Stress Awareness Month: How do we cope with our feelings?
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Psychiatric patients in the ‘50’s had the same level of stress and anxiety as high school students do today, according to the American Psychological Association. Shocking, right? Well, not for students. If anything, it makes sense to them.
Since 1992, April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’, and for good reason. Not all people recognize that stress can be a serious mental and physical ailment. The truth of the matter is that stress impacts students in a big way, and it’s important to raise awareness.
All high school students know stress in some way. Many students know anxiety, too, as anxiety stems from stress and both go hand in hand with each other. Whether it is an occasional problem, or a day to day experience depends on the person, their classes, and the school environment. But in the end, everybody stresses.
“Not only do you have work from the days you missed but also you have work for the days you get back, which you can’t do until you master concepts covered while you’re gone. So it’s an endless catch-up cycle.” said junior Allie Hudson.
It can be hard to focus and learn when a student is under stress. Which so much pressure on grades and colleges, it can be a lot to bear.
This kind of stress on students not only decreases the chances of them reaching full academic potential, but also results in more risk behaviors. This amount of stress can carry on into college, and even result in developing mental illnesses, like serious depression and anxiety, among young adults.
“School expects all of us to wake up early, go to long grueling classes and then have at least a half hour of homework in each class, which puts a lot of stress on us kids. School also expects us to have fun, which we can’t do because we’re stuck doing hours of homework,” Class of 2020, Maddie Kahler said.
These factors are what needs to be addressed more, in order to help lessen their effects. So how are we, as a school, going to help those around us who are stressed? A good first step is to figure out ways to cope.
Stress balls are one way. These foam balls come in a variety of shapes and design and are made to squeeze and bunch up in order to relieve stress. I have my own stress ball, shaped like the spiral rock from the game Hearthstone, in my backpack everyday to avoid getting so stressed I get physically sick. The stress balls work because when you’re stressed your body tenses up. By squeezing and releasing the ball it relieves the tension in your muscles and creates some relaxation in the body. It may be somewhat of a short term solution, but in this instance a short term solution is better than no solution at all.
Another popular stress relieving technique can be drawing. Good or bad, artistic ability doesn’t matter because sometimes even simply scribbling with your pencil can help you relieve stress. Not that there’s anything wrong with drawing a full on piece to relieve stress, but during school it’s faster and more efficient to just make a small doodle. This works because the rhythmic and repetitive movement stimulates and synchronizes your eyes, hands, and brain to induce relaxation in the body.
If drawing isn’t your stress reliever, another writing option is to keep a journal. You can write down what bothers you to get it out of your system. Or you can write down the good things that happened in order to remember those moments and lift your spirits. Writing things down can help get the feelings out of your system. By taking control of your emotions you can also improve your own mental health.
Music is also good for reducing any anxiety and stress. Genre doesn’t matter. If you like it then it could help you to immerse yourself in whatever song you choose. This is due to that people can link certain emotions to certain songs, as well as memories to songs. An example would be if you listened to one song and it reminded you of a good day where you heard it for the first time. Music has been used for hundreds of years to relieve stress as certain sounds can cause certain chemical responses in the brain. These responses in the brain can reduce stress.
But the stress that stems from school follows students everywhere, so there are also coping methods that are better to do out of school where you have more freedom of time and place.
Watching a funny video, show, or movie is a good place to start because laughing can help reduce stress levels. When someone says that laughter is the best medicine, in cases like this it actually is. Even if you have homework to do, you can always simply listen to the video to make the homework easier to do.
Talking to yourself, like giving yourself a pep talk, can also better your mood. Some people are self conscious about doing it in school, so it’s usually more comfortable to do this in a setting where you’re by yourself.
Another option is talking to someone else about it rather than to yourself. While not everyone feels comfortable talking to an adult or staff member, a good way to communicate is with a student or friend who has the same class that is creating your stress. Not only will they understand where you’re coming from due to sharing the class, but they might even feel the same way and you’ll end up helping each other to reduce stress.
Even though there are specific staff members in school meant to help students with their stress and planning, not everyone feels comfortable. Even students who have a crisis pass might be reluctant to show it because leaving class can be awkward. The stress creates an unwarranted feeling of guilt for having to possibly inconvenience someone. This is why it’s good to talk to people in class about the problem. You don’t even have to say specifically it’s making you stress, you can just ask questions about what’s stressing you and say you’d like some advice if you aren’t comfortable talking about the stress directly.
Even though a lot of students try to hide it and not reveal how they are feeling, doing that only worsens the condition. From personal experience it would be much easier to have been honest in the beginning instead of entering into a downward spiral because I felt like I couldn’t talk. The scariest thing that can happen from being honest and asking for help is the person saying “no.” Even though that is a scary, after they say “no,” the fear isn’t really there anymore. Even if it’s to someone who doesn’t have an investment in your problem, just venting helps.
Dealing with stress is the first step to getting past it. If we can work better together in addressing that stress is a real problem we face, then we can move forward. While we still have a long way to go as a society to fully understanding stress itself, we can still come together to help reduce the stress that is already here.