The air is a tad bit cooler, school supply aisles have been ravaged and schedules are about to get a whole lot crazier. Whether that first bell of the school year has already rung or it’s right around the corner, for the majority of high school and college students, the end of summer = the beginning of stress.
A recent poll from social network After School asked tens of thousands of high school students how often they feel stressed. Nearly 45% responded “all the time,” citing relationships and teachers as the primary reasons. And student stress levels don’t seem to improve at the next level either. Three out of four college students say they're stressed, according to a study published in the medical journal Depression and Anxiety. Researchers found that mounting expectations, an evolving sense of self-identity, and the shock of leaving home were all key stressors.
These alarming statistics mean that teens and young adults today are more vulnerable to mental health risks, physical health issues and lower grades. Over time, stress - whether from from social relationships, personal appearance or family problems - leads to anxiety and depression. Plus, when students are stressed, they have trouble focusing on lectures and studying, which results in lower academic performance.
The effects of stress aren’t just internal. Stress that's left unchecked can cause headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue and upset stomach. Oh, and acne. While stress alone doesn’t cause pimples (hormones, bacteria and environmental factors are primarily to blame), numerous studies have shown that stress can trigger breakouts and make existing acne worse.
So what’s a high schooler or college student to do? We’ve got three suggestions:
1. Limit social media
No, we’re not telling you to delete TikTok or get off the Gram. But too much social media can definitely be bad for your mental health. Over the past few years, experts have been researching the correlation between social media and the rising rates of depression among teens and young adults. Those who spend the most time on their screens are the most likely to be unhappy. And we’re not just talking about victims of cyberbullying. It’s stressful to see your ex-boyfriend with his gorgeous new bae. It’s stressful to find out about THE event of the summer - when everyone is already there. It’s stressful to scroll through a bunch of “perfect” (filtered) selfies when you aren’t at your goal weight or are in the midst of a major breakout. Our advice: set a daily time limit for yourself - one that feels like a challenge but is an achievable goal.
2. Get more sleep
What should you do with your free time now that you’ve cut back on social? How about a nap? Seventy percent of high schoolers are not getting the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep each night. On average, most college students get between six and seven hours of sleep per night, which is also less than the recommended seven to nine. When your body doesn’t receive the optimal amount of sleep night after night, sleep deprivation can start to set in. And that leads to memory lapses, poor judgement and a decreased ability to deal with stressful situations. In other words, less sleep = more stress. So turn off your phone and get some extra sleep!
3. Find a healthy outlet.
For some, it’s sports or going for a run. For others, it’s yoga or meditation. In one recent study, researchers found that art-based mindfulness activities significantly reduced headaches, a common side effect of stress, in adolescent girls. Whatever helps you to relax and feel good - go do it! Meet a friend IRL to talk and grab a coffee. Call your mom just to say hi (this one will help relieve her stress too). Do something nice for a stranger. These simple stress relievers can help you refresh your mind and restore a sense of calm to your life.
Got five minutes and want to try mindful meditation? Get the deets here.