How To Manage Stress

Does your high school or college student seem especially stressed out right now? The pandemic and virtual learning is causing a lot of students – and their parents – stress; some physicians refer to it as pandemic mental fatigue. As we begin to approach the shorter days of winter, application crunch time for high school seniors, and final exams for college students, the stress can sometimes feel overwhelming.

While it may not ever feel like it, some amount of stress can actually benefit your child. Short-term stress can help students master material for exams, revise their papers, and polish their presentations. Long-term stress, however, is the opposite of beneficial – it can detrimentally impact your child’s ability to perform well in school and have negative physical side-effects, including headaches, muscle tension and fatigue. Significantly, if stress is left unmanaged it can sometimes lead to more serious mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

There are many ways your child can learn to manage their stress. Regular exercise, healthy nutrition and adequate sleep are generally good self-care practices, and they also help mitigate stress. A hobby – knitting, playing an instrument, watching a favorite TV show, even playing a video game – can also be a great outlet for stress reduction. Spending time with friends and family – engaging in social activities, albeit socially distanced – can also help mitigate stress.

Most college campuses also have resources to help students manage stress. College counseling centers are one important place where students can turn. While counseling centers have been under scrutiny for their inability to provide adequate services before the pandemic, students report that during the pandemic college counseling services have actually improved. College counseling centers typically offer individual, group and after-hour crisis services. Some are even providing educational workshops that can benefit those students who are not experiencing negative stress. Students who are studying remotely, however, may have a hurdle utilizing their campus counseling center, because many counseling centers cannot provide services to out-of-state students due to state regulations. In those cases the campus counseling center should be able to help students find resources in their local communities.

In addition to the counseling center, most colleges have an office for religious and spiritual life. Chaplains of all faiths are making themselves available for virtual conversations and leading virtual group services for students who seek a faith community.

These are unprecedented times, and while some amount of stress may be unavoidable, even beneficial, guarding against, and seeking help, for long-term stress is important for students and parents alike.