Students stressing over academic pressures

By Laura Daniali | Feb 10, 2016

The following article accompanies the second in an eight-part series produced by The Beacon on teen issues. Called “Turn Up The Volume,” the series aims to educate our readers while offering information – and hope – to those needing help.

While cheating among high school students is down in local school districts, some teens may be cheating themselves out of sleep to keep up with academic pressures.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need about eight to 10 hours of sleep each night; however, one study found that only 15 percent reported sleeping 8 1/2 on school nights.

Some high schoolers are up late finishing homework and studying for tests because of heavier course loads and pressures to perform well in school. As a result, teens are getting less sleep and have higher levels of stress.

More and more teens are juggling college-level courses, participation on sports teams and other extracurricular activities in an effort to be competitive when applying for college. In addition, parental pressure can also contribute to increased anxiety levels.

“They never get a break anymore,” said Rena Fitzgerald, Crisis Care program manager. “These kids are up at 6 a.m. and don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. because of all the activities they are doing. They are being programmed to believe that what they do in school will determine the fate of their income in the future.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of truth in that.”

While a few all-nighters and familial pressure may not be a new phenomenon, teens’ jam-packed schedules have been found to contribute to unhealthy levels of stress.

In a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association, teens rated school as the most common source of stress, and reported experiencing unhealthy levels of stress.

The study also showed that teens did not correlate the high levels of stress with impacts to his or her mental and physical health; however, 40 percent experienced irritability or anger in a month’s time, 36 percent felt nervous or anxious, 32 percent felt like crying and 30 percent were sad or depressed.

The following are tips from the American Psychological Association for teens to handle stress in healthy ways:

Get some sleep

Between homework, activities and hanging with friends, it can be hard to get enough sleep, especially during the school week.

To maximize your chance of sleeping soundly, cut back on watching TV or engaging in a lot of screen time in the late evening hours.

Don’t drink caffeine late in the day and try not to do stimulating activities too close to bedtime.

Focus on your strengths

Spend some time really thinking about the things you’re good at, and find ways to do more of those things.

If you’re a math ace, you might tutor a younger neighbor who’s having trouble with the subject. If you are a spiritual person, you might volunteer at your church.

If you’re artistic, take a photography class. Focusing on your strengths will help you keep your stresses in perspective.


Physical activity is one of the most effective stress busters. That doesn’t mean you have to go for a jog if you hate running.

Find activities you enjoy and build them into your routine such as yoga, hiking, biking, skateboarding or walking.

The best types of physical activities are those that have a social component. Whether you’re into team sports, or prefer kayaking or rollerblading with a friend or two, you’re more likely to have fun — and keep at it — if you’re being active with friends.

Do things that make you happy

Besides physical activities, find other hobbies that bring you joy. That might be listening to music, going to the movies or drawing. Make a point to keep doing these things even when you’re stressed and busy.

Talk to someone

It’s easier to manage stress when you let others lend a hand. Talk to a parent, teacher or other trusted adult.

They may be able to help you find new ways to manage stress. Or they may help put you in touch with a psychologist who is trained in helping people make healthy choices and manage stress.

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