Five ways teens can cope with school stressors
Fitting in, studying for tests, and getting into the college of choice are just a few of the stressors teenagers face at the start of a school year. They can take some simple steps to manage their anxiety in and out of class.
ThedaCare pediatricians say it starts with some basic habits. “Good sleep, nutrition and exercise are important aspects of managing stress,” said Kenneth Branstetter, MD, a pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics–Neenah. “At times, it can be difficult to achieve. If we focus on developing these three habits, enduring stressful episodes throughout the school year will be more manageable.”
ThedaCare pediatricians suggest these five ways to best survive stressful situations in school.
First, turn a negative into a positive. Instead of focusing on the worst possible outcome of a stressful situation, look at it as less threatening. Understand that there are other options that might turn out to be a better path for you in your educational journey. For example, if you don’t get that A on the math exam, applaud the good grades you are getting in other subjects. You can also see challenges in math as a way to get to know your teacher or tutor better as you spend more time with them to improve your grades.
Second, snap out of the worrying mode. It’s hard to think rationally when you’re stressed out. Find coping mechanisms that rewire your thought process, so you don’t go into downward spiral of anxious thoughts.
Students should practice the art of task-distraction to redirect their thoughts to something positive by giving you a sense of accomplishment. For example, play with your pet, call a friend, walk to the kitchen for a snack. These time-limited activities will redirect your thoughts and re-energize you. Avoid time-sucking activities such as watching TV or checking social media. You want to jump back into your schoolwork within 10 minutes.
Third, manage your time. Break down homework projects in realist chunks of time instead of waiting until the last-minute to get it done, because procrastinating is stressful. Also, choose don’t overschedule. It leads to feeling overwhelmed, and that can be stressful. Limit social media interactions. Instead make room in your day to chill. Step away from your computer and study environment and be active outdoors, listen to classical music, or engage in art therapy, which researchers say can help to eliminate stress-related headaches in teenage girls.
Fourth, talk it through. Sometimes it is scary to ask for help. Students need to realize the support system they have around them: teachers, parents, coaches, classmates. Open up about your emotions. Name them: I am feeling stressed, angry or sad. Don’t intensify your stress by blaming yourself for feeling anxious or holding in your fears. Talk it through to get through the moment. And when parents ask how your day went over dinner, let them know what’s making you anxious. They will help you work through your fears and challenges.
Fifth, breathe deeply and imagine. As you get more oxygen to the brain by taking deep breaths, think of a time when this stress will be gone—at the end of the week, semester or when you graduate. Knowing that you can look forward to a worry-free future will give you more confidence to manage your anxiousness now.
Dr. Branstetter also re-commends that parents and caregivers talk with teens about other ways to manage stress. Many resources can be found at www.healthychildren.org.
If you’re still feeling stressed, know that you’re not alone. According to a recently released Pew Research Center Survey, 70 percent of teens confirm anxiety and depression is a major problem among their classmates.
“Knowing that others are feeling the same thing sometimes helps,” said Dr. Branstetter. “And keep in mind, not all stress is bad. It can help us move forward and grow as individuals.”