Get Psyched Friday: Overwhelmed at School
Friday, September 20, 2013
With all the pressure on testing, school performance, and college admissions, it is a tough time to be in high school. High schoolers often report that they are swamped with homework, have high expectations for extracurricular activities, and are driven to achieve. This causes significant stress and can lead to feeling overwhelmed at school. It is important to watch for signs of stress and help your teen manage these feelings. I have a few recommendations of things parents can do.Organization:
Organization can be the key to success, and adolescent brains are undergoing multiple changes improving their ability to organize and plan, but they still do not have the same skills as an adult. Therefore, helping with some of these basic strategies can assist teens in managing their workload and reducing stress.
- Get a planner (electronic or paper) and help them set it up and maintain it
- Help them learn to break down larger tasks (like writing a paper) into smaller steps (like writing an outline, doing background reading, etc.)
- Include accomplishment of the smaller steps in their planner/calendar so they know when they have to get each task done to get the assignment done on time
- Help them plan their afterschool schedule to make sure they have time for extracurricular activities and homework, but also have time to relax
- Extracurricular activities are great, but don’t sign up for too many
Teens need to learn healthy ways of coping with stress and often find themselves at a loss. Talk to them about healthy ways to cope and put up a list in their room if they find it helpful so they can refer to it when needed. Some ideas are:
- Talking to a friend or parent
- Listening to music
- Taking a walk
- Deep breathing/muscle relaxation exercises (you can find free podcasts online of 5-10 minute sessions - for example the Healthy Steps Podcast from Mary Washington University is good)
If you find that helping with organization and teaching some basic stress management skills aren’t working, or you’re seeing your teen continue to display significant anxiety, withdrawn behaviors, difficulty sleeping, or chronic aches/pains that don’t have a medical explanation (stress often gets translated into headaches or stomachaches), it may be time to check in with a professional. Your teen’s pediatrician may be a good place to start, as is making an appointment with a psychologist.
About the Expert
Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two young girls. She has been at Children’s National since 2006 and has been a regular contributor to our “Get Psyched Friday” features since 2012.