By Sean Alexander

It’s normal for all students to feel acute stress at times. Even the most resilient children will likely feel nervous or overtaxed while studying for a big exam or juggling homework with demanding extracurricular activities. But your child may need help if they experience chronic stress or extreme anxiety that affects their academic performance and mental health. Read on to discover common causes of student stress and ways to help.


Ideally, all students would feel confident and excited about school. However, the reality is that education makes many children and teenagers feel anxious, depressed, and frustrated. Student stress statistics paint an alarming picture. One global study found that 66% of high school students report feeling stressed about poor grades, and 55% feel high anxiety about test taking, even if they’ve thoroughly prepared.

The Effects of Stress on Student Mental Health and Academic Success

High student stress levels can seriously affect young people’s mental health. Research reveals that chronic or excessive stress can cause students to develop anxiety, behavioral problems, decreased morale, depression, irritability, and other mental health issues.

Stress can also make it difficult for students to excel academically. They may feel overwhelmed with anxiety or depression when completing homework or studying, leading to poor academic performance. Stressed students are also more prone to dropping out of school and even developing substance use issues.

Academic stress can also affect students physically. One recent study found that many students experienced elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol before taking a high-stakes exam, and cortisol increases were associated with lower test scores.

Common signs of stress to watch out for include:

  • Decreased interest in socializing
  • Excessive sleep
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate on schoolwork
  • Moodiness
  • Poor impulse control
  • Reduced motivation
  • Stomachaches

If your child is struggling to cope with unhealthy stress levels, it’s essential to identify the cause of their distress so that you can help them succeed.

The 5 Most Common Causes of High Stress Levels in Students

The source of stress can differ for each school student, and many people feel pressure from multiple directions. For instance, a student may simultaneously feel exhausted by a lack of sleep, have poor study skills, and worry about disappointing their parents. As the number of stressors increases, the student’s ability to effectively manage their levels of stress may diminish, leading to a destructive cycle. Here are five common causes of stress that many students face.

    Insufficient Sleep

    Many young people suffer from a chronic lack of sleep. One recent study found that 34.9% of children aged 4 months to 17 years got less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age group. According to the survey, Black children experienced the highest levels of sleep deprivation, with 50.8% of these students having less than the recommended sleep duration.

    Inadequate sleep can increase students’ stress levels and cause many issues related to academic performance, such as:

    • Behavioral problems
    • Decreased problem-solving abilities
    • Drowsiness in class
    • Higher levels of anxiety and depression
    • Increased moodiness
    • Lower creativity
    • Memory impairment
    • Reduced attention and focus

    You can improve your child’s sleep by establishing a consistent sleep schedule and removing electronic devices from the bedroom. A doctor can also help determine if your child has a sleep disorder, like insomnia or sleep apnea.

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    Heavy Workloads and Busy Schedules

    Today’s students often juggle a busy schedule filled with classes, jobs, sports, volunteering, and other responsibilities. These activities can make students more competitive for college admissions and teach valuable lessons like accountability and teamwork. However, heavy workloads also make students overbooked, stressed, and unhappy.

    Many busy students benefit from simple time management strategies, like creating a master calendar that outlines upcoming assignments and eliminating distractions while studying. But if your child continues to struggle in school no matter how efficiently they manage their time, they may need to cut back on some of their commitments so they can devote more attention to schoolwork.

    A Lack of Confidence in One's Academic Abilities

    One of the biggest challenges students experience is a lack of confidence in their academic skills. For instance, some children develop math trauma after a negative experience in class, causing them to feel self-doubt and stress when completing math homework. Other students question their ability to succeed in science, writing, and other subjects.

    You can boost your child’s academic confidence by teaching them practical test-taking skills like creating a safe study space, finding practice tests, and making studying a daily routine.

    Not Enough Relaxation Time

    Schools often place intense demands on students by piling on homework, encouraging students to join clubs or sports, and creating a competitive environment. These pressures can quickly overload students’ schedules, leaving little or no time for fun and relaxation. As a result, students may feel constantly stressed.

    Regular downtime is a crucial element of stress management for students. You can support your child by devoting at least one day a week to fun family activities, such as hiking or watching a movie. You can also encourage frequent social activities with peers, like sleepovers or trips to a local skating rink. These simple actions can help your child recharge and provide much-needed distractions from school.

    The Absence of Support

    Finally, students often feel stressed when they don’t receive adequate support from their parents or teachers. As a busy parent, you may feel too anxious or overwhelmed by family and work obligations to help your child assemble a last-minute art project or study for a quiz. However, a consistent lack of parental involvement can contribute to student stress and negatively affect academic performance.

    Taking steps to manage your parental stress can enable you to be more present in your child’s academic life. Examples of effective stress management strategies for parents include creating to-do lists, forming supportive relationships with other parents, meditating, and exercising.

    Our Tutors Can Help Support Your Child

    Excessive stress is a common and severe problem that can affect your child academically, emotionally, mentally, and physically. If your child struggles with chronic stress, you can help them address the source of their anxiety and develop healthy coping skills that allow them to succeed.

    Many stressed students also benefit from working one-on-one with a compassionate tutor. The math and physics experts at Alexander Tutoring can help your child learn effective study habits and overcome anxiety about challenging school subjects. Contact us today to learn how our online tutors can help your student succeed.


    • 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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    Download our Ultimate Guide
    to Conquering Test Anxiety
    Years of research have led to this proven guide to solving students’ most common problem

    Test Anxiety Lead Magnet

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