Advice for Helping Students Cope with Stress

During the pandemic we have all been faced with even more stressors than normal.  To help students best cope, it is important to first help them to identify and understand their emotions and signals of stress, and support them in becoming increasingly resilient by encouraging self-care.

So, which emotions are at the core of anxiety?

Coping Skills:  Better Understand Your Emotions

Anger

Often called a secondary emotion because we tend to feel anger with intense emotions like fear, or when we feel trapped or disrespected by others.  Ask yourself What types of situations or people are setting you off? What is your capacity to not immediately react, but rather step back, reflect, and then consider the situation from different perspectives.  Often when the emotion is raw, we struggle to make sense of any emotional issue, because our intellect is not properly engaged.

Fear or Anxiety

Where one reacts emotionally to an actual threat (fear) a perceived one (anxiety) or the stress that comes with an ongoing adverse set of circumstances involving both issues, such as life in a pandemic.

Grief. Loss and Situational Depression

We may be mourning the loss of a family member or friends or the collective loss of life as well as the former lives we lived before the pandemic.  Remember your feelings are valid, it doesn't matter if you're sad at the passing of a loved one, or not being able to be with friends or extended family.

Pay Attention to Signals of Stress

There are a range of emotional, physical and cognitive responses that can be experienced when under stress. Stress can look very different from person to person.

  • Higher or lower levels of energy
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite and eating patterns
  • Changes in social relationships
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Stomach aches, or diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Sweats/chills
  • Trouble focusing and/or remembering
  • Indecisiveness

With those definitions in place, what can we do to become more resilient and better handle anxiety when it arises?

Coping Skills: Practice Resilience

  • Good things come in small packages
    What you do to change your mindset and practice resiliency does not need to be extraordinary. One small change can make a big difference.  For instance, you do not need to run a marathon, you can simply start by taking a walk outside.
  • When a friend is being negative, don’t “play” along...
    Instead try to counteract the negativity with positive outcomes that may be realistic.
  • Routines
    While they have been disrupted, they can often ground us.Try and maintain some control throughout your day. Maybe start new routines. For instance, for the time being, devise a home workout instead of going to the gym. Purchase a journal and write instead of constantly texting someone your first thought, or try to learn a new skill like gardening, cooking or playing an instrument by googling sites on how to do those things. Be patient with the results. You have time!

Coping Skills:  Self-Care and Screen Time

  • Sleep
    One of the single most important activities you can do for yourself.
  • Slow down your breathing for 1-2 minutes
  • Active screen time is better than passive screen time
    If you’re online, play a game, create a dance, but limit your passive scrolling.
  • Reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in awhile to catch up.
  • Read
    Try to read a book that you have always heard about or think you should have already read, but also find some books that may lift your spirits.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss stress coping techniques, please contact Jenna Sumner, Sam Tuttle or Eddie Franz of the MBS Wellness Department.
 




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