Stress and Anxiety

Counselor talking with student
Students across all grade levels face circumstances that can lead to high levels of stress and/or anxiety in their young lives. While some stress is normal and even healthy for developing coping skills, some students may need a little extra support to help them through challenging times. JCPS counselors are well-prepared to help our students and families negotiate challenging barriers and hurdles that may lead to significant stress and anxiety. Please do not hesitate to refer your child to his or her JCPS school counselor. Counselors have many resources to help students who are struggling with anxiety and stress.

Anxiety Tips for Teens

By Patricia A. Lowe, PhD, Susan M. Unruh, EdS, & Stacy M. Greenwood - University of Kansas

Anxiety is one of the most common problems facing teenagers in schools today. Worry and anxiety are normal reactions to concerns about what might happen in the future. Most teenagers worry at times about school performance, classmates and friends, family, appearance, health, and personal harm.

A certain amount of anxiety is healthy, especially when it results in productive action, such as when we worry about getting a bad grade on a test and, consequently, we study extra hard. We all know what it means to have butterflies in our stomach and to feel restless and tense from time to time. For some of us, though, anxieties and worries begin to control our lives. We may turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to reduce our anxieties or we may avoid participating in regular activities. These actions limit our enjoyment of life.

Anxiety Affects Us in Different Ways

Our feelings. The emotions commonly associated with anxiety are discomfort, fear, and dread. We may feel irritable and angry with others or we may feel that everyone is judging us and we can never quite measure up to others’ expectations.

Our body’s response. Sweating, nausea, shaking, headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and generally being on edge are among the body’s physiological responses to anxiety. Some of us may also experience dizziness, shortness of breath, and an accelerated heartbeat.

Our behaviors. Some of us who are anxious often engage in behaviors of avoidance and withdrawal, such as missing school and avoiding social gatherings.

Our thoughts. Some of us have difficulty concentrating when we are worried and anxious. Thoughts may be negative and unrealistic, and consequently events may be misinterpreted. For example, Mike may be worried about his acne. When he walks by a group of girls in the hallway and they are laughing, he is certain that they are laughing at him. In reality, they were not talking about him and did not even notice that his face broke out, but he starts to avoid talking to girls and keeps his head down whenever his skin breaks out.

What You Can Do

The following are things you can do that may help combat stress and anxiety:

Social support network: Develop a social support network. It is important to have someone to talk to, a friend, a parent, an uncle or aunt, or your school counselor when you are feeling anxious or worried, and just talking it out can sometimes help reduce whatever anxiety or worry you may be experiencing.

Exercise: Exercise on a regular basis. A 20 to 30 minute workout three to five times a week can be energizing, and can make you more alert and calm you. However, before beginning any exercise program, it is important to be sure you are in good health. Ask your family doctor if this is a good idea for you.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet is important. A balanced diet low in sugar and caffeine and junk foods is highly recommended. Eating well can increase your mental and physical energy and may lessen your anxiety.

Sleep: Quality and quantity of sleep are important. Fatigue wears on our emotions. Sleep requirements vary, though. If you get enough sleep and if you have a regular sleep schedule (a specific time to go to bed at night and a specific time to get up in the morning) you will feel more refreshed and are in a better frame of mind to tackle worries and concerns.

Learn to relax: Different activities are relaxing to different people. If you are feeling anxious or worried you can go for a long walk to relax or you can listen to soft music, read a book, draw or paint, do yoga or martial arts such as tai chi or taekwondo, take a warm bath, listen to relaxation tapes, practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, or do anything that you find relaxing.

Prepare ahead of time: If you feel anxiety before or during a test, for instance, it is a good idea to develop good study habits, time management skills, and organizational skills. Being well prepared may give you a sense of confidence and reduce anxiety. If you are concerned about public speaking or if you have to talk in front of others during a public forum, practice parts of the speech beforehand and prepare well. This may be easier said than done, but give it a try. Being prepared does help.

Set realistic goals: It may not be a good idea to set goals that are too unrealistic because if you do not reach them, then you may feel that you have failed yourself and have failed those who count on you. Be more realistic. You know what you can accomplish and what you cannot. Be patient. Feel good about what you have accomplished and can accomplish.

Be optimistic: Try to be optimistic. View a problem or a situation as a challenge that can be overcome instead of an obstacle to be avoided or a situation that causes distress. Use positive self-talk to meet a problem or a situation directly. This will put you in a better position to resolve your problem or situation with less distress.

Who You Can Contact for Help

Sometimes you may need help in dealing with your anxieties and worries, especially if anxiety increases in severity and interferes with your everyday life. Do not be embarrassed about seeking help. Almost everybody needs help at one point in their lives. And those who have not sought help probably should have done so. So, here are a few people you can contact to help you through this difficult time: parent, school counselor, teacher, friends, aunt/uncle or your doctor. To learn more about anxiety and for additional resources, you can visit: