Teachers talk student stress

Erin Fortier, Editor

The Echoes staff recently talked to a number of Mount Carmel students about the end-of-year stress  they are experiencing (see article “Cubs cope with stress”). Teachers Ms. Amy Kennedy, Mrs. Virginia Dabdoub, and Mrs. Aimee Gerrets and counselor Ms. Katie Bailey answered questions from staff writer Erin Fortier regarding faculty perspectives on student stress.  

What are some tell tale sign of stress in your students?

AK: When a student who is normal engaged in class is lethargic and inattentive, that could mean that they are stressed out. Missing assignments or not meeting deadlines could also indicate an overly-stressed student.

VD: I see it in their face….frustration, stress, rubbing their eyes from lack of sleep and of course an inordinate amount of whining.

AG:I  know when my kids are stressed because a few different scenarios happen.  Sometimes they  become very quiet and look “heavy” in that they are not as relaxed and as happy as usual.  Other times, assigning something may send them over the top into either tears or instant rants of all of the things that they have to do.  Still other times it can be  straight to tears, especially when they leave a test from another class that they did not do well on.

KB: Stress takes over individuals in four different ways, physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. These can be broken down into feelings of being overwhelmed, highly emotional/agitated, nervousness/anxiety, headaches/migraines, lack of appetite/sleep, poor hygiene, stomach aches, frantic, body aches. Are just a few signs that I see in my students regularly.

Why do most students become stressed?

AK:The cause of student stress varies for each student and depends on her schedule. Students who are involved in many clubs or sports are often stressed about balancing school, extracurricular activities, and their social lives.

VD:Usually we see the stress level of our students increase as the quarter comes to an end. The reason is twofold, several classes testing to get grades in; and the students’ procrastination tendencies.

AG:I think that a lot of students become stressed because there is so much going on in today’s world between working, dancing, or  athletics after school, social media, the demands of college admissions for our upperclassmen, and attempting to have a social life all while handling a heavy course load.  Time management becomes very important and I think that sometimes, that is a skill that not a lot of teens are really good at yet.

KB:A lot of times it is because we lose confidence in ourselves to overcome obstacles and we lose our ability to cope.  Most of the time my students are stressed because of: their school load, lack of a schedule/time management plan, friend problems or moving lunch groups, taking on too many activities, traumatic life events (family members passing away, car accident), peer pressure, lack of control, or parents divorcing.

Is there a particular time you see your students have more stress?

AK: Students seem the most stressed out during the last weeks of each quarter when more projects and assessments are due.

VD: Like I stated above, every teacher is trying to get grades in for report cards, we are wrapping up units, we all tend to test the same week.

AG: I think students are most stressed around exam time as they attempt to finish a quarter and prep for exams.

KB: I believe the high times of stress that I have noticed are at the beginning of the school year. Especially since everyone is starting a new schedule, with new teachers, new expectations, new challenges arise that can make us feel scared/nervous/lacking confidence in ourselves.  It is a huge transition at the beginning of every year because we do not know how to expect the unexpected, which means we cannot plan (this takes away control).

Do you think that stress is self-induced?

AK: I think a lot of student stress could be alleviated with better time management. Many of my students wait until the last minute to start projects that they’ve had weeks to work on. I tell my students to get started early because procrastinating is essentially making the decision to be stressed out later. Some of the stress is just part of being a teenager and dealing with all of the changes that comes along with that.

VD: Sometimes, I feel that putting off the inevitable/procrastination is the biggest contributor to a student’s stress level. Design cycle did not help this year either!

AG: I don’t think that stress is self-induced as clearly there are things that have to be dealt with that are out of our own control, but how we manage those situations can cause our stress levels to increase and lead to other issues.

KB: I think that there is good stress (the kind that keeps you motivated but you remain balanced) and then bad stress ( the kind that makes you nonfunctional with the symptoms above). We have the ability to make changes in our lives, the way we think about things, and especially through our prayer life and ability to have God’s strength can change our stress level. If we can create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and timely) goals, this can help alleviate our stress level that we are at.

What suggestions do you give students to reduce their stress?

AK: I’m a firm believer in to-do lists. I make one every day and prioritize what has to be done first to make my day go as smoothly as possible. When working on a large project, students should break up the work and set small goals. They could work for 30 minutes at a time and then take a short break to do something they enjoy or read 5-10 pages a day instead of trying to read 40 pages the night before. If a student is doing too many extracurriculars, she needs to prioritize the ones she enjoys the most and drop the others. And having a healthy relationship with cell phones and the internet also helps. So many students are unable to focus on a task for more than a few minutes at a time because they are constantly checking their phones.

VD: Studying a little each night to stay on top of each subject.  Conscientious planning related to upcoming projects/major assessments. Personally, I petitioning our Mother Mary for her intervention with my time management issues.

AG: In my opinion, managing stress can take a lot of forms.  The best way to get ahead of it is to plan ahead.  Get a good calendar/planner and actually USE it.  When you are in the throes of a stressful situation, name your end goal and work towards it so that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  If it has been a hard week, reward yourself with sleep, a mani/pedi, or a good movie.  Let your body and mind heal from the mountain that you just conquered.

KB: PRAYER, Exercise daily, focus on the positives in their lives, take a minute to breathe, when they have a lot of work to accomplish (make a plan for themselves for the day with specific time frames where it is “self-care” – do whatever you want that does not pertain to school or another responsibility, something for yourself), make to- do lists, change the way you think about things/attitude, use your support system for encouragement, write down the things that you are proud of yourself for accomplishing that day, breathing exercises, and set those SMART goals!