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4 Ways to Help Students Feel Less Stressed

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Those feelings of overwhelming anxiety and worry that keep you from sleeping and make your heart bang against your rib cage? That’s stress.

Everyone goes through them at some point, and given the fast-paced, sometimes crazy lifestyles many people lead, it may be a daily occurrence.

Stress doesn’t just affect adults, though. Students of all ages are prone to it just as often—and sometimes more often—than adults are. Getting your kids to feel less stressed may be tough, but there are some great ways that may be able to help.

An Epidemic of Stressed-Out Students

While it may be true that a small amount of stress may actually be good for you (this article from Psych Central gives a good explanation), excessive amounts of stress may have negative effects on your overall health. Need an idea of who stress affects and how? Take a look at the statistics below:

  • 77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms of stress (Source)
  • 73% of Americans experience psychological symptoms caused by stress (Source)
  • 45% of teens surveyed by the American Physiological Association said they were stressed by school pressures (Source)
  • 24% of parents say homework being a leading cause of student stress is an issue (Source)

Bullying and other social issues have grown by leaps and bounds over the last fifteen years, and while most people would likely assume these issues are what is causing students’ stress, they’re wrong. This study conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that in most cases, stress is caused by academics.

Student stress isn’t just occurring in teens, either. A national survey of college freshman that was conducted in 2010 found that students in this day and age have the worst emotional health of any student group ever studied. Yikes!

According to this Stressed Out Students infographic from DailyInfographic.com:

  • The top five causes of stress are academics, finances, relationships, future plans, and adjusting to college life
  • Only 52% of freshmen say their emotional health is above average, with women having it worse than men
  • 1 in 5 students has felt too stressed to study or be with friends
  • 1 in 5 students has considered dropping out of school because of stress
  • 26% of students have considered seeing a counselor to help manage stress, while only 10% of them actually do it

These statistics are frightening. Feelings of constant stress bring about feelings of paralysis and regular panic, which may lead to what is known as “what if” thinking (a good example: “What if I get bad grades? I’ll fail the course”). When this starts, students tend to feel stuck, and that may lead to worse feelings of stress and sadness.

These things are easy to notice, but what can be done to help relieve the stress?

4 Ways to Help Students Cope with Stress

Coping with high levels of stress is tough for everyone, including adults. However, there are a number of ways to help make moving through stressful feelings a little easier.

1. Manage Your Time and Seek Social Support

While this might seem like a tough one, it’s essential for maintaining good emotional health. According to Mary Alvord, a clinical psychologist in Maryland public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association:

A balanced life should be the goal for all families. If a child is having troubles getting things done, parents can help plan the week, deciding what’s important and what’s optional. Just basic time management will help reduce the stress.

Teens and younger children may be better able to cope with stress when parents are involved, but for older students, this may not be possible. This is where maintaining a strong social support system is especially important. Keeping in touch with friends and loved ones can go a long way in helping to deal with stress.

2. Learn to Relax and Try Meditation

When you’re feeling stressed, relaxation probably seems unattainable. More and more people are turning to mindfulness and meditation to help quiet and calm their minds. The best part? It’s a possible solution for kids of all ages.

At the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School in New York, time is set aside at the beginning and end of every day, and students are expected to either sit quietly at their desks or meditate. An article in The New York Times offers this explanation:

While Transcendental Meditation entails silent inward repetition of a mantra, a mindfulness exercise might ask children to focus on breathing in and out. In a classroom, both activities have similar goals; the idea, practitioners say, is to get students into the habit of calming themselves and clearing their minds so they can better focus on the day’s lesson.

Many universities have even begun to offer meditation classes as a way to help students combat stress. They teach students to acknowledge each of their thoughts and let them float by, rather than act on them. According to the Stressed Out Students infographic, “in one study, practicing meditation for 8 weeks reduced stress in senior med students by 20%” (Source).

3. Treat Yourself in a Good Way

High levels of stress have been known to decrease appetite and keep people from sleeping, but that doesn’t have to happen to students. Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of protein (and don’t forget the water!) and other beneficial foods will help benefit your overall health.

Sleep may be especially difficult, but maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is important to overall health—physically and mentally. If you experience occasional sleeplessness, Natural Healthy Concepts carries a range of supplements that may help you get a deeper, more restful night’s sleep and better cope with feelings of stress.

4. Stick to Your Hobbies

When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by school, the last thing on your mind is having fun. Focusing on school and good grades may be at the forefront of the minds of most students, but it’s important to remember to keep doing the things you love, too.

According to this article from Psych Central, “it’s much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love.” Toss the football around with friends. Go for a run. Play your favorite video game. Doing the things you enjoy will help you relax and will keep your mind off your stressors, even if only for a little while.

How do you manage stress? How do you help your children or students do so? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below and let us know about your coping strategies.

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