By Grace Walters
Stress-ridden students, as well as the school administration, are faced with a big question: How can students manage their anxiety? Although there is no simple answer to this question, students and staff have shared various methods that they believe will help diminish stress.
Most Arlington High School students experience moderate- to- high levels of stress due to their overwhelming schedules, many of which consist of advanced classes, homework, sports, clubs, jobs, college applications, and other time-consuming activities. “[Anxiety] is such a trapping feeling,” says an anonymous AHS student. “Sometimes I feel like the whole world will come collapsing down on me if I can’t figure out how to balance everything.”
Reducing The Workload
Many students would agree that school work, combined with other commitments, is the epicenter of their anxiety. According to sophomore Anouska Oke, “Exams and tests are particularly stressful—especially when the teacher doesn’t give us sufficient warning or ‘prep’ time.”
Furthermore, Oke believes that teachers could help reduce students’ stress by “giving more supplemental resources” to students prior to an exam and “communicating and listening to students” more effectively. Oke also believes that the weekend is “a time for students to power-down” and de-stress. Therefore, teachers should minimize the amount of homework they assign on the weekends.
David Conneely, an Honors Biology and Physiology teacher, believes that the amount of work he assigns his students is reasonable and manageable.
When asked the question: ‘What might you suggest to stress-ridden students who feel inundated by the amount of work they are assigned?”, Conneely responded in a statement:
I think time management is a big issue for all people (young people and adults). For example, when I am grading a project I often give myself a time frame for each project (e.g., five minutes). I start a timer when I start grading the next project so I can track how efficient I am being with my time. It is easy for anyone to spend too much time on a project or assignment or to get distracted. By timing myself, it forces me to be efficient and to get my work done more quickly. I think students could use a similar approach. Distractions are a big problem for people today. A parent recently told me their son asked for their parents to hold on to their phone in the evenings so they would not get distracted while doing homework at night. Such an approach (or a similar approach involving removing distractions) can be helpful for students to get work done quickly, so they can rest and get enough sleep.
Learning How to Relax
Among the numerous Physical Education electives AHS has to offer, one in particular stands out. The Relaxation elective—taught by Kimberly Visco and Lauren Geiger—is a unique course that is widely appreciated by students. The students enrolled in Relaxation spend two classes each week on any relaxation practice such as restorative breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga.
The students who take Relaxation also look at nature theory for body healing, mindful eating, and using hobbies as a means to relax. “Basically, everything comes down to the idea that the mind and the body are inextricably linked,” says Geiger. “If we can focus both of those things at the same time, then hopefully, in moments of crisis, we can better contain ourselves and relax.”
According to Geiger, it is ideal that the students leave Relaxation feeling unruffled. However, she explains that “sometimes that doesn’t happen because skills and practices can be involved and hard. However, the ultimate goal is that [the students] leave at least with an option for something they can fall back on when they do get stressed out.”
So far, the student feedback for the elective—which was introduced to students for the first time this year—has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of the students signed up for the course were unaware of the enriching experience it had to offer. “I honestly signed up for [Relaxation] because I thought it would be easy, and I would just get to do nothing […] It’s actually really centering,” says an anonymous student.
For sophomore Anouska Oke, sometimes the most effective way to de-stress is to take a break. “In the middle of a project, I try to take a break and do things I enjoy, like reading, playing guitar, or going on my phone,” says Oke.
Oke also says that sports and athleticism are an outlet for relaxation. She describes track and soccer as “an escape where you don’t have to think about school and other pressures.” That being said, Oke admits that some aspects of sports can be stressful, too, saying, “you’re worried about your skill level compared to other people and whether you’ll be able to make varsity. I know a lot of people worry about being cut, too.” Many student-athletes agree that the benefits and joy of playing a sport outweigh the occasional stress it generates.
Relax with Technology
In this new era of advanced technology, most high school students own smartphones. By downloading meditation apps like ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’, breathing techniques, meditation practices, and audible sleep-aids are readily available to most mobile phone users.
“Teenagers, being attached to their phones, can surely benefit from this,” says Geiger.
On December 12, 2018, Arlington High School will hold its second annual Wellness Day, an all-day interactive conference designed to educate students about emotional and physical wellness. Wellness Day offers a diverse selection of educational workshops such as Coloring for Relaxation, Mindfulness for Everyone, and Cooperative Board Games.
In addition to just discussing how to manage school stress, many of the workshops tackle more sensitive topics such as dating violence, grief and loss, teen mental health, stigma, the dangers of social media, and depression. Administrators agree that these topics are important and prevalent in the lives of teenagers; as such, it is important that the conference addresses them.
Taking the Time
Most mental health professionals recommend that people, particularly teenagers, devote a part of their day to relaxation and self-reflection. “That’s something we talk a lot about in [Relaxation],” says Geiger. “But the students feel like they have no time, or that they’ll only have the time if they take the Relaxation course.” Geiger believes that “taking the time to decompress is invaluable,” and that stressed students should look to relaxation techniques to help them manage their anxiety.