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Water Cooler: Managing stress at the end of the school year

UPDATED: Tue., April 13, 2021

Students who get swamped by stress or fear should incorporate positive self-talk into their school days.  (Pixabay)
Students who get swamped by stress or fear should incorporate positive self-talk into their school days. (Pixabay)

As the school year comes a close, the stress tends to ramp up. Expectations are high and the nice weather doesn’t make it any easier to stay focused in the ubiquitous pressure for a strong end to the year. Here are a few tips to help students grapple with the chaotic last few months of an already challenging school year.

Try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Student life isn’t geared for a great sleep schedule. It is packed with early classes, extracurricular activities, homework, socializing and more. The stress and expectations of student life can also make it harder to get a good night’s rest. Try your best to make time for winding down and sleeping in your schedule and understand the value it will have for your tomorrow. It is easy to overlook how mentally and emotionally demanding school is, and quality sleep will help increase your bandwidth for all the challenges school can throw at you.

Prioritize self-care. “Self-care” is more than just a popular fad for adults. Young people and kids need it too, especially when transitioning into a phase of life where they become more responsible with their own care. One of the joys of getting older is having more agency in your life, meaning nobody is going to force you to brush your teeth, eat healthy or take time to rest. You might be able to eat ice cream and cookies for dinner, but once you do it a few times, you’ll probably realize why it wasn’t allowed all this time. Learn the importance of those small daily routines, like getting a bit of exercise or fresh air, eating a balanced meal and keeping up on personal hygiene. These forms of self-care can help you keep up your stamina and lower your risk of burning out before the year is up.

Incorporate positive self-talk and affirmations into your day. The basic nature of school tends to put failure at the forefront of your mind. Students are often swamped by fear. It can be fear of failing their next test or of facing rejection by peers. It can be the fear of not being accepted to a good school in the future, or never obtaining that dream job they’ve been getting good grades for all this time. All that expectation to be successful, well-liked and smart can sometimes cause us to develop a negative self-image. We might not feel like we are good enough to achieve all of that. Try to catch onto those thoughts and remember how far you have come, all the way from your first year in school. Think about the things you do well and the ways you contribute to your school, friend group, family and other communities. Keeping that in perspective will help you appreciate all your hard work and growth, helping you stay motivated and inspired for the future.

Know when you need a break. When stress becomes too much, you may experience a variety of symptoms such as nausea, headaches, repetitive thoughts, inability to focus, loss of or increase in appetite, lack of capacity to fulfill daily responsibilities, and many more. In that case, it might not be the best idea to keep pushing through it all. Cancel plans if you need extra time to recuperate, communicate with caregivers and teachers if you need extra help or flexibility, and don’t feel guilty or ashamed for not being able to handle it all. Everyone needs a break sometimes and it’s up to you to decide when. It can be a short break, like a walk around the block during a study session or maybe something longer like a whole weekend of downtime after a big test.

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