How Students Can Lessen School Stress

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A competitive classroom emphasizes individualistic learning, though it can also help cultivate school stress. Students absorb material individually. Teachers test and quiz them, evaluating their performances with letter grades and percentages. Competition has its benefits. It can motivate students to try harder. It can also help students prepare to embrace real-life challenges and, on occasion, cope with failure. Teachers also receive clear, reliable, and quantitative data for evaluating students. In particular, it allows teachers to identify and address individual problems more efficiently. Academic competition, however, can be taken too far, and it can have negative consequences for students.

Competition can become a more or less constant feature of the school environment. Students are already under pressure with high school grades, standardized test results, and extracurricular activities dictating college admissions. With recent educational initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and Common Core, testing becomes an ever-present feature of the school experience. Students are either taking tests or, with individual teachers and schools being evaluated by the results, preparing to take them. There are legitimate concerns about prioritizing test preparation at the expense of intrinsic learning and subjects such as art or current events. But always-competitive classroom environments may be exacerbating teenage stress.

Stress in school has become a major issue affecting a large percentage of students. An NYU survey found that 49 percent of high school students overall and 60 percent of female students perceived they were under a “great deal of stress” daily.[1] In an APA survey, American teens incredibly reported higher stress levels than American adults.[2] Chronic stress can lead to serious mental health issues. Depression among students appears to be on the rise. The rate of major depressive episodes reported by teenagers increased by 37 percent from 2005 to 2014.[3] Managing the interplay between stress and school can require a holistic effort from students themselves, parents, and schools.

Students can take essential steps on their own to help manage their stress. Maintaining good health can be an excellent way to relieve stress. Getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet are important factors. Avoiding smoking can also cut down on stress. Contrary to its portrayal in popular culture, smoking can ratchet up feelings of anxiety and tension by reducing the production of serotonin. Teenagers also need adequate downtime. That could be something formal like meditation, or just ensuring they take regular breaks from schoolwork and other organized activity. Sleeping the right amount can also be imperative. Teenagers need about 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night.[4]

Parents can play a vital role in this process too. Parents can reinforce stress-reducing habits for their children via simple steps such as serving healthy food or limiting screen time. A particular concern for parents is making sure their children do not become overscheduled. Burdening them with lessons, sports, and activities at all hours may round out a college application in theory. In practice, though, it can leave children with little time for rest and essential unstructured development. Parents can also model healthy behavior in their own lives. Children often develop stress-handling habits by observing the relationship between their parents and stress.

Schools can take impactful steps to help parents and students with stress. Some limits on the sheer amount of homework students receive may be helpful. In a survey of high-performing high schools, students reported receiving more than three hours of homework per night.[5] Students that spent more time on homework in that study reported greater stress. While homework has benefits, the optimal amount of it, according to one study, may be significantly less than is being assigned, about 90 to 100 minutes per night.[6] Homework started to lose its effectiveness beyond that point.

Movement can also help alleviate student stress. Teachers can encourage students to move around the classroom for activities. Schools can ensure that students receive a sufficient recess period and resist cutting that period short to devote more of the school day to tested core subjects.

The most important step for parents and teachers may be observing students, keeping open lines of communication, and listening to their concerns. Children are not adults. They may be feeling severe effects from undue stress in their lives without the language to express the problem or even the conceptual framework to recognize that something is wrong.

It can be difficult getting honest answers to difficult questions from our students. This is one of Pride Surveys’ strengths. We’ve surveyed students for more than 30 years, enabling decision-makers, parents, and community leaders to gain vital insight into their thinking, concerns, and emotional state. If you’re interested in using our surveys to help better understand the students in your area, take some time to browse all that we offer. If you have any questions, or you would like to know more about our process and why our surveys have been utilized for three decades, contact us today and we’ll be happy to discuss your challenges and the potential solutions Pride Surveys can provide.

[1] “A multi-method exploratory study of stress, coping, and substance abuse among high school youth in private schools.” Retrieved 18 July 2019 at

[2] “American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults” Retrieved 22 July 2019 at

[3] “National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults.” Retrieved 18 July 2019 at

[4] “Sleep Disorders in the Older Child and Teen” Retrieved 19 July 2019 at

[5] “Non-Academic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools” Retrieved 19 July 2019 at

[6] “Adolescents Homework Performance in Mathematics and Science: Personal Factors and Teaching Practices” Retrieved 19 July 2019 at

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