person, whether that means graduating from high school or earning a master’s degree, and the stress from reaching for success can affect anyone. At any point in time, you could be afflicted by the pressures from academic, social, extracurricular or family stress.
When stress becomes too much, you might not know how to manage it. You could quickly become overwhelmed and start experiencing detrimental side effects like anxiety or despair. The child and adolescent therapists at ELEOS Psychology Center have the compassion and empathy to help you make school less scary. With compounded stressors piling up, we can help teach you the skills you need to have stress-free days at school this year.
Side Effects of Stress in School
Not all stress is bad. When confronted with stressors, our human reaction is “fight or flight.” Stress motivates and energizes us to react accordingly to the event at hand. When confronted with stressful events, your body becomes flooded with chemicals including epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, which help turn up your senses, increase your heart rate and amp up your muscle strength. While these chemical reactions are crucial to inciting enough energy to power through a long test, complete an urgent project or prepare a high-stakes presentation, too much of anything is bad.
Too much stress can lead to these chemicals overstaying their welcome. When you experience stress for prolonged periods of time — like the stressors you may face day after day during the typical school year — your body and mind will start to react negatively. Immune systems start to weaken, thus welcoming colds, aches and other illnesses. You may start experiencing trouble with your appetite, finding it hard to concentrate, feeling irritable and you might start experiencing additional problems like anxiety, fatigue, perfectionism and even depression.
The effects of chronic stress due to school can be managed and overcome. Even as pressures to study and score well on standardized tests are mounting, chronic stress is something that can be calmed a little bit at a time.
Although academic experiences such as homework, grades, standardized tests, college prep, etc., are the leading causes of school-related stress, there is more to consider when enduring a stressful day at school. In addition to academic stress, you might face these other types of stress, too:
Sexuality, bullying, gossip, friends, drama, cyberbullying, race, and peer pressure to experiment with alcohol or drugs are just some of the social situations you could find yourself in the middle of. Trying to make compromises between social activities and school responsibilities can also serve as another source of stress.
As complex as social circles are, family dynamics can be just as complex. Whether you come from a large or small family, learning how to be empathetic and live with everyone in your house can often be stressful—especially if you have a lot on your plate. Achieving harmony in your school life can be extra difficult if trouble exists in your home life like financial trouble, divorce or abuse.
In addition to stretching yourself thin through coursework, you may be involved in extracurricular activities. These may include sports or clubs through your school, or you might be an active volunteer in your community. You want to succeed and participate in these groups, but they could be adding to your stress during the school year.
Sometimes unexpected events happen in life. Natural disasters, the death of a loved one, unexpected financial strain—the course of life is never predictable. Both the surprise factor and necessary changes as a result of an unexpected event could send you into shock.
Tips to Managing Your Stress
To achieve a stress-free day at school, there are some steps you can take to help cope with stress springing from any part of life. Because when there is added stress from friends or family, your schoolwork will only feel more stressful. Coming to therapy at ELEOS Psychology Center will help you learn skills you can use to reduce the stress:
– develop greater insight and ability to articulate what you’re feeling
– uncover your true capacity and strength
– make healthier choices when coping with stress
– discover your values and set boundaries to meet your needs
– create a balanced schedule
Our compassion and understanding of the stressful experiences you’re encountering as you go through school will be able to help you through your toughest academic and social challenges. However, outside of our office, there are things you can do on your own to help work through the stress of school between visits. To help calm your hectic life, consider these easy-to-do tricks for a more stress-free life:
Mindfulness can be achieved in a variety of ways. By producing a present mind, you’ll be able to clear your head and face the challenges before you with more focus. Sometimes, minds can run on autopilot. You go through your regular daily routine without a second thought. Mindfulness, however, brings your thoughts into the present and makes you aware of what you are currently directly experiencing emotionally and mentally.
The only tool you need to start practicing mindfulness is a little bit of time. The goal is to pay attention to the here and now—the present moment—without judgment. Simply take in what’s happening physically in regard to sights, sounds and other senses, and pay attention to your present state of emotional and mental being. If judgments or distractions pop up and your mind starts wandering, just gently return to being mindful of the present. By taking a mindfulness break every day, you can become more aware of your sense, thoughts and emotions, which can help reduce stress over time.
Exercise and Healthy Eating
When overcome with schoolwork, it may seem like pipedream to find time to exercise. Roughly 20% of teens take time to exercise even one time per week, if at all. What’s more is that 23% of those experiencing stress in school “report skipping a meal in the past month.” Exercising, even for a brief amount of time, can help reduce fatigue, improve alertness and boost concentration. It also spits out endorphins, which act as natural painkillers within your body. Better concentration and more alertness? Those sound like necessary components to a successful study session. Furthermore, avoiding stress-eating or even skipping meals and favoring healthy low-fat, low-sugar foods will kick the possibility of feeling lethargic and less able to deal with stress.
Time and Schedule Management
By acquiring a planner you can learn to better manage your time. Get into the habit of plotting out a plan of attack for especially big projects or upcoming tests. If a large assignment is due two weeks out, mark it down in your planner along with smaller, more achievable milestones along the way. By getting several smaller portions done before the due date, the less likely you’ll be pulling an all-nighter and feeling more stress the day before.
Stress and sleep are closely connected and can turn into a vicious cycle. Less sleep may cause more stress while more stress will make it even more difficult to sleep. You’ll feel more exhausted and have a compromised immune system. Ensure you get into a regular sleeping pattern. Aim for getting high-quality sleep by making your bedroom cool and dark, avoid caffeine or chocolate in the evenings, and shut off the screens (TVs, phones, etc.). Start small, but eventually aim for seven to nine hour of good sleep.
Living with Less Stress Can Be Done
You may be so accustomed to school-related stress that you may think it’s impossible to overcome. The therapists at ELEOS know that a stress-free life is happier, which is why we want to help you. While you start with small goals during the school year, like getting more exercise and sleep, we are always waiting to help teach you additional skills to manage the stressors of school. With our help and your hard work, anyone can have a stress-free day at school.
If you live in or around Minneapolis and the surrounding metro, ELEOS Psychology Center is waiting to show you the way to a less stressful life—especially if you’re in school right now. What are you waiting for? A clear mind is waiting.