Stressed? Help is on the way

By Persephone Means, Staff Writer

Have you ever been so stressed you just want to smash your face into a desk? Don’t fear; you’re not alone. Every day, people deal with a healthy amount of stress, and students at Iola High School are no exception.

The spectrum of stress can include such things as seasonal sports, homework, peers, extracurricular activities, studying, family, being on time, working late nights, and almost any and everything in between that students experience.

Local experts and educators agree that tests, homework, peers and teacher expectations can lead to pressure that students must learn to cope with to succeed. Local students say they deal with this in a variety of ways, but many still find themselves struggling.

Ernest Adams, the crisis therapist and coordinator at Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center, notes that if school is not a positive experience, students will have a more difficult time dealing with day-to-day stress and anxiety.

“I try to assist with helping them find coping skills to deal with the negative experiences,” he said.

Social studies teacher Travis Hermstein, who has been an educator at IHS for 11 years, said school is generally positive, but there are more stressors for today’s students related to heightened expectations.

“School creates a good foundation for socialization and for academics students can use to succeed and achieve goals,” he said. “Peer pressure makes more stress overall. Education is designed to prepare people for the real world. It makes students expect more out of themselves. The content has become more advanced, and the standards have made more stress.”

History teacher and basketball coach Bill Peeper stresses that school provides students the opportunity to learn skills that will serve them in the future. “You learn how to work well in classrooms, handle social interactions, learn important things, how to deal with others, get ready for life and manage time,” he said.

Students who are more involved have to juggle out-of-school activities as well as their emotions. One of the hardest things students must deal with every day is peer interactions. There are cliques, rumors, pressures and self-fulfilling prophecies that they must figure out how to juggle. Student counselor Melissa Stiffler talks with students every day about out-of-school stressors. “Take it one day at a time,” she says. “The mountain looks bigger at the bottom.”

Assistant Principal Matt Hoffman also had some advice: “Don’t allow other influences to influence you. Stay confident in yourself and know who your are.”

Adams emphasizes being yourself as well. “Know who you are,” he said. “Also, listen to what someone is saying, then evaluate if there is any validity. And if there isn’t, don’t let them affect you.”

How Teens Cope
Dealing with peers also comes with inadvertent effects. According to a March 2014 teen trend report on StageofLife.com, nearly 33 percent of high-schoolers surveyed reported that they suffer from anxiety, and about 37 percent said they struggle with depression. High personal expectations and perfectionist attitudes are a breeding ground for stress.

“Don’t stress over the small things,” freshman Zackary Cokely said.

Joining too many clubs and organizations, procrastinating and extreme personal expectations can lead to high levels of unhealthy stress, anxiety and depression.
IHS students offer up a variety of ways to deal with such stressors; among them are listening to favorite music, playing video games for small periods of time, playing sports, talking to people and venting, and creating and organizing lists of the things that need to be done.

One of the biggest anxieties in high school is test-taking. Many students feel the pressure, whether it is due to having a negative attitude or a poor study ethic, feeling unprepared, falling asleep in class, not studying properly, or not having the time.

Band teacher Matt Kleopfer looked back to many years of experience taking tests himself and offered some advice. “Don’t procrastinate on learning your content knowledge,” he said. “Know how your test is organized, and use the whole time given to complete the test and go back over it.”

IHS teachers also express how much they want to help. If you have questions, teachers want to be asked. It could be the difference between failing and succeeding, and helping each student succeed is the very reason they teach.