Tips on Taming End of School Year Stress

I've been thinking a lot about the stress students are under these days, particularly after seeing the new documentary, Race to Nowhere, a film that questions the benefits of giving so much homework students.  It seems anytime I speak to the parent of a school age child, they are telling me about how much stress their kids are under.  They have so many responsibilities with schoolwork, sports, music, community service, after school jobs, religion classes, etc. The pressure seems to double this time of the year with finals and other end of the year activities. Kids are not getting enough sleep, and they are totally stressed out.  So how can kids stay involved without losing their minds?  Here are a few tips:  

  1. Get more sleep:  Teens are often sleep deprived especially as finals loom.  But lack of sleep greatly effects a student's performance in school.  So do not sacrifice sleep for extra study.  Instead spend a set amount of time reviewing for the next day's test then turn out the lights, and sleep.  Reviewing right before bed can help solidify facts and make them easier to recall the next day.
  2. Exercise:  You probably know that exercise is great for stress relief.  What you may not know is that getting exercise immediately before a test or a big presentation has been shown to help students do better.  So skip the last minute cramming, and go for a run instead.
  3. Don't Multi-Task:  When you devote all of your focus to one thing at a time you are much more effective and faster then if you try to do many things at once.  In addition, if you put all of your attention on one task at a time you are less likely to be distracted and overwhelmed, and you retain more information.
  4. Vent:  Life is hard during finals, but it won't be hard forever.  Talking or writing about how you're feeling can help you process and move on rather than getting bogged down in negativity that keeps you from the task at hand.
  5. Visualize Success:  This may sound cheesy but it works!  Imagine yourself successfully taking that difficult test, making that presentation, accepting that diploma, etc.  You can also visualize the reward...relaxing during the summer break!
  6. Build in breaks and small rewards:  Work of any kind is much easier when you are looking forward to something.  Breaks also help to give your mind a rest allowing you to come back refreshed, and ready to work again.
  7. Get Help:  If you or your child is increasingly tearful, getting nauseated or vomiting in relation to stress, not eating, having difficulty sleeping, or displaying other concerning behaviors engage a qualified therapist.