Jared Cox, PhD shares a lecture on stress reduction with parents at St. Mary’s School in Medford, Oregon. December 5, 2016.
“Mom, I’m, too sick to go to school today.” We joke about feigning illness to avoid school, but the illness is not always feigned. Stressors that students face each day can be just as detrimental as those faced by their parents. Yet stress management for students is not as readily available as is stress management for adults.
Charts purporting to show “who is affected by stress” list occupations. On a scale of 1 to 10, police officers rate 7.7 and teachers rate 6.2 – but students are not rated. “Student” is not considered an occupation. Online searchers type in a phrase such as “teachersjob + stress reduction” and get a fair response. Type in “stress management for students”, and the response is far less.
Too Sick to Go to School?
Stressors can and do make students sick. Stressors call forth the “fight or flight” response, and the body immediately prepares. It pours forth extra supplies of adrenalin for short-term survival. It puts functions like bowel activity on temporary hold. It redirects blood to muscles. It dilates the eyes’ pupils in order to detect slight movements. The heart speeds up its delivery of oxygen to muscles. All this and more occurs in a matter of moments so we can fight or “run like crazy”.
If the body prepares, and a student sits still, the body must undo its preparations. Lacking opportunity for stress management, it can become ill.
Sick Enough to Excel at School?
Most students find that eustress (good stress) is a positive aide in school. Certainly, too much stress causes some students to freeze during exams, but appropriate amounts of eustress can coax the best from students.
While stress management for students must be geared to specific stressors, some of them are actually eustress stressors – or could be.
Consider the following seven (7) stressors.
1. Academics: Academic pressure can be distress if it is allowed to become such. Through stress management, however, it can be eustress that urges to greater accomplishments. In this case, stress management for students demands building on academic successes. Awarding peak performance can encourage greater academic excellence.
2. Dating: Student life involves frequent focus on dating, so stress management for students will need to address both the eustress and distress of the dating game.
3. Environment: The school environment can be a distress if students are left to handle it on their own. Planned activities geared toward initial adjustment, and intermittent periods of relaxation can go far toward introducing eustress into your stress management for students.
4. Extracurricular: Many students naturally seek out extracurricular activities, and find them a source of eustress. Others feel pressured to engage in them, and suffer distress instead. Stress management for students requires careful selection of activities, and balance among these activities, school life, family life, and part-time jobs.
5. Peers: Peer pressure can be a source of eustress or distress, depending on how readily students give in to it. Students who want stress management will want to establish firm convictions, and stick to them.
6. Time Management: Stress management for students must address scheduling, since a lack in this area can impinge on most or all other areas of a student’s life. Easier for some than for others, a habit of carrying a daily planner and adhering to it can drain away much of the distress.
7. Parents: Sadly, parents themselves are to blame for a portion of student stress. It is well known that students, as they get older, seek greater degrees of independence from their parents. This is necessary if they are to become mature adults. At the same time, the struggle can causes great distress on both sides of the equation. If you want success from efforts at stress management for students, you will need to shine a spotlight on the eustress of the parent/student relationship.
Students can do much for their own stress management simply by eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient sleep. They can add to that by maintaining a schedule, including regular waking and sleeping hours.
The Best First Aid?
Exercise is probably one of the best means of stress management for students. It is also simple. When feelings of total helplessness hit, exercise feels like a helping hand. When students feel like striking out at anyone or anything near them, exercise redirects those feelings into appropriate channels. When students feel that their brains have stopped functioning, exercise can re-start the engines.
These 2 simple exercises provide first aid stress management for students.
1. Get up from your seat, walk briskly to a washroom, and splash your face with cold water. Splash it six or seven times, and include your eyes.
2. Leave your seat, and go for a five-minute walk. Consciously relax your muscles as you walk, and breathe deeply in and out – as deeply as you can without strain.
Long-term stress management for students should include a regular, daily exercise regime. Exercise tends to vent emotions like frustration and anger. Exercise also reduces the adrenaline triggered by distress, and produces endorphins that elevate eustress.
If you are a student, or are providing stress management for students, make regular exercise a priority.
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