How to Deal with High School and College Stress

Anxiety in teens and young adults is at a current all-time high. This is due in part, to the pressures that come with choosing a career path or course of study in college, managing difficult coursework and schedules, handling social pressures, responding to never-ending texts, instagrams, and twitters, and worrying about financial responsibilities.

Some students feel pressured to do everything; with daily their daily extracurricular activities competing with additional homework. Many are not getting the recommended eight or more hours of sleep.

Social media is creating a distorted view of reality. The constant false posts of “my life is totally wonderful,” is making other youth feel inadequate and defective. Recent studies show that students report being the loneliest they have ever been, yet they are more connected than ever through phones and social media. That ongoing digital banter creates a false sense of belonging. Students are spending less time interacting in person with their peers and the adults around them, creating the emotional closeness that is needed to feel safe, secure, and connected.

Some Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress.

  • Connect, in person, with those who care. Whether new friends, old friends, or close family, find people you can relate to, talk to, and share current experiences. When you connect, you will feel more supported and less emotionally alone. We need deeper conversations than texting can provide to feel connected with others.
  • Practice self-care. Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Taking care of yourself means taking time to do something that fills you either physically, emotionally, or spiritually so that you can better cope with life’s stressors. It can be exercising, walking in nature, letting yourself have a good cry, taking a nap when you are tired, or sharing your struggles with someone who cares.
  • Take a mindfulness training. Science tells us that our minds wander about 50% of the time, often to our worries. Worrying is unproductive and drains us mentally and physically. Mindfulness helps us let go of our worries and return to the present moment, which reduces mental stress.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help you manage stress and anxiety, improve sleep and mood, and boost confidence and productivity. For quick relief, step away from a stressful situation for a short walk to stop anxious thoughts by focusing on feeling your feet or taking in the details of your environment.
  • Get good sleep. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to anxiety and depression and affect your concentration, making it harder to stay on top of schoolwork. Prioritize going to bed at a decent time, creating a room that is conducive to good night sleep (black out curtains or a sound machine if needed) and limit screen time before bed.
  • Take a phone and media break. Let go of your fear of missing out and get off the phone, computer, the video games, and the television. Much of this technology has been shown to be addictive. Video games, for example, increase the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, but make you less resilient when there is no immediate gratification (which is most of real life).
  • Be realistic about expectations. There is nothing wrong with having goals, but if your course load or sporting or social activities are causing stress, then it might be time to reevaluate your commitments and change a few things. Sometimes less is more!
  • Identify your triggers. What causes you to feel the most stressed and anxious? Pay attention! Then be willing to eliminate or lessen your exposure. Anything from lifestyle choices, to relationships, to food and drinks can add to stress. Make wise choices.
  • Get professional help. Often, we can handle stress and anxiety on our own, but sometimes professional help is warranted. Don’t let yourself suffer needlessly. Reach out.

The bottom line: anxiety and stress are common among high school and college students, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with their debilitating effects. Learning healthy techniques such as mindfulness can help you feel your best. Learn more about our upcoming classes or individual sessions at Mindful Being that focus on teen stress.