Factors that cause school-related stress and how to manage it

Factors that cause school-related stress and how to manage it

Given the daily pressures and expectations put on you by your teachers, parents, peers, and also yourself, it’s normal for students like you to feel stressed in school. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, a certain level of stress can actually be good since it can push you to work harder and perform better under high-pressure situations such as taking exams. However, chronic stress can take a significant toll on your health, happiness, and academic performance. It may even lead to depression, anxiety, or other serious mental illnesses.

To keep school-related stress at a healthy level, you must identify your stressors and learn stress management techniques.

Why are students stressed out in school?

Here are a number of factors that may heighten the stress levels of students.

#1 Test anxiety
While many students get nervous before taking tests, some experience extreme stress known as test anxiety. This type of anxiety is characterized by debilitating feelings of worry, dread, and fear that come before or during exams, which can prevent you from performing as well as you could. In extreme cases, sufferers may even completely shut down during exams.

Test anxiety is more likely to hit struggling students when they feel they didn’t study enough for the exam or they didn’t really understand the lesson. It may also affect high achievers since they often have high expectations of themselves, use grades as a reflection of their self-worth, or worry that poor grades will let their parents down.

#2 Heavy workload
As students progress from elementary school to college, the amount and difficulty level of schoolwork naturally increase. Heavy workloads may cause students — especially those with poor time management skills — to quickly feel overwhelmed, making it harder for them to complete their school requirements.

#3 Peer pressure
To fit in with their schoolmates, some students may feel pressured to do things they’re not comfortable with. The popular kids in school may ask their peers to gang up on the new kid or engage in vices such as smoking and drinking.

How can students cope with school-related stress?

Stress is unavoidable in school, but it can be managed to a healthy level. Here are stress management tips that will help you learn more effectively and become happier.


#1 Manage your time wisely
Some students tend to put off schoolwork until they no longer have a choice but to cram, which creates a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead of procrastinating, break down your tasks into manageable chunks and categorize them in terms of urgency and importance, then plan your schedule accordingly. Block off time every day to keep up with readings and assignments. Having a structured schedule will help you stay focused and on track.

Aside from including your classes, study periods, and extracurricular activities in your schedule, also make time for regular breaks and fun activities so you can relax and recharge. Avoid the temptation of overbooking your day. Doing so will only hurt your productivity in the long run.

#2 Practice deep breathing
When we are stressed out, we tend to ruminate over our problems, critically analyzing every detail and imagining the worst possible outcomes. To calm down your mind, do a deep breathing exercise. Here are easy-to-follow steps for doing one right now:

  • Stay still and quiet.
  • Take a deep breath from your diaphragm and slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach; pay attention to how your chest and stomach move in and out.
  • Continue this deep breathing exercise until you feel relaxed and centered.

For guided deep breathing exercises, you can use free smartphone apps such as The Mindfulness App and Calm.

#3 Exercise
Carve out time every day for exercise, even if it’s just 30 minutes of walking. Exercise reduces your stress hormone levels and stimulates the production of endorphins, hormones that induce feelings of happiness. Consider joining a sports club so you can make time for exercise and socialize at the same time, which can further improve your mood.

#4 Use visualization
Take a few minutes each day to vividly visualize what you’d like to happen. If you’re going to take an exam that day, imagine yourself inside the classroom and acing the test. You can also try visualization to prepare for presentations or other activities that may be causing you stress. By using visualization, you are able to focus on positive thoughts and experience the feelings associated with achieving a future goal.

#5 Talk to someone
Share your problems with your friends and family. Not only will it help you unload your feelings, but it might also help you gain a new perspective. For example, your old friend might point out that you’ve succumbed to peer pressure and are acting out of character.

Alternatively, you can also schedule an appointment with your school counselor or a specialist in student mental health. They’re ready to listen to you, assist you in gaining self-awareness, and guide you in applying therapeutic approaches to help you deal with school-related stress.

Meridian Psychiatric Partners specializes in providing emotional support and wellness initiatives for students from preschool through college. Call us at 312-640-7743 or fill out our contact form to schedule your initial appointment.

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