February frenzy

Students struggle to manage stress as academic pressure increases


Haley Miller

Photo of junior Andrew Nguyen

Juggling work, extracurriculars and school, junior Andrew Nguyen’s weekend of Feb. 2 was packed with stress. Not only did he have a band competition to worry about, but he also had to manage work from three AP classes and handle a six hour shift at McAlister’s Deli. For Nyugen, stress is an unavoidable part of his busy schedule, but he says there are ways for students like him to cope.

“(I deal with stress) pretty well,” Nguyen said. “It’s definitely pretty hard because I have not only a job but also have lots of extracurriculars.”

Pressure is adding up for students this time of year with filling out scholarships for college, acceptance decisions, exam season and the usual workload of high school, according to guidance counselor Erin Shimp. Though stress may bog down peoples’ days, students have different ways of handling it.

Along with his job and extracurriculars, including solo and ensemble and drumline this time of year, Nguyen also tries to keep up with studying for standardized tests. He has taken both the SAT and ACT, but he plans to take them again by the end of this semester or the start of senior year. Nguyen says he is studying more focused topics since he knows what the test will be like. Nguyen is also trying to balance finding scholarships that are right for him and applying for them. Managing a busy schedule like this becomes very stressful, but Nguyen has his method of keeping it to a minimum.

“Write out your schedule,” Nguyen said. “Write out what you’re going to do. I think it helped because there have been a number of times where I’ve just forgotten to do something until the last minute, and that caused me way more stress than it should have.”

Math teacher Jason Adler, corroborating Nguyen’s viewpoint, says that a major stress inducer that he sees among students is procrastination. Adler tries to make his classroom a welcoming place for students to deal with their stress.

“(I try) making (the classroom) a comfortable place to vent or help (students) with some management skills, like getting stuff done ahead of time, not procrastinating,” Adler said. “It’s tempting, but the more you (procrastinate), the worse you feel later on.”

Adler sees stress at different levels in his class. He notes that his seniors in particular tend to show high amounts. To help this, he tries to talk with seniors about what their plans are, offer ideas concerning student loans and debt and, in general, provide a safe space for them to be open.

Senior Morgan Riddell agrees that seniors experience a lot of pressure this time of year as they find out if their top college pick will accept them, work jobs, struggle with their futures and still try to keep up with their current grades. One way Riddell manages the stress is through the help of teachers.

“My previous teachers have helped me, because by making friends with teachers, I have been able to use their room as a safe environment,” Riddell said.

Riddell also says that she feels the workload of her senior year is less than in previous years, especially second semester. Though this may be a positive, Riddell finds that she worries about not having enough work to do.

While is able to keep her stress on the low, some have more struggles. Senior Becca Hiller says she’s better with handling stress now than she used to be. In her past experiences, Hiller says that she would panic when handling things that worried her. She didn’t have a way to truly cope with the craziness school work brought into her life. However, Hiller is now able to better handle the stress of her school life.

“I am a Christian, so I pray about (my stress) and try to relax and give my stress to God and let him handle it because I can’t,” Hiller said.

Stress seems to be a common theme around students across the nation. According to the American Psychological Association, teens report stress similar to that of an adult. Around 42 percent of teens admit that they feel they aren’t doing enough to help manage their stress.

An important part of managing stress for students is knowing themselves and knowing what they can personally handle, says Shimp. She adds students should know their schedules so that they may plan accordingly for their workload.

“Balance (your workload), and also just have fun,” Shimp said. “At some point you have to relax a little and enjoy things and not be worried constantly about work and school.”

Much like Adler focuses on making his class a welcoming environment, science department co-chair and teacher Mark Duncan works to make his class a positive space. In his class he sees students dealing with stress in a variety of ways, including avoiding it, keeping themselves distracted, playing games, reading, working even harder or just giving up. Duncan says that a big part of his way to help students with stress is to just be encouraging and remind the students that they are smart.

“A big part of it is students don’t believe in themselves sometimes,” Duncan said. “And they are willing to give up because they don’t think they can do it. But they’ve spent 10 (to) 11 years preparing for this level, so they need to trust that they have learned things (and) that they can be successful.”