By Sean Alexander
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The average student faces many stressful events during their academic career. Major exams often cause pre-test jitters, and a class presentation can make even the most confident student’s heart race. Learning to cope with these anxiety-inducing challenges is a normal part of every high school and college student’s development. However, you may suspect that your child is experiencing chronic or extreme student stress levels.


Six Signs of Stress to Look Out for

The symptoms of high school and college stress vary, but here are a few common signs to watch out for.

    Stress from school has many adverse effects on students’ mental well-being and physical health. Yet it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal feelings of anxiety and abnormal stress levels. Read on to discover symptoms of stress you should watch out for and learn how to relieve stress from school.

    Common Sources of Stress for Students

    Student stress statistics tell an alarming story about the mental health of American college students and high schoolers. According to a 2020 survey by Cornell University, 43% of college students reported that they couldn’t function academically for at least one week in the past eight months due to anxiety, depression, or stress. Additionally, 12.1% of the surveyed students had seriously considered attempting suicide at least once in the past eight months.

    Many high school students also experience high academic stress levels. In one international study, 66% of students aged 15 to 16 reported feeling stressed about low grades, and 37% experienced intense anxiety when studying. Female students tend to feel more stressed about school than males.

    Why is school so stressful for such a high number of students? The answer varies slightly by age group. Common causes of stress in high school students include:

    • Bullying: An estimated 20% of students aged 12 to 18 experience electronic, physical, or verbal harassment from their peers. High schoolers who get bullied may dread going to school and have trouble focusing on their classwork. They may also feel anxious and rejected, increasing their risk of suicidal behavior.
    • Family crises: Many high schoolers experience upsetting events at home that can contribute to school stress. Arguments with parents, divorce, or a death in the family can make students feel depressed or distracted, impacting their schoolwork.
    • Parental expectations: Some parents can stress their children out by pressuring them to excel academically. For example, parents may punish students for low grades or push them into taking advanced classes. As a result, high schoolers can feel overwhelmed and anxious about their school performance.
    • Transportation issues: High school students often rely on parents, siblings, or public transportation to get to school. These teens may feel frustrated or helpless if transportation issues like a late bus cause them to arrive late or miss class.

    These factors also contribute to stress in college students. However, this age group deals with additional stressors, such as:

    • Career pressure: Many college students want to get good grades to land their dream job or get into graduate school. As a result, they might obsess over their academic performance and feel intensely stressed by routine assignments.
    • Financial stress: Low income can cause strong feelings of anxiety or inadequacy, and students who need to work long hours may not have enough time or energy to study.
    • Unhealthy lifestyles: Students typically gain more independence during college, and some young adults develop harmful habits like getting inadequate sleep and drinking too much alcohol. These behaviors can negatively impact students' academic performance and physical health.

    Often, students experience several stressors at once, compounding their anxiety. For example, a student may lose access to reliable transportation after their parents’ divorce.

    Six Signs of Stress to Look Out for

    The symptoms of high school and college stress vary, but here are a few common signs to watch out for.

    1. Digestive Problems

    Many studies have highlighted the link between academic stress and gastrointestinal disorders among college students. For instance, your child may complain about a stomachache before a test or rush to the bathroom to vomit during a challenging study session. Other possible symptoms of stress-induced digestive issues include diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, and feeling full early in a meal.

    2. Sleep Disturbances

    Stressed students can get trapped in a destructive sleep-stress cycle. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 35% of teenagers had problems falling asleep due to stress in the past 30 days. Sleep deprivation leads to exhaustion and sluggishness, increasing the distress of already stressed-out students.

    3. Irritability and Mood Swings

    Anxiety and depression can directly impact a student’s mood. For example, your child may have an emotional meltdown over a simple math worksheet or get irrationally angry over a missed assignment.

    4. Increased Use of Drugs or Alcohol

    Young people who experience high levels of stress may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Research shows that college students are more likely to drink heavily after encountering multiple life stressors in a single day, like a parking ticket and failed test.

    5. Decreased Academic Performance

    Stressed students tend to have lower levels of academic achievement, which can in turn increase anxiety and depression. They’re also more likely to drop out than their non-stressed peers.

    6. Difficulty Concentrating

    Chronic stress reduces people’s ability to pay attention and make decisions, which can lead to poor academic performance.

    How to Address Signs of Extreme Stress in Students

    Anxious and overtaxed students often don’t know how to deal with school stress productively. These strategies can help your child cope with academic burdens:

    • Arrange tutoring: Many students feel stressed when they earn low grades or struggle to learn concepts. A tutor can provide personalized learning support and teach healthy study habits.
    • Practice self-care: Simple self-care practices like exercising, journaling, and exploring a museum reduce stress and improve mood.
    • Seek professional help: Many high schools and college campuses offer free mental health services. Research shows that behavioral therapy and counseling can significantly decrease academic stress.

    Reduce Your Student Stress Levels To Boost Academic Success

    Education should enrich young people’s lives, but many college and high school students suffer from chronic academic stress. Help your child learn how to deal with stress at school by scheduling a session with Alexander Tutoring. Our expert tutors will help your child develop a more positive relationship with learning and learn strategies to reduce their academic burden. Students can get convenient online tutoring in math and physics. Contact us today to schedule a free trial lesson.


    • Sean Alexander

      COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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