Stress levels on the rise

Alex Roos, Staffer

In this year alone students have become even more stressed than in the past. In Highland Park students have to worry about SAT or ACT, college applications and final exams, while also keeping their grades up.

Students are becoming more and more stressed about whether they have a chance at getting into a good college.

Whether it’s parents pushing for a GPA boost, teachers criticizing students for less-than-stellar test scores, or students’ own drive to get in to their first-choice college or some combination of the three, academic pressure can get the best of students if they don’t learn how to deal with it properly.

Susan Stiffelman, a psychotherapist who has helped countless teens cope with school stresses, wrote an article about the best ways to reduce stress while attending high school.

Stiffelman emphasizes that students have to start with the basics like sleep.

“You have to give your organism the means to cope with stress, and that includes healthy food, non-harmful substances, sleep, down time…,” Stiffelman said. “Building into your day right-brain activity that lets you digest what you’ve been going through and process it. Those are some basic and almost biological needs we have.”

Students should take a break from the things that cause them stress and focus on more creative activities to reduce stress levels.

“You cannot get stressed out unless you believe your thoughts,” Stiffelman said. “All stress is precipitated by stressful thinking.”

Students should try and not freak out about not finishing a project or homework, because students’ minds naturally build a case for why they think this is going to happen. Stiffelman said coming up with specific examples to counter the stressful thoughts. Think instead of concrete ways that to create the time to work on a project, and how stressing won’t help get the project done.

Stiffelman advises her clients to chunk their work down into manageable, bite-sized portions that feel less overwhelming than trying and completing it all. If students have an essay to write that’s making them feel anxious, list the steps that lead to the destination of the essay being finished (finding sources, creating an outline, writing an intro), and the task will begin to feel less scary.

According to Stiffelman, following the truism “Lower your goals, you’ll achieve more,” can help to relieve stress and boost academic success.

Instead of setting goals to be getting the highest grade in the class, students should set goals to feel satisfied with their performances.

“Do something that, even for 15 minutes, brings you back to yourself,” Stiffelman said. “I’ll often say, ‘What did you love to do when you were six years old?’ Do a little bit of that when you’re in prep mode to counterbalance the stress — no brain can work for 24 hours.”