How to De-Stress

Tips on how to reduce stress for students.


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

As high schoolers, our lives are constantly busy and we find little, to no, free time. Our busy schedules often result in the increase of our stress levels. This can result in a lot of health issues, from thyroid diseases to asthma to gastrointestinal disorders. Stress isn’t a good thing for either our body or mind, but how do we prevent it?

Ruchi Sankolli, Reporter

As high schoolers, our lives are constantly busy and we find little, to no, free time. Our busy schedules often result in the increase of our stress levels. This can result in a lot of health issues, from thyroid diseases to asthma to gastrointestinal disorders. Stress isn’t a good thing for either our body or mind, but how do we prevent it? Before going further, we will first understand what stress is and where it comes from. 

What is stress?

According to, stress is the body’s reaction to any type of changes in our environment. Responses can be physical, emotional and mental. You can also experience it from positive changes. 

Why does stress occur?

In a blog post by Robert L. Leary, professor of psychology at Weill-Cornell Medical School, the average high school student has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.  For high schoolers, the factors that contribute to their stress levels vary. According to, the most common ones are: exams, the amount of homework they have, a tight schedule, poor sleep schedule, lack of emotional support and change.

According to, a website that helps many individuals with disorders such as dyslexia, many high schoolers do get worried about their grades and their school life because they fear to fail. Also, as we progress into high school, our academic expectations increase and become tougher.

We are also expected to be very self-advocating with our needs. As a high schooler, there is also this need to fit in, and as a result, these social pressures add to their anxiety.

Two other big causes for the stress level increases are future and college uncertainty. As high schoolers, we are also told that colleges expect certain things from us and this leads us to question our future and how we will progress after high school. According to, more than 90 percent of the individuals in Generation Z, ages 15 to 21, are stressed out.

Now that we have looked at the common sources of stress, let’s look at stress from a biological perspective: How it affects your body and its response.

How stress affects your body and how it responds:

According to, your nervous system responds to stress by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones will then send blood to your muscles and organs. A negative impact can result in eating abnormalities and social withdrawal.  Your respiratory system responds to this by quickening your breathing process in order to distribute more oxygen throughout the body. In the cardiovascular system, your heart will pump faster and the blood vessels will begin to divert more oxygen to your muscles. This also increases blood pressure, which can result in strokes or heart attacks.

Your liver in the digestive system will increase the blood sugar to provide more energy, but this also can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. With the hormone rush and increased heart rate, your digestive system can go bad as well. Heartburns and acid reflux are prominent in this case. This can also change the movement of food, leading to constipation and vomiting. Your muscles will tense up and relax later on, but this can cause muscle pain.

Lastly, your immune system will strengthen under stress, but over time, this can cause issues with the way it responds to viruses, and weaken it. You are more susceptible to the flu, cold and other infections as well. Also, the time you take to recover from an injury is increased. Stress is evidently a very disadvantageous to our health, but how can we control our stress?

Susan Stiffelman, author and a psychotherapist, provides five tips for high school students on how to deal with stress on

– Make time for yourself

By this, I mean that you must make time for self care.

What is self care? According to a blog post by Raphailia Michael, a counseling psychologist who works with people from all over the world, on, a website dedicated to helping individuals struggling with mental disorders, self care is an activity that we do in order to care for our mental, emotional, and physical health. Michael says it is a key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. Self care is a rather broad topic, and it means different things to everyone.

Michael lists a few things we all can follow as part of self-care: 

Following a nutritious and healthy diet

Get enough sleep. According to, teenagers need an average of 8-10 hours of sleep

Exercise. According to Michael, exercise is good for both our emotional and physical health. It increases your serotonin levels, leading to a good mood and a beneficial amount of energy. 

Meditation and/or other relaxation exercises. Do at least one relaxing activity every day, such as walking for 30 minutes. 

Spend time with family

Self care is very important to our mind and body. According to Helen L. Coons, a clinical health psychologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry, on, a website that advices on how to improve your health, home and life, we are more likely to feel fatigued and stress-related symptoms when we don’t practice enough self care. According to, practicing self care can benefit your physical health by triggering the relaxation response, a response your body gives when it no longer detects danger. This relaxation response can prevent the consequences that stress gives to your health. 

– Change your mindset.

According to Stiffelman, all of the stress you feel is generated from stressful thinking. Instead, she says, students should come up with a plan of action as to how they are going to use their time wisely to complete their work. In an article by Catherine Sanderson, a professor of psychology at Amherst College, just changing the way you think about stress itself can change so much. Sanderson says learning about the benefits of stress can help reduce your anxiety levels. 

– Break down your assignments.

Breaking down your assignments can make them seem less stressful and more manageable, according to Stiffelman. For example, if you have to write an essay, it is better to go step by step, such as gathering your sources first, making your claim and main points, and then go on into the actual paper.  Also, consider starting bigger assignments early on. This way, you can also be more organized with your work. If an assignment is due two weeks later, then you can do part of it every day so that you will be finished by the due date. According to an article by Ellen Andersen, a graduate of the University of Iowa in Psychology, starting assignments early can allow more time for you to think and ask more questions. Starting assignments last minute leaves you with no inspiration and more stress. 

– Set your expectations a bit low.

According to Stiffelman, setting your expectations low is going to allow you to achieve more. A lot of high school students have high expectations for themselves, including myself. But, sometimes, it is okay to step back. According to, a site that helps in the improvement of self-esteem and optimism, having low expectations doesn’t mean that you do not care about your goals or that you will not work hard towards them, but instead means that you won’t focus excessively on the future, and not focusing too much on the future, means enjoying the present. The article also says that you must give your best in your work and let go of your expectations of the outcome. You can only do that by having lower expectations. Acknowledging the hard work that you as a high school student do is really important. The fact that we have come so far in our lives is a big accomplishment. 

– Take a break.

Stiffelman says taking breaks are really important. Short breaks can help refresh your mind and make you more focused later, as opposed to burning yourself out with constant working. This will help to counterbalance the stress. Breaks can also help fuel your creativity by helping you gather your thoughts, according to According to this website, the average person can only be productive for three hours. But, there are ways to take breaks effectively, because, if taken the wrong way, taking breaks hinders your focus and productivity. The article “The Science of Taking a Break” suggests taking active breaks, such as exercise, meditation and even sleep. This helps exercise both the body and the mind. Breaks that include going onto social media actually doesn’t give us the satisfaction we seek during breaks, nor does it give a chance for the mind to replenish. In a study conducted by three graduates of Covenant College on the effects of Facebook on student grades showed that students who used  Facebook more than seven times a day, showed poor grades and study habits. 

As we move on into the harder times of our lives, it is important to know how to deal with life’s surprises and challenges. Life is hard, but we get stronger as we move on. Just remember: Take a deep breath, keep trying and don’t stop.