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Ten ways for teenagers to cope with school/uni stress

Group of students studying at university

What are you stressing about?

Getting back to study

Remember what’s worked for you in the past and make a list to remind you now. For new students, try and get into a routine that works for you and stick to it.

Choose a study place and set it up to suit you with all your study materials organised so you can easily find stuff.  When you settle down in your study place it’s much easier to get into study mode.

Not coping with the material

If you’re floundering with the material and feeling overwhelmed, identify the key areas where you’re not keeping up and either allocate more study time to those areas or ask for extra help from teachers, parents and maybe even a short period of tutoring. Sometimes peer tutoring works for short periods of time (that’s asking a fellow student who’s breezing through the stuff you’re struggling with and getting them to help out to get you on track).

Can’t get organized

Organise a schedule for the front of your diary (you can use electronic if you like but many students find seeing it set out in front of you so you can see it all at a glance works better).


  • Class/lecture/lab times
  • Deadlines for assignments
  • Test and Exam dates
  • Lecture and lab dates

Cross things off as you complete them and use different colour markers for different subjects. Write everything down in your diary/journal that you need to do like:

  • Note-taking
  • Meetings for group projects
  • Research (noting handy URL’s, references etc)

Time Management

Try not to rush, even if you are running a bit late. This doesn’t get you there all that much sooner and really stresses you out. Also, leaving early to get to class/lectures takes the pressure off.

Procrastination is a really self-destructive, stressful habit. Try the Ten Minute Promise. This is a promise you make to yourself to spend just ten minutes on ONE task. You’d be surprised what you can get done in ten minutes and how often it turns into twenty or thirty.

Give yourself a reward. Set a time management goal and reward yourself for achieving your goal.

Concentrate on your preferred outcome

If you start to feel stressed, imagine how you would prefer everything to be, visualize it with all the sensations and emotions. Really feel on top of things and satisfied with everything as if it was happening now. If this seems unrealistic, imagine how silly it would sound if you were told it was a good idea to catastrophize and visualize everything turning out bad. You wouldn’t buy that and you’d be right. So why not go for the positive outcome, You’ll feel better and you’ve got nothing to lose.

Get a good night's sleep

Your memory gets processed during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep especially emotional memory. At your age you need more sleep as your brain is still growing and you have all that information to download.

Turn your computer off 30 minuted before you go to sleep and at the same time have a big glass of milk (with Milo or similar if you like). Listen to some soft music or read a magazine for a little while until you feel sleepy. This calms your mind, the milk has a substance called Tryptophan in it that helps you sleep, and if you like you can add a herbal supplement like Valerian or Lavender Oil can also help you to relax. Get a good quality essential oil and dab it on your chest before settling down to sleep.

Practice these simple relaxation techniques

Relaxation breathing

Breathe down into your stomach and gently fill your lungs fairly quickly, then let the air out slowly. The secret is the out breath is longer than the in breath. If you like you can count in for three and out for five.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Starting with your toes and moving up your body to your scalp and face, while breathing in, tense each muscle group in your body, finally let the breath our in a big sigh and tell the muscle group to “Relax!” (e.g. “Feet – Relax!”). This is a good technique to use before going to bed.

Pay attention to your friendships

Sometimes during stressful times you feel like you can’t be bothered talking to your friends and you might feel as though having fun is not going to get you the marks you want. Lighten up! Have fun! You can still organise to get all your study done and allow for time to spend talking and mixing with your friends and having the odd night out or a trip to the movies.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or allow others to pressure you

You might have ambitions for yourself that can make you very uni-dimensional – that is you only do one thing and that’s study. Maybe it’s others who have the high expectations of you.

Wanting to achieve and to please your parents and teachers is one thing and not a bad thing, but letting it take over your life is another. If you were working and putting in a twelve hour day every day, people would say you were a recipe for burn out and had no work-life balance. Yet often that’s what we push ourselves to do when we’re studying. Take your foot off the gas pedal and pace yourself.

Know when you're not coping and get help

If you’re starting to feel stressed, deal with it straight away. Don’t let it accelerate into anxiety. There’s no shame in seeing the school counsellor or talking to the school nurse or your parents about your feelings for something so important that it could damage your health. Don’t be tempted to use alcohol, smoking or other destructive habits as a coping mechanism. They don’t help and disaster could be just around the corner.