Spring: Season of a Student’s Stress

by Alicia Bell, LCPC

For most, Spring’s sunshine and warm temperatures bring renewed hope and health. For students, however, it is the season of increasingly challenging work, final exams and difficult “next year” life choices.  Powering through these tough times can take a toll on a student’s physical and mental health.

A 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association revealed that the source of teen stress came from school (86% of respondents) and deciding what to do after high school (69%). Unfortunately, these same students reported dealing with stress by lying awake at night, over eating or eating unhealthy foods, and skipping meals. They reported feeling irritable, anxious, fatigued and overwhelmed.*

The challenge of mixing a busy schedule and difficult classwork with the pressure of high performance compounds a student’s stress. There are strategies that students can deploy to minimize the negative effects of stress and support a positive outcome. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Eat and drink for fuel, not comfort. To maintain good health during times of stress and to support optimal brain function, pay attention to what you eat and drink.  High-fiber carbohydrates and healthy proteins will help sustain you through long days of class and studying. To avoid the afternoon “crash,” limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Choose water with meals and throughout the day to boost mood, energy and brain power.
  2. Consider paper and pen to support your memory. Studies have shown that writing something down will help you remember it. So, consider the old-fashioned art of handwritten notes, not only to help you perform better on exams, but to help you manage your required daily activities and responsibilities. Keep a to-do list and mark items off as they are completed. While a long list may feel overwhelming at first, it helps remove the stress of potentially forgetting an assignment while providing the satisfaction of crossing off one line at a time.
  3. Build adequate sleep into your daily plans. Sleeps restores your body and refreshes your mind. Adequate sleep will help to stave off sickness, increase memory and clarity and support mood stability. Just as you plan activities, studying and even classes, keep sleep on the schedule!
  4.  Find what makes you forget your stresses – even for a just a few minutes. This might take some trial and error. Consider healthy options like meditation, short walks or other exercise, playing music, or quality time with family and friends, or even a pet. During these times, unplug from your electronic devices, get away from your study space and take time to smile!
  5. Lean on those who care about you. When you feel overwhelmed, reach out to people you trust – family, valued friends and counselors or other mental health resources. You may find it beneficial to seek advice and perspective from someone who is outside your world and has your health and best interest at heart.

There’s likely nothing you can do to make the cause of your stress go away, but by making healthy choices, you’ll be better prepared to work toward a positive end to your stressful season. Be sure to share your desire for healthy choices with your family and friends so they can support you fully.  And rest assured – summer is right around the corner!

 *Read the full report at http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/teen-stress.aspx

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