How to manage stress as a student in 2020

Information gathered from Crisis Text Line.

Lucia Rivera

Information gathered from Crisis Text Line.

Yealin Lee

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused students in the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) to start the school year with social distance guidelines, including learning online. Without in-person class instruction and communication, students’ mental stress levels may begin to rise. When students get stressed, not only does their mental health suffer, but their ability to perform in school. However, there are a variety of ways to cope with stress and anxiety.

“Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on their website.

In addition to the pandemic, social unrest and racial injustices have created more stress for the public. Stress may have come from witnessing or hearing about the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.

“More than 8 in 10 Americans say the future of the nation is a significant source of stress, and more than 7 in 10 say the same about police violence toward minorities, according to the report, which draws on findings from two surveys conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the APA,” American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) worker, Sarah Elizabeth Adler, stated on the AARP website.

There are four primary types of symptoms for stress: physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral. Depending on the individual and the cause of the stress, the number of symptoms from each category can vary. For example, when you are about to take an exam you might start sweating, and start feeling nauseous.

“Feeling stress and anxiety is normal but they can manifest in different ways for each individual. For some people, it’s time to seek help when your feelings begin to have a negative impact on everyday life and your ability to carry out daily routines or have normal relationships. For others, it is when these thoughts and feelings begin to prevent them from being able to focus and enjoy the important things in life, when their stress and anxiety are the only thing they can focus on, or when their thoughts and feelings begin to interfere with work or school,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Melissa Cohen said in an interview with LearnPsychology.

According to Cohen, one of the biggest reasons for stress in high school students are exams. All students have to go through them, but one might not always feel prepared and start to feel anxious. When stress starts to build, it actually decreases the chance of a student succeeding in class. According to Cohen, test anxiety symptoms can be physical and mental, and usually inhibit your ability to perform as well as you otherwise could.

There are many ways to cope with stress. For senior Ally Guerra, her stress reliever is to play her favorite music, drink a lot of water and try to relax. She also states that keeping everything organized by using a to-do list and learning to manage time has helped her with stress.

In addition to time management, the CDC provides people with a list of ways to cope with stress during these different times:

  • “Know what to do if you are sick and are concerned about COVID-19. Contact a health professional before you start any self-treatment for COVID-19.
  • “Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • “Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.
  • “Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • “Take care of your body by taking deep breaths, stretching, meditating, eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol and drug use.
  • “Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • “Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • “Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.”

SUHSD also created and launched a website with resources for parents, guardians and students where they promote mental health tools. One of those is the Active Minds website, which states, individuals should always examine whether what they are doing to cope with stress is helping or hurting the situation. If the technique being used is making things worse, change habits, even if it is not what you want to do naturally.

“Activities are a great way for us to distract ourselves from our current emotions until we are better able to cope. When our level of distress is too high, we may not be able to effectively handle a situation and need ways to bring our emotional state down,” is stated on the Active Minds website.

Having stress and feeling anxious is normal, and students should not feel alone. According to Princeton Review, over 50 percent of students in the U.S. reported feeling stressed, 25 percent reported that homework was their biggest source of stress and on average teens are spending one-third of their study time feeling stressed, anxious or stuck. Although school, and other activities can be stressful, small habits can help lessen that stress.

“What cools you down? Squeezing a stress ball? Taking deep breaths? Whatever relaxation technique you choose can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety,” Cohen said.

There are crisis and helplines that can help you navigate stress and your mental health:
National Alliance on Mental Health (800) 950-6264
National Suicide Prevention (800) 273-8255
The Trevor Project for LGBTQ (866) 488-738