“What’s stressing you?” It’s a question everyone around you seems to ask. “Everything,” you want to reply. As if being a full-time student and having things that you do outside of the classroom wasn’t enough, you have to deal with the emotional and physical effects of stress.

Stress: it’s that icky word that we throw around the dinner table and shoot hoops with in health class. Maybe your parents like to fire it like a dart into your face every time you have less than a smile on your face. It’s that feeling that you wonder how you’ve somehow made it to 5th period, already struggling to balance the mountain of homework on your shoulders, your teacher drops an anvil on top of your load just for kicks. According to Rich Williams of NASA Occupational Health, “Stress is the body’s physical and mental response to any pressure.” No kidding. By the end of a stressful day, I can feel my knees buckling under me.

Great, Now What Do I Do?

That “everything is about crumble on top of me” feeling is something we’re all familiar with, but how are we supposed to know that we’re stressed early on? You know, before all the glaringly obvious signs show?

I asked an expert on the manner, a Child & Teen psychologist, Dr. Diane Sommers, about what symptoms to look out for to identify your own stress or stress in someone else. “Stress tends to rear its ugly head in one’s behavior,” said Dr. Sommers. “The most common symptoms of stress include overeating, irritability, anger, difficulty sleeping, tenseness in the body, difficulty concentrating, and under eating. The symptoms can vary from person to person, so its important to track any patterns you notice when you’re under a lot of pressure.”

These symptoms seemed to line up with what Harrison Bier and Adam Siegel had to say when I asked them how they know that they are way too stressed out. “I can tell I’ve reached my tipping point when I don’t want to talk to anyone about anything. Anything at all makes me angry, and I start snapping at everyone for no reason. All I want to do is go do all the stuff I need to do, but my parents never seem to get that. They just say, ‘I know you’re stressed out, but you have an hour of chores to do today.’ Its really irritating,” said Bier.

Siegel had a similar need for isolation. “My tipping point is generally when things become overwhelming, and I just don’t have enough time anymore. As a self-diagnosed high-achiever, it takes really extraordinary amounts of difficult work to arrive, but it happens, and my indication of that is wanting to hide under a bundle of pillows and cry,” he said. Adam usually gets about 20-30 hours of work per week.

Clearly, stress doesn’t make anyone feel good. If it did, it wouldn’t be a problem. The fact of the matter is, stress makes us feel like crap. When I am stressed out, I react similarly to Harrison; I have a very short temper, anything that anyone does annoys me, my whole body is tensed up, and then I get killer headaches that prevent me from doing any of my work! My stress headaches get so bad that they can literally impair my ability to reason and comprehend things that I am reading or doing, which prevents me from getting things done like I need to. It is so frustrating to be reading a very dense Physics Honors chapter assignment that was assigned the same day, due the next day, and you can understand even less than you are able to understand normally. How do you ease these effects of stress so that you can not only finish that darned Physics Honors assignment, but also go to bed and not ruminate over everything stressing you out?

Siegel says that when he has reached the edge, he plays basketball to let go. “Honestly, physical exertion is the best way I’ve found to allow any of my pent-up feelings to release,” he told me. Siegel proclaims if you are in a state such as colorado where colorado marijuana laws have changed in recent years, that could be helpful for some.

Casey Powers and Ella Gallawa have similar approaches. “I do yoga and paint when I’m really stressed out,” said Casey, and Ella added, “I do arts and crafts if I get stressed, but I’m never really stressed.

None of these answers are actually that surprising, considering the research that has been done on releasing stress for students of high school and college age. According to a study done by the Journal of Health Communication, when medical students had forced 30-minute breaks to do yoga, read, or watch humorous videos during their study sessions, their blood pressure and heart rate went down from a previously high number, indicating that their stress levels were decreasing.

What does that mean for you and me, the all-nighter-pulling, over-scheduled, and stressed out high school student? A 30-minute break from studying to do something relaxing like reading, shooting hoops, painting, or whatever makes you zen can be very beneficial for managing your stress. So, don’t feel bad for using thirty precious minutes of your time to not study. You’re actually doing yourself a huge favor.



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  1. Bert Thompson on June 20, 2013

    Good read! I like the part about Ella, haha. She’s like the opposite of stress

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