For a high school student, stress can be a part of everyday life. For many students, it isn’t a positive aspect of our life. Stress can come in various forms, from deadlines constantly approaching to classes demanding more and more work from students every day. Sitting in class taking tests every day can put immense pressure on students. Students have been more stressed in recent years than ever before. However, recent research has suggested that the stress itself is not the issue, but rather the way it is perceived.
Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal has put into practice a method of dealing with stress that shifts stress from being detrimental to your health to a fuel that can help people succeed. Under stress, most people have accelerated heart rates and constricted blood vessels. Over time, this combination can cause damage to people’s bodies. When people recognize that they are experiencing stress, the reaction changes. Heart rates continue to be elevated, but blood vessels stay relaxed. This small change drastically shifts stress’s impact on the body. Relaxed blood vessels allow blood to flow freely, utilizing the elevated heart rate to energize the body. When you start to feel stress, recognize that stress is a tool, notice the biological changes that occur, and reassure yourself that they can be used to help you achieve your goal. In changing your mindset, suddenly the test you are taking, the deadline that’s approaching, or the sport you’re playing will become much easier to handle. RHS has done an excellent job including this perspective on stress into its Wellness curriculum for juniors. Junior year can be especially stressful for students as they prepare to apply for college, so the knowledge that stress can be used to improve productivity rather than damage one’s health and work ethic is critical to these students in particular. Reshaping the way that we think about a problem that affects every part of our life allows us to be more productive and more importantly, healthier and happier people.
Graphic: Hannah Kim