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Managing Stress with Students

Managing Stress with Students

Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD

June 16, 2022

Stress is an essential part of students’ life. While short-term stress can stimulate students and help them get their work done, long-term stress can have a detrimental impact on their physical and mental health. Effects of stress on students include having trouble concentrating on a task, being irritable, having low energy levels, and losing their appetite.

Types of Stress

There are two types of stress that students may suffer from:

Acute Stress

Usually, this type of stress is the result of some episodic occurrence. For example, you woke up late or received a bad grade at school. Acute stress is not too big a problem and it goes away quickly.

Chronic Stress

This type of stress occurs when a person endures a long-term stressful situation and just cannot avoid it. For example, a student may have trouble making friendships or is struggling in a course. These situations may have long-term negative effects on the students’ physical and mental health.

Why are students so stressed?

There are many stressors in students’ lives. These are only some of them:

Tests and Assessments

All students, no matter whether they are high achievers or struggling students, are worried about tests and assessments. Students are usually stressed about two main things – whether they will be able to get a good grade or whether they will be able to find enough time to study for the test.

Too Much Homework

Too much homework can overwhelm students, making it harder for them to complete their tasks and to keep up with school commitments. Too much homework may make students want to put off doing it, which can only add to their existing stress.

Students’ Inability to Self-Organize

Not all students have good organization skills and those who do not tend to experience more stress at school. Such struggling students are likely to fall behind and go through more stress and frustration than their peers with better organization skills.

Little Time to Relax

These days students typically have a substantial amount of homework, and they have little “down time.” As they grow older and progress from elementary to high school, the amount of work and school material is increasing. This, in turn, can lead to more stress.

Lack of Sleep and Poor Sleeping Habits

If students do not get enough sleep, then they are likely to have trouble concentrating on their studies. According to the existing research, students should get at least 8-10 hours of sleep to recharge their batteries and be able to tackle their school commitments. Anything less than that puts them at risk of becoming stressed.

Lack of Support from Parents

Although most parents wish their children well and want them to succeed, sometimes parents do not give enough support to their children. Parents should remember that young students are only learning to deal with the challenges of life, and they need tremendous amounts of support. Also, parents should be careful not to place too many expectations on their children.

New Environment

If students start a new school or simply transition from elementary to high school, the stress in their life is inevitable. New classes, new classmates, teachers, and expectations are all bound to put extra pressure on students and make them more prone to experiencing stress.

Academic Struggles

When students enter their high school years, they may find their school subjects challenging and hard. Parents should make sure that they help their children address these challenges early on to avoid potential problems in the future.

Effects of Stress on Students

Academic stress, which students experience, is a significant issue. There is substantial evidence showing that stress can have a negative impact on students’ mental health. Stress can significantly reduce students’ academic achievements, decrease their motivation, and even lead to the possibility of their dropping out. If left unchecked, stress can lead to some serious psychological conditions such as:


One effect of stress on students is anxiety. Anxiety can be so bad that a person may develop debilitating symptoms including racing thoughts, muscle tension, excessive fear, and worry. Unfortunately, scientists report more cases of anxiety among children and students.

We may consider anxiety a severe problem when it gets in the way of students’ everyday life. The problem is that when children feel anxious it is exceedingly difficult for them to describe what they are feeling. That is why parents should be always attentive to potential signs of anxiety in their children.

How can we understand that our child is suffering from anxiety? Well, usually they become easily irritated, cry easily, and have bad dreams. Older students may display slightly different symptoms. For example, they may seem to be unable to do simple, everyday tasks or find it difficult to concentrate on their school tasks. They also may have negative thoughts and constantly worry that terrible things may happen to them. In severe cases, they may start completely avoiding school and their friends.

Insomnia and poor sleep quality

Another effect of stress on students is insomnia or the inability to sleep. According to scientists, up to 60% of all college students report that they suffer from insomnia and around 8% of them meet all criteria of a full-fledged insomnia disorder. It is obvious that sleep is critical for our overall health and more so for students. When people sleep, they allow their bodies to rest and to maintain speech, memory, and brain development.

What are the signs of insomnia in students? Well, to be honest, they are the same as the ones typically found in adults who suffer from sleep disorders. Students find it difficult to sleep, they wake up during the night and it may be difficult for them to go back to sleep as well. Some may simply lie awake at night. Some are tired even after getting some sleep. Lack of sleep can significantly affect students’ productivity and academic performance. Sleep is also essential as it is when the child’s body can recover as it is constantly growing and developing.

Usually, insomnia does not occur in students without a good reason. The most common reason for insomnia in young people is, of course, stress. Insomnia is one effect of stress on students.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is also another effect of stress on students. When adolescents are not able to cope with stress on their own, they may turn to drugs and alcohol, which, as they believe, may help them to alleviate their symptoms of anxiety. If alcohol and drugs eventually become a coping mechanism for adolescents, then there is a risk that they will become dependent on them.

Substance abuse can lead to many other problems. These problems include declining academic performance, students being absent from school, and problems with teachers, peers, and families. Those adolescents suffering from substance abuse experience various emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and even suicidal thoughts. Additionally, substance abuse may also aggravate the initial causes of stress.

Even more seriously, drinking alcohol and taking drugs can lead to irreversible damage to the brain or the nervous system. There are several types of brain damage that teenagers dependent on drugs may develop. For example, their brain may simply shrink, their learning abilities may become severely impaired or compromised, and they may suffer from amnesia and memory problems along with many other serious conditions.

Activities to Manage Stress

Once students have identified the sources of stress in their lives, they can act and engage in activities to manage stress. Here are some stress management techniques for students.

Exercise on a regular basis.

Exercise is an excellent activity to manage stress. There is substantial research about the health benefits of exercising. Going to the gym or doing aerobic exercises will make noticeable changes to your body. Any exercise makes your body produce endorphins – special chemicals in your brain – responsible for killing pain and elevating your mood. These hormones will naturally reduce anxiety, making you feel relaxed and optimistic. Also, when you exercise you forget about your troubles and concerns. When you exercise alone, for example, you have an opportunity to enjoy solitude, but if you are exercising with others, then you make friends and establish social connections. These also stress management activities.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is an essential stress management activity. Sleep is of significant importance to our physical and mental health. During sleep, our body and mind recharge their batteries. So, if we do not get enough sleep, then certainly we are bound to be upset and stressed. One can imagine that students’ lives are stressful per se so students should get as much sleep as possible.

If you have problems and would like to sleep better, you need to think seriously about sleep hygiene. Maintaining your sleep hygiene is a wonderful activity to manage stress. Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time as well. Avoid sleeping during the day as this may disrupt your sleep later at night.

If you go to bed and realize that your thoughts are not allowing you to relax, do not stay in bed. Instead, get out of bed and take a walk. Avoid the temptation of using the Internet or your phone during this time as this will only further stimulate your mind and make you stay awake. The blue light emitted from these devices also increases brain stimulation and causes you to stay awake. For this reason, do not watch TV or surf the Internet before going to bed. These practices are great stress management techniques for students.

Reading in bed is also not a good idea. The reason for this is simple – if you do these things in bed, your brain associates your bed with being awake. Making a conscious effort to reserve your bed for sleep only is another activity to manage stress.

Avoid coffee and other stimulating drinks as they can cause sleep fragmentation. Also bear in mind that tea and soda drinks may also contain caffeine or other ingredients which will also prevent you from falling asleep. Monitoring your intake of caffeine and other ingredients that affect your sleep is another activity to manage stress.

Make sure that you sleep and rest in a quiet, comfortable bedroom. Turn off your TV, or ideally, try not to have a TV in your bedroom at all. If you have pets and they awake you during the night, keep them outside the bedroom. These practices to ensure that you get sufficient rest are great stress management activities.

Improve your diet and eat well

Eat nutritious and healthy food our body can support a healthy immune system which is another activity to manage stress. It gives us the energy to deal with stress and stress-inducing events. If you are a fan of fast food, then you need to consider cutting down on it. If you find it difficult to give up on fast food, try meal planning.

Another important way to improve your diet is to eat mindfully. Mindful eating is another stress management activity. Many of us tend to eat a lot when we are under stress and at moments like these, we simply do not notice how many calories we consume, causing us to gain weight.

Meditation and deep breathing

Great activities to manage stress also include meditation and deep breathing. Scientists have proven that shallow breathing happens when our body reacts to stress. So, to reduce stress, we need to learn how to breathe in a way that allows us to reduce muscular tension and calm our minds. Meditation and deep breathing are effective stress management techniques for students. Whenever you feel stressed, focus on your breathing – inhale and exhale slowly.

Try doing all the things on time and avoid procrastinating

According to existing research, procrastination is intricately linked to stress. For example, if you postpone doing homework, you are likely to become stressed because you will be worried that you will not finish your task on time. If you have problems with procrastination, you could break tasks into smaller ones or establish a working routine – these things will help you complete your tasks on time. Meeting deadlines on time is not only a great activity to manage stress but also a way to overcome stress for students.

Use positive affirmations

Using positive affirmations is an effective stress management activity. If you find yourself immersed in negative thoughts, you need make yourself reprogram yourself and repeat positive and affirming words to yourself. When you are anxious you can repeat to yourself phrases like “I can do this,” and “Everything will be alright.” It is true that sometimes it is easy to slip into negative thinking and interpret your negative thoughts as a fact. Creating more positive statements in your mind can help you boost your confidence and eliminate your anxiety and is a stress management technique for students.

Using positive affirmations can help students in various situations. The use of positive affirmations can effectively help with stress management during exams:

Use special apps

Apps such as ThinkUp, Shine or I Am will allow you to listen to inspiring affirmations created by other people. These apps will help in using positive affirmations as a stress management activity.

Write your own affirmations.

Writing your own affirmations is a wonderful way of customizing affirmations to your needs and is an effective activity for managing stress. Here are the steps to tailoring your own affirmations:

Make a list of positive affirmations on a sheet of paper. When you write your affirmations on paper, you can put them in front of you and help them stay in your head longer. You can also jot them down on sticky notes and cards and they will be a simple physical reminder to stay positive.

Visualize positive statements in your mind. If you want to write down positive affirmations does not work, try keeping them in your mind. Think about phrases that you think work best for you and repeat them to yourself as often as possible.

Repeat positive affirmations aloud. The truth is that you can resort to positive affirmations anywhere and anytime. For example, when you get up in the morning, come up to the mirror and begin saying something to yourself that starts with the words “I can…,” “I am,” and “I will….” Your statements should be simple because it will be easier for you to use them whenever you are stressed or anxious.

Stress Management Techniques for Students (in the classroom)

Simple Meditation

Meditation is one simple stress management technique for students that teachers can use in their classrooms. Before engaging students in meditation, teachers should explain to them what meditation is in quite simple terms. They can say something like this: “Meditation is a way to think calm thoughts to relax.”

Having explained what meditation means, teachers can note that meditation is a widespread practice throughout the world to reduce stress and is an excellent stress management activity. Teachers can even ask their students if any of them had ever done meditation before.

Meditation should start with a simple warm-up. Encourage students to sit comfortably in the chairs and keep their feet on the ground. Ask students to breathe easy from the abdomen. Point out to them that they should not do chest breathing.

Perform a few deep breaths with students. First, start rotating your head in easy, slow circles. Then change direction and rotate in slow, easy circles.

Second, take the following steps and encourage students to repeat after you:

  1. Look up and tilt your head back. Look down; put your chin on your chest.
  2. Drop your arms and hands to the side and shake them easily and gently.
  3. Raise your feet off the floor and slightly and gently shake your knees.
  4. Try to strengthen your spine during meditation.

Third, the teacher should ask their students to close their eyes and relax their minds, thinking about anything relaxing. The teacher should ask them to open their eyes. Students should sit straight up and relax.

Last, the teacher asks students to close their eyes again. After two minutes, the teacher has students open their eyes. Repeat the activity several times. The teacher checks with students how they feel, asking “How was that?” Students may respond with a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Teachers can encourage students to meditate at other times during the class. This meditation activity is a wonderful stress relief for students. Teachers can encourage students to consciously develop the habit of meditation whenever they are stressed. The teacher may also encourage students to teach meditation techniques to each other. The impact of students sharing this activity with their peers is a great strategy for handling academic stress.

Peer Sharing

In this activity, students can share their feelings and practice their listening life skills. The activity will help students to relieve stress by talking about their thoughts and feelings. Peer sharing can be a great stress management activity and a strategy for handling academic stress. During this activity, one student is talking while the other one is carefully listening.

Before starting the activity, the teacher should establish rules for safe sharing. The teacher should remind students that they must not tease each other, be respectful and that all the information they hear will stay in the classroom. Before the activity, the teacher should model the activity to give students a better understanding. Creating a safe space is a stress management technique for students.

Then the activity begins. One student sits in front of the other. Student #1 talks to Student #2, while Student #2 is simply listening. If Student #1 does not know what to say, the teacher should ask some helpful questions. For example: How are you feeling today? What are they feeling now? Are they worried about something?

After 1-3 minutes, students switch their roles and continue in the same fashion. After completing the activity, the teacher also may encourage students to practice this activity on their own or whenever they feel stressed and anxious. Peer sharing can be an effective activity to manage stress.


Russ Gadzhiev obtained his Ph.D. in history and politics from the University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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