Effective Stress Management Tools for High School and College Students

Use these stress management tips to lower your stress

Flickr user Andy

Stress is something all high school and college students are familiar with. You need to get to class on time, make sure you do your homework, and study for exams. Then, there’s the extra pressure of trying to fit in socially. Juggling all these things at the same time can quickly wear you down.

To help you navigate through your high school or college life without getting overwhelmed, here are some effective stress management tips for students.

Manage Your Time Properly

Among the biggest causes of stress for students is getting good grades, how to balance work and study, and meeting deadlines.

For those in high school, there’s the added pressure of getting into a good college. College students, on the other hand, experience the same stress as they try to land a job they like.

Here’s where time management comes in. Being able to manage your time well allows you to maximize productivity and learning capacity. In doing so, you’ll be able to get better grades, make your deadlines and get into your dream college or job.

So how do you improve your time management skills? Here are a few tips.

Keep a To-Do List to Help Your Prioritize

A to-do list is one of the simplest tools you can use to help you remember things. It eliminates the need of having to keep track of everything mentally. This helps cut down your brain’s workload allowing it to focus on more important things.

To bring your to-do list up to the next level, try giving tasks priority levels. This lets you keep track of tasks that are urgent, so you can do them first. And, it also lets you easily see if there are tasks that aren’t necessary.

Use the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the “80/20 rule”, states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Simply put, 80% of your results come from 20% of the work you do. What this means is that it’s better to work smarter and focus your energy on the 20% of work that is likely to yield 80% of your results.

By doing so, you’re able to spend your time on the most important things, whether it’s studying for a test or doing a project. Following this principle not only saves you time, but it also allows you to get better results.

Keep Things Organized

You may not be aware of it, but clutter and mess can increase stress. Research suggests clutter or having too many useless things around you overloads your brain with stimuli coming from what you see, hear, smell and touch.

Mess also makes it difficult for you to focus on what’s important since there are so many things trying to compete for your mind’s attention.

As a result, it stresses you out and makes you anxious.

So, try to keep your work area and dorm room clean and organized. This not only saves you time when you need to find something, but it’s also a stress management technique that reduces the extra mental stress that comes with clutter.

Learn to Study Effectively

Exams and getting good grades are a constant source of stress for all students. By learning to study effectively, you’re able to feel more confident going into exams.

More importantly, it will help you get better grades, which ultimately lessens the stress that comes with worrying whether you’ll pass the class or not.

In her book “Learning How to Learn”, author Barbara Oakley explains that our brains like to learn through frequent repetition. This is why we can still remember the multiplication and division tables we memorized many years ago. The constant repetition over a long period of time helps reinforce concepts into our brains.

In contrast, doing an all-nighter to procrastinate for an exam may allow you to pass the test. But, you’re more likely to quickly forget all the information you just studied.

Practice Self-Care

Being young often gives you that feeling of invincibility. You can eat what you want and get away with as little as 3 to 4 hours of sleep. But, these bad habits ultimately catch up with you over time.

Not taking care of yourself makes you susceptible to getting sick. It also holds back your brain’s potential.

Get 7-8 Hours Sleep Per Night

While it may not seem like it, sleep is very important for students. Getting enough sleep improves your learning ability, memory, focus and attention. Additionally, it boosts productivity and concentration.

Unfortunately, getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is hard to do in high school. And, almost impossible in college.

Between homework, project deadlines, early classes, and hanging out with friends, you’ll often find yourself getting little sleep. This is why studies show that most college students are sleep deprived.

The bad news is, lack of sleep makes you moody and irritable. It also increases your stress and anxiety levels.

So, what can you do?

If you can’t get enough sleep at night, try sneaking in power naps in the middle of the day. Doing so helps you make up for some lost sleep. It also recharges you, so you wake up with more energy for your afternoon classes.

Eat Properly

Students thrive on cheap food that’s filling. Unfortunately, most foods that fit this description are junk food.

Eating foods that are high in fat and low in nutrients not only make you sluggish, they also negatively affect your mind’s ability to think and learn.

Because it uses food as a source of fuel, feeding your brain with unhealthy junk greatly affects how it functions.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of foods that can raise your stress levels. This is why food and drinks with caffeine, including coffee and energy drinks, can make you jittery and hyperalert. Similarly, alcohol, as well as foods high in sugar or sodium, also cause stress.

To help you stay relaxed, try stress-busting foods instead. These include green leafy vegetables, nuts, dark chocolate, fatty fish, milk, yogurt, and blueberries.

Stay Active

Besides getting the right amount of sleep and eating properly, make sure to stay active.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, physical activity and exercises help energize you. On the other hand, sitting around all day makes you feel sluggish.

Additionally, exercise is also a proven stress management technique. Working out causes your body to release endorphins, which are hormones that boost your mood and blunt pain. As a bonus, being active reduces your body’s adrenaline and cortisol levels, both of which are both stress hormones.

If you aren’t a fan of going to the gym or playing sports, try brisk walking. Walking at a moderate pace for 15 to 30 minutes a day is a great way to stay fit, lose weight and reduce stress.

Try Some Proven Stress Management Techniques

Because stressful situations can happen at any time, having a few tried and tested stress management techniques in your repertoire is handy. They’ll help you stay calm anytime, anywhere.

Turn on Some Music

Listening to music is one of the simplest ways to relax are bring your stress levels down.

Classical music, nature sounds, or calming instruments have been shown to reduce stress as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure.

With music though, it’s all about personal preference. So, while slow, calming tunes work for most people, the type of music that works best for you is music that you like to listen to.

Deep Breathing

If you need something that will calm you down quickly, try deep breathing. Taking slow deep breaths helps you relax. It also helps reduce stress and lowers blood pressure.

Deep breathing helps promote a relaxation response in the body. It does so by inhibiting the production of stress-related hormones.

All you need to do is take a slow, deep breath in for 3 to 4 seconds. Then, slowly exhale for another 3 to 4 seconds. After a few breaths, you’ll feel more relaxed and calm.


Stress reduction and management are among the many health benefits of meditation. Spending as little as 10 minutes a day in a quiet place to meditate not only helps calm you down, it also changes your brain.

Meditation is very effective in relieving stress because it lets you focus on the present. This helps you gain a better perspective on what’s happening to you as well as what’s causing your stress. Additionally, meditation improves self-awareness. Thus, allowing you to control your emotions better.

If you have a hectic schedule and want to do more in less time, give yoga a try. Yoga combines postures (exercise), meditation and breathing, to help you reduce stress.

Keep a Journal

Research shows that putting your thoughts on paper is a great way to release stress and anxiety. One way you can do this is by journaling.

By writing down your feelings, you’re better able to understand your emotions. It helps you learn what’s causing them and why they bother you so much. In doing so, you’re better able to control your emotions.

Create Your Own Support Group

Besides academics, the other major source of stress for students is fitting in. This includes getting acclimated to the school’s environment as well as getting along with other students.

Having a healthy support system is one of the best stress management techniques to reduce the stress of trying to fit in.

Join Clubs and Extracurricular Activities

Participating in a club or student organization in school allows you to meet people and make new friends. Because you have similar interests with those who join these groups, you’re more likely to hit it off with them.

Having friends to turn to helps prevent loneliness and isolation. This can be a big issue for students who leave home for college.

The good news is high schools and colleges are filled with opportunities to meet new people.

Support at Home

Difficult times in school can be a source of stress when you don’t have anyone to lean on for support. This is where being able to talk to someone at home comes in. Doing so allows you to get a fresh perspective and advice.

For students who move out of state or travel abroad for college, being able to talk with family and friends (a communication schedule helps), even just through video conferencing, helps reduce loneliness and depression.

Take Advantage of Student Services

It’s always a good idea to share your stresses with your counselors and advisors. High schools often have a guidance counselor or someone who’s able to help students through these matters. Colleges offer even more help with different services that are available for specific issues.

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One thought on “Effective Stress Management Tools for High School and College Students”

  1. Martha Harty says:

    Another good resource is an app called Conflict Coach–if you are having roommate issues, or disputes on a project team, or want to bring up a problem with a professor, this app will recommend strategies and talking points and advice for initiating one of those ‘difficult conversations’. You can get it at conflictcoachapp.com–it’s not in the app store.

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