Supporting Your Stressed-Out Student


Before the fun of summer vacation, students must face the end-of-the-year rush, with finals, diplomas, and stress. Many students are able to manage the stress associated with the end of the school year, and some young people need a little bit more support. As a parent, it is difficult to watch your teen combat stress themselves while not knowing how best to support them. The goal in stress management is not to eliminate stress altogether – some stress can be adaptive and helpful. But we can support our young people to manage and reduce their stress. Here are some ways you can support your student through the exam period.

  1. Check in often. Although your teen might roll their eyes each time you ask, keep checking in with them. Ask them if they need help with studying, if you can help by quizzing them, and most importantly, how they are feeling. Creating an environment in which they feel supported and knowing they can turn to you for help will aid in managing the stress.

  2. Deep breathing and other relaxation strategies. Relaxation techniques can be used proactively (before stress becomes too much to manage) and reactively (when stress is getting in the way of productivity). One easy way to feel better is deep breathing. Try closing your eyes and picturing waves rushing into the shore and back out. Breathe in and out with the waves (wave breathing). Or breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and breathe out for 8 counts (4-7-8 breathing). Do this 10 times or until things feel a bit better. Other relaxation techniques include progressive muscle relaxation (especially if stress shows up as muscle tension) or visualization (e.g., picture yourself studying or taking the test).

  3. Exercise. Go for a walk, shoot some hoops, or head to the gym. Encourage your teen to take a break to move their body. Regular exercise improves attention [1] and helps manage mood [2]. It’s also a great excuse to take a break from studying.

  4. Healthy meals. Help your teen keep their natural energy up by preparing good meals. If you’re a busy parent yourself, prep ahead to have easy-to-grab healthy snacks or meals. This includes making sure young people are eating a good breakfast. Eating breakfast is associated with better school performance for high-students.[3]

  5. Consistent sleep patterns. Stress can be a detriment to our sleep patterns. Poor sleep impacts concentration, memory, and mood[4]. A good rule of thumb is to stop using technology 30-60 minutes before bed. That means no cell phone, no iPad, and no laptop! Avoid caffeine (like coffee and energy drinks). Aim for 8-10 hours each night. Try reading a book (not school notes!) or doing a guided sleep meditation to help wind down the brain – use the Insight app to find a perfect guided meditation for you.

  6. Be a good model. The most important piece is to model these healthy, stress-reduction techniques yourself. Young people can sense the energy around them. Be the person they look to for support and to see healthy behaviours in action.

If the stress and anxiety surrounding tests and exams is becoming too much to manage, reach out to us for support. Contact Andrea for a free consultation.

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References:

[1] Schmidt, M., Egger, F., & Conzelmann, A. (2015). Delayed positive effects of an acute bout of coordinative exercise on children’s attention. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 121(2), 431-446.

[2] Otto, M. W., & Smits, J. A. J. (2011). Exercise for mood and anxiety: Proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being. New York: Oxford University Press.

[3] Sampasa-Kanyinga, H., & Hamilton, H. A. (2017). Eating breakfast regularly is related to higher school connectedness and academic performance in Canadian middle- and high-school students. Public Health, 145, 120-123.

[4] Taras, H., & Potts-Datema, W. (2005). Sleep and student performance at school. Journal of School Health, 75, 248-254.

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