Managing Life: Stress in Highlands


Aster Bredwell

Stress can easily take over a person’s life if not properly managed.

Stress happens. No matter what, people will never be able to eliminate stress from their lives. Instead, learning how to manage stress & learning about what it does to the body is the best way to deal with anxiety.

Countless different things can cause a person to be stressed; homework, relationships with family and friends, dating partners, and jobs are just a few. To better understand the stress and why it happens, it’s divided into two categories: acute and chronic. 

Acute stress is the most common and lasts less than two weeks. Acute stress is healthy in small amounts. Examples of factors that cause acute stress include homework assignments, tests, stage fright, learning how to drive, and more. 

Because of the human fight-or-flight response, episodes of acute stress allow people to use more parts of their brain and improve their overall physical health. 

Chronic stress is less common and lasts longer than two weeks. Examples of factors that could cause chronic stress include, but are not limited to, the loss of a loved one, financial issues, divorce, or even disabilities such as arthritis or scoliosis. 

Chronic stress is harmful. Chronic stress keeps one’s heart rate and blood pressure elevated and compromises their immune system, which leaves one at higher risk for communicable diseases, cancer, and heart disease.

Stress manifests itself in many ways. In Highlands High School (HHS), “school” was deemed the most common stress factor among students, with future planning coming in a close second. Overall, grades, AP classes, English classes, and language classes were found to be the most common stress factors at HHS.

However, when focusing on freshmen, about 60% said that physics was their most stressful class. More than half of the people who said science was their most stressful class were students taking physics. 

Other than this, about 73% of students who said that future planning was the most stressful thing in their life were either freshmen or seniors.

Other than stress itself, the biggest issue that Highlands students are facing is not knowing how to deal with stress. It was found that 55% of students either did not know how to cope with stress or were using unhealthy coping habits such as stress eating or self-isolation.

Luckily, Highlands has an amazing team of counselors who are always ready to help. The counselors are highly educated in stress, and all know proper stress management and coping mechanisms that can help students going through high-stress situations. 

The counseling team has a variety of different stress-management techniques they recommend to students. There are multiple categories of stress management techniques. The most common and recommended of these include grounding techniques, emotion-focused coping, and support-seeking. 

The most common stress-management skills are grounding exercises, and include breathing/meditation techniques, as well as the “five, four, three, two, one” exercise. When using this type of technique, stressed people are asked to focus on their environment instead of on what is stressing them out.

The first of these are breathing techniques and meditation. Breathing and meditation allow stressed people to focus on themselves and their breathing. Apps like “Headspace” and “Inscape” can often assist with this type of stress management. 

Another grounding technique that the counselors highly recommend is known as the “five, four, three, two, one” technique, and is oftentimes the most helpful for someone having a panic attack. The “five, four, three, two, one” method is composed of five steps:

  1. Name 5 things you can see
  2. Name 4 things you can feel
  3. Name 3 things you can hear
  4. Name 2 things you can smell
  5. Name 1 thing you can taste

Emotion-focused techniques are things that allow stressed people to focus on how their stress is affecting them. Emotion-focused coping mechanisms include journaling, writing, and using resources such as a mood tracker. Emotion-focused coping mechanisms also focus on what they can and cannot control in their situation. 

Support-seeking, also known as “social coping”, is dealing with stress through the help of other people. This can include going to a therapist or school counselor, talking to a friend, or even joining an online counseling group.