Dealing with stress under high pressure

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By Usha Sookai, Staff Writer

Stress is no stranger to Townsend Harris students. Whether it’s upcoming AP exams, pending SAT scores, or deciding on college acceptances, there is always a lot going on and we forget how to relax and de-stress, creating a vicious cycle. Fortunately, students can use different strategies to calm down among all of the chaos.

Guidance counselor Jessica Graf  advised, “scheduling your work [more efficiently].” The smallest thing like making a minute by minute schedule, and putting aside time each day for breaks and long term projects can go a long way. “You also need time for sleep… [and] taking care of yourself is key.”

The Student Wellness Team observed that many students feel that taking short breaks before moving onto the next task helps them to calm down.

Doing things that you enjoy helps to get your mind out of a stressful headspace and prepares you to focus on the next task. It can be listening to music that you enjoy on the way to school or using free time in school to disconnect from work and stress. For example, one student said that they “jog at night” to help clear their mind. Others say that they talk to family, watch Netflix or practice mindfulness through yoga and meditation to de-stress.

“The most helpful thing we can do is [respond to] each peak and valley with scaled levels of intensity,” Ms.Graf said.  “I cannot overstress how important it is to do something for yourself every day, even if there is no [visible] product.” Things like taking more time to relax and wind down when you’re very stressed and making plans to accomplish other tasks when you’re calmer, help create a sense of balance. This can also combat the urge to turn to unhealthier coping methods.  

Delila Hasic, Chief of Staff of the Student Wellness Team, also said that guidance counselors are a great resource to help students “find some balance in [their] lives.” Talking to them can help organize your thoughts and understand the situation better.

Ms. Graf referenced recent events held by the Student Wellness Team and the Phoenix as things that helped decrease student stress. “I had a lot of students tell me how much fun they had with the [Bob Ross painting event].”

However, students tend to focus on academics as their main priority. Either social and extracurricular activities are put on a back burner, or students get stressed over time consuming activities, both of which can end up being hurtful. If time-consuming activities are especially contributing to your stress, it’s important to take a step back and reach out to those around you.

Jeremy Wang, guidance counselor, mentioned the importance of group activities in helping to decrease stress. “When you’re on your own you don’t have… encouragement or a [support system],” he said, which can lead a person to “think about their stress” even more.

“The best people who can help you destress are your friends,” he continued. Students also reported that other students’ support, whether through advice or “words of encouragement,” helps them deal with feeling overwhelmed.

Taken together, these strategies can help you de-stress and remain calm.

Mr. Wang advised that students think of their lives “as a whole” and remember that “grades are only a portion [of your life.]” Thinking about grades before yourself creates more stress and a warped perception of yourself.

Of course, every student is different. People have different experiences and schedules that impact their stress levels. These are only a few ways to combat stress, but if you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to speak with a guidance counselor or another trusted adult.