Capstone College and Career Advising

Stress management for students

December 4th, 2014 by

Everybody loves the holidays, but for the students I know, the joy of the season is usually mixed with stress.

My current students are trying to get ready for mid-terms and are worrying about their grades while, often, simultaneously finishing up their college applications or studying for their next standardized test. (This coming Saturday is one of the six opportunities students have to take the ACT, and there’s an SAT looming in January.)

My recent grads, now college freshmen, are deep into their first-ever set of collegiate finals, while many are still learning to navigate roommates, homesickness and their new independence. 

And the parents I know are stressed out themselves – because they want to help and they don’t quite know how. College and high school life is much faster-paced and more competitive than it was a generation ago. So our ideas of stress relief may seem quaint, old-fashioned, and even impractical to today’s students.

Still – they’ll almost always appreciate your efforts, especially if you tread lightly and respond to their needs rather than try to take over.

Offer support and empathy before jumping in with advice: Teens who are already frazzled may not take kindly to suggestions to quit worrying so much or to start studying your way. Instead, take your cues from your student. Listen quietly to their fears; remind them you believe in them; let them vent even if you get impatient. Once your student feels you hear their concerns, they’ll be more willing to take some of that good advice you’re dying to dish out. (Writing out a list of priorities, developing a study schedule, and taking care of their health, including good sleeping and eating habits, might be the first words of wisdom you impart.)

Stock up on healthy meals and snacks: In the throes of finals, some students may not even want to take time to sit down for a family dinner. But don’t let them just subsist on chips and microwaveable pizza and whatever’s fastest. Instead, cut up fruit and veggies so they’re grabbable; volunteer to make a late-night sandwich; have the ingredients on hand for a protein shake or smoothie. 

Encourage breaks: Nobody can study full-out for hours and hours. Encourage quick breaks, perhaps by inviting them to go on a Starbucks run, to help you walk the dog, or to go get a quick manicure or massage – anything that you know your child enjoys but won’t take them away from the books for too long.

Pay attention to his or her stress levels: Yes, some anxiety is normal. But if it gets out of control, you may need to step in, and schedule a visit to a doctor or even a therapist. Signs to look for? Well, you know your child best, but dizziness, chronic headaches, frequent stomach upsets, hyperventilation, racing heartbeat, chest tightness, prolonged sleeplessness, repetitive, ritualistic behavior, or signs of depression may mean outside help is warranted.