Updated: Oct 28
High school is the perfect incubator for academic, social and situational anxiety and stress and therefore, it's important that we acknowledge these challenges as part of a very normal range of feelings and emotions. When you're young, everything feels immensely bigger and much more immediate and sympathising with this is a great way to begin. At ALLKND, we work with young Aussies as a youth-led not-for-profit on a huge mission to help end youth suicide. As part of our work, we engage young leaders to lend their experiences and in some cases, exceptional skill in offering their peers support.
Below are 7 evidence-based tips for reducing or helping anxiety and stress during school, written by youth volunteer, Emily Kopp, who is in her penultimate year of a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at Macquarie University.
1. Learn and be aware of your feelings - Being able to understand and recognise your own emotions can allow you to put strategies in place to regulate negative feelings early on. For example, I know when I feel irritable it’s usually followed by a sad mood day, so I start my thought strategies (examining my thinking errors like catastrophisation) on that day to try to prevent the sadness.
2. Relaxation - being able to engage in relaxation when we feel tense can really help to relieve physical and mental feelings of tension. It also doesn’t need to include sitting on a yoga mat, surrounded by candles and greenery to count as relaxation. It can be as simple as relaxation breathing (taking deep, measured breaths to control your breathing, like the 4-7-8 method), mindfulness (focusing on the present moment, letting thoughts pass you by), muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing each muscle group one by one), or just quiet time. Also remember to make note of which strategies worked for what situation, so you can employ them again or rid them from your toolbox if they didn’t work for you.
3. Realistic thinking - thinking optimistically can get us out of the negative thought cycle, but we know this is hard to do, so you can also just try to think realistically. Thinking realistically can be done by writing down the thought, rating it in terms of worry on a scale of 1-10, writing down evidence for that thought (e.g., how likely it is to happen, history, other possible outcomes), and then write down realistic consequences (e.g., how bad is it? Will I be able to cope? how long will it last?). The more you do it, the more automatic it will become.
4. Problem-solving - write out the problem and 3 potential solutions to it (remember to be realistic and proactive in this step). For each solution, list the consequences if you were to choose that specific solution. Now, review the solutions and choose one to plan out in full. Remember after you act out the solution in real to assess how well it worked.
5. Explore solutions - this is a good way at working towards certain goals. First, identify the goal and the thoughts associated with it. Second, come up with a reward if you achieve the goal and make sure the reward matches the goal. Third, write out small, middle and large steps you can take towards the goal. Fourth, as you enact the steps, make sure to give yourself little rewards along the way. 5. Reward yourself and remember to look at how far you have come. It is easy to think about how far we have to go, especially in school but recognising the goals we have achieved, the steps we have taken, and the anxiety and worry we have already overcome, deserves to be rewarded.
6. Be brave and build confidence - practice these strategies regularly and reflect on what worked and what didn’t, that way you can expand your toolbox and be comfortable in engaging in these skills day-to-day.
7. Stay connected and stable - talk to support networks like parents, counselors, teachers, reach out if you need help, and focus on some things you enjoy about school.
About The Author:
Milly Bannister is the Founder and Director of ALLKND, a not-for-profit organisation reducing the national youth suicide rate by teaching Australia's first digital, peer-to-peer mental health first aid program, at scale around the country.
She's somewhat of a communications expert and virtual BFF to a 160k+ community, with a background and training in Journalism, Positive Psychology and Human Research.
She's currently an ambassador for Microsoft Surface, Nexba, MG Motor and has worked with the likes of BMW, Sony, Olay, Amazon and Google. Likes to toot her own horn doesn't she? Beep beep! Sheesh.