Managing Teen Back to School Stress

Managing Teen Back to School Stress: Coping with High School Anxiety and Depression in Teens

By: Shawn English, with ChatGPT (-3.5), Open AI {}

Most of the time, high school is packed full of excitement, challenges, and growth. It can be a lot of fun. However, the transition from a relaxing summer break to a new school year with new classes, teachers, and more, can be overwhelming. High school anxiety and depression are real issues that can seriously hurt your well-being and academic performance. To help with that, there are some useful strategies for managing these issues during the foreboding back-to-school season.

Understanding High School Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety is a common experience among high schoolers as we try to juggle academic pressures, social interactions, and personal expectations. The fear of not fitting in, not doing well in school and/or extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, etc), as well as the looming college applications and future career paths all contribute to the stress and anxiety. Similarly, depression can come from various sources like grades, relationships with your fellow peers, body image issues, and family issues. Understanding the signs and symptoms of these mental health challenges is important so you can get the intervention and support you need as early as possible.

Recognizing the Signs

Your parents, teachers, and friends can help in recognizing the signs of anxiety and depression. If you think you might be struggling with too much stress, anxiety or depression, it’s safe to assume you should reach out to an adult.These signs can be withdrawal from social activities, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, irritability, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, declining academic performance, and continuous feelings of sadness or hopelessness as well as increased struggle to focus or complete things.. It’s important for those people to create a non-judgmental environment where you feel comfortable discussing your emotions.

Strategies for Managing Back-to-School Stress

  1. **Open Communication**: Openly express your feelings and concerns. It’s ok to feel vulnerable, or awkward talking about these things. The people you are talking to should actively listen without judgment and provide reassurance that your emotions are valid. Seeking help is actually a sign of strength and the skill of learning to get help will help you throughout your life.
  1. **Time Management**: Use good time management skills to balance school related responsibilities with relaxation and self-care. We all love procrastinating, but it always leads to more stress in the end. A great way to avoid this is to create study schedules and set realistic goals which help limit the procrastination and feeling of being overwhelmed.  
  1. **Healthy Lifestyle Choices**: Proper nutrition, consistent exercise, and actually getting enough sleep contribute to both physical and mental well-being. These habits reduce stress and make you feel better overall.
  1. **Relaxation Techniques**: Relaxation practices, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help you manage anxiety and improve mood swings. It might not seem like it, but all of these relieves lots of tension both physically and mentally. These techniques will help reduce the amount of negative thoughts you might have.
  1. **Social Support Networks**: Building friendships is a great way to ward against stress and feeling alone. Get out there, go to social events, hang out with your friends, participate in clubs, and have some fun!
  1. **Seeking Professional Help**: If your anxiety or depression becomes overwhelming, it could be a good idea to seek help from mental health professionals. School counselors, therapists, or psychologists are great options and can develop strategies to address the specific needs of each person. A good therapist should feel easy to talk to and you will feel better when you leave a counseling session. Give it 3 visits, if you still feel weird talking to them, they may not be the right person.
  1. **Setting Realistic Goals**: Set some achievable goals while managing your expectations. No one is flawless, and setting realistic goals reduces the pressure to be perfect and allows for learning from mistakes. Remember you have no idea what it’s like to be someone else, and we all know our social media accounts don’t show the whole picture. Set goals that work for you.
  1. **Balancing Activities**: While extracurricular activities can be great, overcommitting can also lead to increased stress. They take up a lot of time, which means it is important to choose activities that you genuinely enjoy participating in. Understand your limitations in all areas of your life. If there’s an adult or a friend who think maybe good at this you could always ask for some input on your schedule.
  1. **Limiting Screen Time**: This one might be tough, but it’s important. Excessive use of electronics, especially on social media, lead to feelings of inadequacy and comparison. Social media can be a lot of fun, but it is important to realize that a lot of it is actually fake. “Doom Scrolling” on Tiktok, Instagram Reels, Youtube shorts, and more is very addicting. It is a perfect way to procrastinate, and procrastination is the king of stress inducers. Instead of your phone, try to engage in activities face-to-face.
  1. **Family Involvement**: Your parents are there to support you. Having regular family conversations, shared activities, and empathy towards each other can strengthen family bonds and create a safe space for discussions about mental health. If your parents are not your best support, you owe it to yourself to reach out to an adult at school, other family or in your community to find someone to be your support. 

The back-to-school season can be rough, so it’s important to address your stress, anxiety, and depression. By recognizing the signs, using effective strategies, and having open communication with good people, you have the tools you need to conquer back to school stress successfully. Essentially, if you create an environment that promotes mental health and well-being it sets the foundation for you to flourish academically, emotionally, and socially. Going back to school is suddenly not so intimidating.

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My name is Shawn English. I am 16 years old, and I go to high school in Michigan. I like to play sports like soccer, competitive swimming, and volleyball. I enjoy playing video games, watching TV, and hanging out with my friends as well.