People often worry about their ability to manage and cope with stresses. Stress, the body’s response to pressure or challenges, can actually be both positive and negative. In moderation, stress can help students focus, have faster reflexes, and encourage them to work hard to meet their goals. But when stress becomes too constant or overwhelming or becomes ongoing anxiety it can begin to have negative impacts on a person’s life and can actually prevent them from focusing and meeting their goals. Many people confuse stress and anxiety but Melissa Cohen LCSW states that “the key difference is that stress is a reaction to something that is happening now and is triggered by a specific situation. Anxiety is concern about something that may or may not happen in the future. Anxiety is also the stress that continues after the stressor is gone.” Student stress may be related to concerns about grades, finances, parental or peer expectations, or a variety of other issues. Long periods of stress or anxiety can have a damaging impact on someone’s physical and mental health. Therefore it is essential that students learn and practice healthy strategies to cope with and manage stress.
- Promote a growth mindset
Students often panic and feel like they are failures or are doing something wrong if they make a mistake. Emphasize how mistakes are a part of learning and not something to be ashamed of. Instead, encourage students to view mistakes as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. When students know they don’t have to be perfect and only need to keep learning and trying, they are better able to deal with setbacks and be compassionate with themselves when they are struggling.
- Encourage mindfulness
Mindfulness is “a mental state that is focused on the moment, staying calm, and accepting and acknowledging how you feel, the sensations around you, the thoughts that come into your head, and the other things in your internal and external environment.”1 Encouraging mindfulness lets students feel worry or concern without becoming overwhelmed by negative thought patterns. By accepting their emotions and fears and then continuing on, students are able to build resilience and keep stress from reaching overwhelming levels. Knowing that feeling painful emotions are not permanent and that negative thoughts don’t have to be obsessed over can help students prevent stress from developing into anxiety.
- Assure students that they are not alone and that stress is an issue for many people
Students often worry that their thoughts and feelings are abnormal or wrong. When they see that their experiences are not unique and that balancing stress is something all people deal with, they can feel less alone. Encourage them to talk to others and perhaps read books or watch movies where characters learn to deal with stress in healthy ways. Seeing people from mentors to peers to fictional heroes work through their stress can help assure students that they can develop the skills to do so as well.
- Encourage healthy sleeping, eating, and exercising habits
When students have a lot of work to do for school they may think the best option is to cut back on sleeping and exercising so they have more time to study. This approach is actually counterproductive in the long run, though, and can be detrimental to students’ health. Students work best and are best able to deal with stress when they have enough sleep and have healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Make sure students know they can ask for help when coping with stresses
Students need to know that they are not alone and that it is okay to ask for help. Whether students need help with study skills, understanding class material, or dealing with mental health struggles, resources are out there to support them. Make sure that students know what programs and resources are available to them in regard to tutoring professionals and mental health professionals. Knowing when a problem is too big to deal with alone and professional support is necessary is an important skill for students to learn.
Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing but it needs to be kept to healthy levels. The negative physical and mental impact of stress on students can be prevented if students learn tools for handling stress. Helping students learn to cope with stresses can help to prevent unhealthy amounts of stress from becoming a chronic issue. Learning healthy coping skills at a young age can help students do better in all areas of life as they grow and can prevent them from falling into unhealthy or maladaptive coping mechanisms. Understanding and dealing with stress in healthy and sustainable ways are essential skills for students to learn and parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives can help coach them in coping with stresses and help set students up for healthier and happier futures.
Citations for 5 Ways to Help Students Cope with Stresses
1 Writers, S. (2019, July 1). Student Stress & Anxiety Guide. LearnPsychology.org. https://www.learnpsychology.org/student-stress-anxiety-guide/.
Lauren Krystaf has been teaching with ALO7 since 2017 and loves having the opportunity to teach English from anywhere with an internet connection. She enjoys traveling, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.
Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. She also has a 120 hour TESOL certificate. Lauren is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Phi Mu honor societies.