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Avoiding post school stress

Stress among teens today is as high as it’s ever been, but for graduates preparing for and anticipating life after high school and as moving day approaches – reality starts to set in and stress can become especially intense.

school stress

With teens reporting higher stress levels than adults in the American Psychological Association’s widely cited Stress in America survey, having some early stress smarts is advisable. Those dreams of finally getting out on your own, getting an flat or setting out on a new adventure can be exhilarating, but they also can be daunting, even scary.


“The last year of high school and the first weeks and months of living away from home can be a very stressful time,” observed Jeff Goelitz, co-author of the new book, Transforming Stress for Teens – the HeartMath Solution for Staying Cool Under Pressure.


“Whether you’re going off to college, starting a new job or doing something else, this is an especially important time to take care of your emotions,” said Goelitz, an education specialist and senior program provider at HeartMath Institute (HMI) in Northern California.


Transforming Stress for Teens is a guide for doing just that, say the authors, observing that an important aspect of limiting stress is learning what it isn’t. “Stress is not the ‘thing’ that just happened or the situation on the outside,” writes Goelitz and co-author Dr. Rollin McCraty, HMI’s director of research. “Stress is the feeling or emotion you experience inside yourself in response to the thing, that external event or situation. It’s the emotion that makes you feel lousy, not the thing itself.”


Also, McCraty explained for this article, it’s important to understand that while emotions such as anger, fear and worry can and often do lead to unhealthy stress levels, knowing what to do to manage, or self-regulate our emotions can limit the amount of stress we experience.


“You may experience some stress initially when something makes you angry, for example, but that’s not necessarily unhealthy,” he said. “It’s when we dwell on that anger for an hour or two, or longer that stress begins to adversely affect our health.”


Teens can learn a lot about reducing or avoiding excessive daily stress in their busy lives by reading the book, McCraty and Goelitz said. However, they added, taking a few minutes each day to practice any of the book’s simple techniques can lead to a lifetime of benefits.


“We conducted a well-known scientific study, the TestEdge National Demonstration Study, with almost 1,000 high school students,” McCraty said. “Specifically, we wanted to see if students who were experiencing stress-producing test anxiety could benefit from practicing these techniques.


“This was a pretty involved and intense study. One of the outcomes was text anxiety levels dropped significantly. There were other positive outcomes as well, including improved mental clarity, concentration and academic performance.”


Following are some basic stress-reducing strategies for teens preparing for or settling into life after high school, whether that’s college, uni, a new job or something else.


  1. Physical activity is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress, the American Psychological Association advised when it released the results of the teen stress survey in spring 2014.
  2. Heading off to college to live in a dorm or off campus with a roommate? Consider making contact in advance, suggests. This could be by phone, social media or, if feasible, in person.
  3. Going away to college or leaving home to take a job straight out of high school? Get some help moving into your new place. Less stress, less strain and a lot more fun.
  4. HeartMath’s Heart-Focused Breathing® Technique – Takes only a few minutes, so it’s easy to make it a daily habit. It’s especially effective before, during or after difficult situations, events, meetings, encounters, etc.


– Heart Focus. Focus your attention on your heart. Breathe a little deeper than normal, in for 5 or 6 seconds and out 5 or 6 seconds. You can place your hand over your heart to help maintain your focus there.


– Heart Breathing. Imagine you are breathing through your heart. Picture yourself slowly inhaling and exhaling through your heart.


This article was provided courtesy of the HeartMath Institute. Learn more about this nonprofit’s work, research and educational resources at


© Copyright 2016, HeartMath Institute