The Crown

Let’s Address the Stress

Anna Podborny, Crown Writer & Photographer

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Seven hours of school, homework in every class, two club meetings, plus sleep… And twenty-four hours to do it all. Stress is just something that students are familiar with, but what’s surprising is the fact that most have no idea how to cope with it.

When taking an anonymous test to measure stress in the past month, 94% of students received a score indicating moderate-high stress. Remember that this is perceived stress because the perception of what is happening in life is the most important. Two individuals could have the exact same experiences and events in the past month; depending on their perception, their scores could be vastly different. However, due to the fact that nearly every student who participated felt that they had moderate-high stress, it can be inferred that most students often do not know how to cope with and manage stress.

There are two different types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress is the good kind: maybe from an exciting job interview or a fun group project. Distress is the not-so-good kind: a ten-page research paper coupled with a big game and three college applications. Distress can be extremely taxing on the brain and the mentality of many students. In some cases, it even leads to poorer grades. Mr. Tom Kruse, one of the guidance counselors at Marian, says concerning this topic, “Once students are stressed out, they can’t really focus on the things that they need to focus on in class.” Instead, students focus on the cause of the stress or anxiety instead of the present moment. This often leads to a drop in concentration and, in turn, grades as a whole.

In the long run, stress can have a negative impact on the body.  Mrs. Laura Littner, a psychology teacher at Marian, says that the effect of stress on the brain, “Prolonged stress literally shrinks the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with long-term memory creation. That is a physiological fact.” Littner also shares how sleep is essential for success. Sleep is a time of rest and recovery for the brain, in which long-term memories are processed. “Students should be getting around 9.25 hours of sleep a night to get the most out of their brains the next day.” Most students will scoff at this idea. “Well, how am I supposed to get that much sleep if I have *insert time* of homework?!” That’s where time management skills come in.

With all of the technology and information that is available, it’s easy to become distracted. Procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles to time management. Littner says that the key to coping with stress is making a schedule and sticking to it. “Just fretting about it is only going to make you feel worse; take action.” Time management is just one of the ways to prevent stress; others include, as cited by Littner, talking to friends or going for a run. These are easy to incorporate into a schedule, which is why time management is the foundation for effectively combating stress.

The Church encourages always to form our perspective on the true nature of things, with a view of what I would call ‘realistic optimism.’ Realistic optimism recognizes the challenges and suffering we face without sugarcoating, yet always in the greater context of the hopeful and inspiring truths of the Gospel.”

— Fr. Jared Twenty

The aspect of faith in coping with stress cannot be overlooked. At Marian, there is a huge focus on remaining prayerful and confident in God’s ability to assist in times of trouble. Father Twenty, Marian’s new Spiritual Director, states that “the Church encourages always to form our perspective on the true nature of things, with a view of what I would call ‘realistic optimism.’ Realistic optimism recognizes the challenges and suffering we face without sugarcoating, yet always in the greater context of the hopeful and inspiring truths of the Gospel.” It’s easy sometimes to forget that God is always available when stress piles up so high. The key is incorporating prayer and time for God into a well-formed schedule. Father Twenty also doesn’t downplay the value of seeking help through therapy and various forms of positive thought. “The Church promotes the psychologically sound method of behavioral therapy, in which we treat our fears as a moral challenge to face head-on… If we confront our weakness, with the guidance and support of trusted mentors and peers, as a moral challenge to overcome, we can grow in the particular virtue we find ourselves lacking…”

There are numerous resources throughout Marian to assist in coping and preventing stress. Kruse specifically cites guidance, the teachers, and the NHS tutors. All of these resources are available to each and every student here at Marian and are no doubt beneficial. Being able to deal with stress and anxiety now can carry on through the rest of life. The sooner students learn to cope with stressful situations, the better off they’ll be. As Littner says, “Everyone has stress, the key is your attitude and how you cope with it.”

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