How to Manage Stress in High School

A RaiseMe student ambassador shares how she combats stress in high school.

School is the biggest driver of stress among teens in the United States. According to the American Psychological Association, deciding what to do after high school, and getting into college, follow closely behind. These are alarming trends that we must work together as advocates of students, in partnership with students, to address. We spoke with our RaiseMe ambassadors to uncover the factors influencing stress levels, with the hope that together we can identify some tips to effectively combat stress.

One of these students, Payal Hegde of San Jose, California, bravely shared her story with us. Her experiences in the Bay Area may be unique, but the various pressures she speaks to about school  — including the overwhelming expectations students place on themselves — are ubiquitous. Finding balance is Payal’s top trick for stress management. We hope her story can help you determine your own balance, and help lower your stress.

Meet Payal

The Bay Area is filled with innovation. It is the epicenter of technological advancements in mechanics and computing. Companies such as Tesla and Apple practically sit in our backyards, as the brilliant minds behind the electric self driving car and the iPhone XR make up our community. The headlines of the San Jose Mercury News display the newest multi millionaire companies investing in other businesses, as well as world renowned innovators building robots that will soon reach human capability. Much of this brilliance filters into schools throughout the Bay Area, including my own high school. The greater population of students in my high school are highly motivated to compete with their peers.

At times, this overly competitive culture can be overwhelming, with the increasing pressure to get good grades, attend an elite college, and find a well paying job. Blinded by the ambitious culture of my high school, I tend to forget how privileged I am. Despite the immense pressure I feel from attending school, the greater population of students throughout California, the United States, and the rest of the world, do not have access to a quality education. They are forcibly placed into a lifestyle that has no value greater than supporting their family and placing food on the table each day. In light of this issue – providing a quality education for all children – it is still a challenge to cope with the harsh academic culture in my school and the stereotypical achievements you are to gain. Although my community is vastly different from those in other states, there is a common worry among high school students, emerging from the standards society places upon us; we continually ask ourselves, “Did I do enough?”

There is a common worry among high school students, emerging from the standards society places upon us; we continually ask ourselves, “Did I do enough?”

Payal Hegde, RaiseMe Student Ambassador

High school has a way of altering the psychological mechanisms of our brain. After school, sports, along with clubs, homework, AP classes, and school activities, build upon each other. It is extremely hard to find a balance, in the midst of homework assignments and sports games after school. However, “balance” is a word you must define yourself. Each individual has their own unique definition of what a balanced lifestyle upholds. For me, this includes spending time with friends, playing tennis, completing my homework, and going to bed at a decent hour, meaning sometime before midnight. As pleasing as this may sound, completing these activities each day is near impossible. Obstacles are inevitable and one must plan around them, when they do arise; for this reason, it is impossible for me to fully achieve my “balanced” lifestyle. Sacrifices are most commonly associated with giving something up for the benefit of another. However, sacrifices can be made to benefit oneself, specifically when trying to find a balance throughout school. Academic and social success are only obtained after one makes sacrifices. Stress mainly arises from one’s lack of sleep and the standards society places upon us. One step in eliminating unnecessary stress is to make sacrifices, even if they may be small changes in your lifestyle.

It is a challenge to disregard what others think of you, and only stay true to your values.

Payal Hegde, RaiseMe Student Ambassador

I have noticed that a considerable number of students are faced with an exorbitant amount of stress because they want to please their parents and attend a good college, to the satisfaction of others. This is most evident when students take part in a variety of activities they truly have no interest in, just to please those around them. It is a challenge to disregard what others think of you, and only stay true to your values. As a result of this psychological pressure, many students put on a fake appearance that does not embody their true character, as an individual. Last year, I recall attending debate practice, dreading the possibility of having to perform an impromptu speech in front of the whole club, or having to debate in front of my peers. In addition to the challenges I was facing academically, my fear of public speaking only worsened my psychological state. I cannot recall a day in which I felt enjoyment debating or giving a speech, as it only made me feel more insecure and worrisome about my “appearance”.

After two years on the Speech and Debate team, I decided to quit. Although this was a hard decision, I came to terms with my emotions and made changes accordingly. My fear to leave the debate team did not stem from my dislike for public speaking, but I feared disappointing my friends and family. In spite of my hesitation, I was able to overcome this obstacle and eliminate an enormous weight that had been holding me back. From my own experiences, I can say that stress is manageable when you spend your time usefully. Stress has no entrance into your life when you are doing activities that you enjoy, primarily because you tend to make time for things that bring you happiness. This idea goes hand in hand with making sacrifices, as you may have to give up other activities to succeed in those that bring you the most satisfaction.

One must learn to make sacrifices and find a balance among their daily activities, as following this path will ultimately lead you to success.

Payal Hegde, RaiseMe Student Ambassador

Stress management is a topic that is not commonly spoken about. Although you may speak about it with your friends, or you briefly hear your parents mention it at home, it is quite uncommon. Each individual is unique in their character, thus proving why it is important to focus on yourself and alter your schedule to benefit your needs. It may be helpful to listen to your peers, or an adult at your school, but there is only one person who truly knows you – yourself. You, as an individual, have the ability to identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the activities that you find enjoyment in. It is important to understand that stress cannot be completely eliminated; stress is what keeps us motivated to overcome the obstacles that may obstruct our path. Despite this, one must learn to make sacrifices and find a balance among their daily activities, as following this path will ultimately lead you to success.

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