How Can I Cope With Stress at School?
“I felt so much pressure at school that I often felt like crying and screaming at the same time.”—Sharon.
“Stress at school doesn’t let up when you get older—the reasons for it just change.”—James.
DO YOU feel that your parents just don’t understand how much stress you’re under at school? They might tell you that you don’t have a mortgage to pay off, a family to feed, or an employer to please. Likely, though, you feel that at school you face as much pressure as your parents do—or more.
Just getting to and from school can be stressful. “Fights often broke out on the school bus,” says Tara, who lives in the United States. “The driver would stop, and everyone would have to get off. We would all be delayed by half an hour or more.”
Does the stress let up once you arrive at school? Hardly! Perhaps you face the following:
● Teacher-induced stress.
“My teachers want me to excel and get the best grades possible, and I feel pressure to gain their approval.”—Sandra.
“Teachers push students to excel academically, especially if the student has some ability.”—April.
“Even if you have worthwhile goals for your life, some teachers make you feel like dirt if you don’t pursue the academic goals that they think you should.”*—Naomi.
How are you affected by teacher-induced stress?
● Peer-induced stress.
“In high school, kids have more freedom and they’re more rebellious. If you don’t join them, they think you’re not cool.”—Kevin.
“On a daily basis, I face the temptation to become involved in drinking and sex. Sometimes it’s hard to resist the desire to join in.”—Aaron.
“Now that I’m 12, the biggest stress for me is the pressure to date. Everyone at school says, ‘How long are you going to stay single?’”—Alexandria.
“I was pressured to go out with a boy. When I refused, I was labeled a lesbian. And that was when I was just ten years old!”—Christa.
How are you affected by peer-induced stress?
● Other stress factors. Put a ✔ next to the one that affects you most—or write in the one that does.
□ Upcoming tests
□ Parents’ high expectations
□ Living up to your own high expectations
□ Bullying or sexual harassment
□ Other ․․․․․
Four Steps to Less Stress
Realistically, you can’t expect to make it through school without having to deal with some kind of stress. Granted, too much stress can be oppressive. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) But you need not let that happen to you. The key is learning how to manage stress effectively.
Coping with stress is like lifting weights. To be successful, a weight lifter must prepare properly beforehand. He doesn’t load the bar with more than he can carry, and he picks up the weights correctly. If he takes such steps, he builds strong muscles without damaging his body. On the other hand, if he fails to take these steps, he can tear a muscle or even break a bone.
Similarly, you can manage the stresses that you encounter and successfully accomplish the work you need to do without causing damage to yourself. How? Take the following steps:
1. Identify the specific causes. “When you see trouble coming, don’t be stupid and walk right into it—be smart and hide,” states a wise proverb. (Proverbs 22:3, Contemporary English Version) But you can’t hide from oppressive stress unless you first identify the most likely cause. So look back at what you placed a ✔ next to earlier. Which stress factor affects you the most right now?
2. Do research. For example, if a heavy load of homework is stressing you out, research the suggestions found in Chapter 13 of Volume 2. If you feel pressured to engage in sexual misconduct with a classmate, you’ll also find helpful advice in Chapters 2, 5, and 15 of that volume.
3. Don’t procrastinate. Few problems will disappear if you ignore them. Instead, they usually become worse, thus increasing your stress. Once you’ve decided how you will deal with a particular stress, don’t delay. Do it right away. For instance, if you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and are thus trying to live by the Bible’s moral standards, identify yourself as such as soon as possible. Doing so can lessen your stress. Marchet, 20, says: “Right at the start of each school year, I initiated a conversation about some subject that I knew would give me a chance to explain my Bible-based standards. I found that the longer I waited to identify myself as a Witness, the harder it became. It really helped when I made my stand known and then lived up to my ideals throughout the year.”
4. Ask for help. Even the strongest weight lifter has his limits. You do too. But you don’t have to carry the burden by yourself. (Galatians 6:2) Why not talk to your parents or another mature Christian? Show them the answers that you wrote earlier in this chapter. Ask for their suggestions.
You might find it hard to believe, but the fact that you feel some stress is actually a good thing. Why? It indicates that you’re diligent and that your conscience hasn’t become lazy. Note how the Bible describes an individual who seemed to feel no stress at all: “How long will you lie there doing nothing at all? When are you going to get up and stop sleeping? Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber.”—Proverbs 6:9-11, Contemporary English Version.
Heidi, 16, sums up the matter well. She says: “School may seem like a really bad place, but the pressures you face there are the same ones you’ll face in the workforce.” True, coping with stress isn’t easy. But if managed properly, stress won’t harm you. In fact, it can make you a stronger person.
Is quitting school the answer to your problems?
For more information, see Chapter 20 of this book.
“Throw all your anxiety upon [God], because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:7.
Divide the problems that cause you stress into two categories—those you can do something about and those you cannot control. First, work on the problems you can do something about. Then, when all of those problems are gone—if that day ever comes—you’ll have plenty of time left to think about the problems you cannot fix.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Getting enough sleep each night—at least eight hours—not only helps you cope with stress but also improves your memory.
To help me cope with stress, I resolve that when possible I will go to bed at ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why would being a perfectionist only increase your stress?
● Whom could you talk to if you were overwhelmed by stress?
[Blurb on page 132]
“Every day my dad would say a prayer with me before he dropped me off at school. It always made me feel safe.”—Liz
[Picture on page 131]
Just as lifting weights correctly can make you physically stronger, dealing with stress correctly can make you emotionally stronger