School Stress Management: Tips and Strategies for Students of All Ages

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A counselor meets with a student.School stress impacts students of all ages and backgrounds. Stress for young people “can come from a variety of sources including doing well in school, making and sustaining friendships, or managing perceived expectations from their parents, teachers, or coaches,” according to the American Psychological Association. If left unacknowledged and unassessed, school stress can lead to conditions such as headaches, muscle tension, anxiety, and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, the effects of stress can be more harmful to students than what caused the stress in the first place.No one can eliminate all of the external factors that can cause a student to feel stress. What students can do, however, is to manage how they respond to school stress.

Managing School Stress in Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade

Teachers have been witnessing heightened levels of anxiety in students, according to Education Dive. Stress can impact academic performance, attendance and behavior. This guide outlines ways to help K-8 students cope.

Study Planners and Organizational Guides

Having organizational tools in place, such as a study planner that notes when certain assignments are due and when tests or other exams will be coming up, can be beneficial to students who may be experiencing stress from impending deadlines or an overload of assignments. A notebook with segmented folders and dividers that helps organize schoolwork can benefit students who may be stressed because they don’t feel in control of their work.

Tutoring and Academic Strategies

Academic setbacks can cause stress levels to rise. While some students can move on from a downturn, others “remain fixated on the setback and have difficulty moving forward,” Edutopia notes. An effective way to handle this type of academic stress is to seek help. Tutoring can be an effective method of helping students cope with any academic difficulties they may be facing. Reading has been shown to be beneficial in tackling stress, even if it’s not related to a school subject. Citing a study from the University of Sussex, an article from C2 Education notes how six minutes of reading can be effective in reducing two-thirds of a person’s stress levels.

Staying Active and Exercising

Exercise can reduce stress by raising the body’s endorphin levels, clearing the mind, and improving one’s mood, according to the Mayo Clinic. Students can use exercise as a means of addressing and mitigating their own stress levels. The Mayo Clinic provides tips on how to develop an exercise program that can be beneficial to K-8 students. These tips include:

  1. Establish specific goals
  2. Work out with a friend
  3. Change one’s routine
  4. Exercise in increments

The specific goal for students could be to reduce stress or something more long term, such as losing weight. They could work out with another peer or classmate under parental supervision and find new ways to keep themselves physically active, all while reducing stress.

Speaking Openly About Unique Student Concerns

Some students may face bullying at school or interpersonal issues at home. Individual students may encounter unique challenges and circumstances that defy easy resolution.In these situations, according to a Psych Central article, finding a trusted professional to speak with can help alleviate stress. Speaking to trusted professionals who oversee environments in which stressors are occurring, such as a teacher, school administrator or counselor, can prove to be particularly helpful.

Addressing School Stress for High Schoolers

Commonly reported sources of stress among teens include school, getting into a good college, making life plans for after high school, and financially supporting their families, according to PsyCom. This guide outlines methods that can help high schoolers cope.

Relaxation and Meditation

Several relaxation techniques can benefit high schoolers. These include:

  • Focus on breathing — taking long and slow deep breaths while disengaging one’s mind
  • Body scan — concentrating on different body parts while releasing tension and relaxing
  • Mindfulness meditation — sitting in a comfortable position and paying attention to the present moment

Exercise, Yoga and Physical Activities

Similar to K-8 students, high school students can enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of exercise and physical activities. For high schoolers, that could be establishing a regular exercise routine, such as daily jogs or walks, working out in a gym or joining a team sport. Yoga, too, can be beneficial to high schoolers in reducing stress. The Mayo Clinic recommends finding a qualified instructor and choosing a class at an appropriate experience level.

Support and Study Groups

Study groups can be an effective means of reducing stress in teenagers, considering how academic pressures are one of the primary stressors of this population. These groups can help teens discover new solutions to academic problems and overcome difficulties they may be facing in school.Support groups can also be beneficial to teens in dealing with stress and anxiety. Psychology Today provides a comprehensive directory of available support groups for teens, depending on where they are located. For example, in Los Angeles, 14-to-19-year-olds can participate in any of a large number of helpful support groups. Teen Line also offers a directory of support groups for teens facing various issues.

Scheduling Tips and Tools

ADDitude magazine offers time management tips for teens who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that could be helpful to any teens who may be facing stress. These include effectively prioritizing important tasks, selecting needs over wants and estimating how long it will take to complete given tasks. The website Understood suggests additional tools to help teens stay organized, such as a multicompartment backpack and a watch or timer. Color-coding belongings also is recommended.KidsHealth offers ways that parents can help teens succeed in school. Some of these tips are related to scheduling, such as supporting and establishing firm homework expectations and ensuring that teens have time to get a healthy amount of sleep. Creating a calendar and having prioritized lists for certain tasks can help teens avoid and mitigate academic stress.

Hotlines, online communities and additional resources

Oregon YouthLine is a teen-to-teen hotline that can be beneficial to those facing school stress and related pressures. To get help, teens just need to call 877.968.8491, text “teen2teen” to 839863, email or chat online at the organization’s website. PBS also provides a directory of different hotlines and mental health organizations for teens. These include:

Dangers of Drugs, Alcohol and Other Harmful Coping Mechanisms

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a national helpline that is also available to teens. Their number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has a parent’s helpline that provides helpful informational services and guidance to parents concerned with their teens’ potential or current drug use. Their number is 1-855-378-4373. They can also be reached via text at 55753.The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens also provides helpful blog posts, videos and infographics that can benefit teenagers who may be facing stress as a result of substance abuse.

Handling School Stress as a College Student

One of the recurring pressures that teens experience stress over is applying to and choosing a college. When those students arrive on those college campuses, they still can face stress and academic/social pressures. This guide outlines resources that can help.

On-Campus Support Groups, Services and Mental Health Resources

Colleges and universities often offer on-campus counseling and mental health services to students. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also offers groups on different college campuses across the United States that can help students who are facing stress and mental health issues. In a 2019 publication, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) published new strategies for addressing mental health support on campuses that can serve as effective guidelines for helping students face school stress.

Online Support Groups, Hotlines and Other Digital Resources

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers an online support group where college students can share their experiences with stress and other mental health concerns.

ULifeline also provides a hotline and resources for college students facing stress and other mental health issues. To access these resources, students can text “START” to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK. Depending on where students attend school, there may be additional digital resources available to them for tackling school stress through their college.

Calmness, Meditation and Other Mental Health Approaches

Britannica Digital Learning overviews several calming and breathing exercises that can benefit college students and help them alleviate stress. These include centering breath and “not mine” meditations, as well as an activity called “grounding with the senses.”

Verywell Mind also describes how progressive relaxation techniques, self-hypnosis and positive thinking and affirmations can help to improve one’s mental health and reduce stress.

Yoga, Exercise and Additional Physical Health Strategies

Yoga Journal provides an extensive list of articles that can help college students use the practice of yoga to reduce stress and increase mindfulness. An article from Harvard Health Publishing dives deep into how various types of exercises, from participating in sports teams to vigorous workouts, help to bring enhanced peace of mind to a person. The article encourages college students to embrace exercise, in whatever form they choose, as a means of reducing stress.

Managing Pandemic-Related School Stress

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 transformed the educational landscape. Students have had to grapple not only with stress related to the pandemic itself but also with new challenges that have arisen from transitioning to remote education.

For students and educators who are facing stress or mental challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the following resources and organizations may prove beneficial:

  • Local mental health resources: The American Psychological Association provides a directory of helpful tips and resources for COVID-19-related mental health concerns.
  • Institute for Disaster Mental Health: This organization provides tools and strategies for coping with stress, anxiety, and mental health concerns related to the pandemic. Some tips include focusing on what one can change, choosing news sources carefully, and managing anxiety by breaking problems down into manageable chunks.
  • Leadership guidelines and suggestions: For those who hold leadership positions, such as educators and administrators, the American Psychological Association provides helpful tips for guiding individuals through this time of stress and uncertainty.
  • Social media guidance: An article by the American Psychological Association notes how prolonged social media usage and exposure can create more anxiety than traditional forms of media. Understanding and mitigating the effects of social media can help students through this difficult time.