The Californian

Stress culminates for students during finals

Mental health strategies can help people handle issues.

Brynn Kan, Staff Writer

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December is always one of the most stressful times of the year at Cal High. 

Freshmen are experiencing their first finals week, while many sophomores face the added pressure of their first finals in AP classes.

Juniors are overwhelmed because, well, it’s junior year,  and seniors are spending every free minute fine tuning college applications.

But for many students, stress and anxiety are ongoing issues that they don’t necessarily know how to handle. 

“From what I’ve noticed, most kids dealing with a lot of stress are focusing on the past or the future,” student support and crisis counselor, Bev Edgren said.

With college getting closer and closer each month, many juniors and seniors are feeling the stress of the future.  

“All my friends are stressed,” junior Megan Hoang said. “This morning I got to school and stressed everyone out because I started talking about next semester.”

Along with the fears of the future comes the pressure to be perfect. Some students feel that Cal is an extremely competitive school, and they believe the pressure pushes them to have the highest GPA or participate in the most extracurriculars.  

“There are a considerable amount of people who sacrifice a majority of their high school life for as little as a few extra points on their grade,” senior Anudeep Alam said.

This unrealistic expectation of being perfect can cause chronic stress. While some stress or anxiety is natural, extended periods of it can cause a student to develop poor coping mechanisms. 

“Personally, I don’t get a lot of sleep because of stress,” sophomore Saariya Malik said. “I lose my appetite a bit if it’s a really stressful day.” 

Chronic stress can result in long-term drain on the body, according to the American Psychology Association. Prolonged stress can cause the nervous system to continuously trigger physical reactions, which causes wear and tear on the body.

Similarly, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that long-term stress can cause digestive symptoms, headaches, and anger or irritability. It can also make someone more susceptible to frequent and severe viral infections. 

But chronic stress can also manifest itself into serious mental illnesses, such as depression.

In order to prevent stress from becoming more severe, many teachers use various methods to help students. 

AP Language and composition teacher Sean King is known for discussing mental health in his classroom. 

“Mr. King talks about how he doesn’t think that the youth should be this stressed,” Hoang said. “He also said that the people who look the most composed are usually the ones who are falling apart the most inside.” 

Other teachers, such as the AP European History teacher Ryan Cook, take mental health into consideration when planning his classroom curriculum. 

“We have a reading schedule for them ahead of time,” Cook said. “Theoretically, they could, if they have extra time, get a head start [on their homework].” 

This schedule is made available for the students during the summer before the school year, giving the students the ability to plan when they do their work for the class.

The AP Euro teachers also have helped reduce pressure on their students by creating opportunities for extra credit. 

“Last year we had a no extra credit policy, but some kids really tried hard all year and [Doherty and I] didn’t feel good about their ending grades,” Cook said.

New economics teacher Stephen Farwell takes mental health into account as well because he knows he’s primarily working with seniors.

“I believe that seniors have a tremendous amount of stress, especially in your first semester, due to college applications,” Farwell said. “I believe in not assigning a lot of homework and the main reason for that is to reduce the amount of stress and workload for my seniors.”

Students also have worked to prevent overwhelming stress in their friends and classmates. 

“In one meeting we made  stress relief balls,” said junior Emma Chen, co-president of the Stress Relief Club. “We also color and listen to relaxing music.”  

Students can use these coping mechanisms, along with other self care tips, in order to de-stress from school and other overwhelming events in their life. 

“A valuable skill is focusing on being present, and being able to ground yourself,” Edgren said.

Some examples of grounding exercises are counting breaths, taking small sips of water or even simply going for a short walk. 

Other ways for students to de-stress themselves include cleaning and reorganizing their living environment so their space feel less cluttered, prioritizing sleep, taking part in physical exercises or sports, talking to someone trustworthy about any problems, meditating, or simply doing something that brings you joy. 

“[Students should] treat themselves as their best friend, and talk to themselves,” Edgren said. 

With winter break beginning Friday, it’s a good time for students to relax. During the time off, students can focus on themselves, acknowledge the current stress they’re facing and find which self care practices work best for them, Edgren said.

For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the National Hopeline Network at   1-800-784-2433.

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The School Newspaper for California High School, San Ramon CA
Stress culminates for students during finals