Mental health tips for students to deal with stress


Photo courtesy of @wchsthrive.

On the second day of mental health awareness week, the Thrive Club encouraged WCHS students to leave positive chalk messages on the sidewalk.

By Jordan Pashkoff, Arts Editor

As students are well into the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year, it is important for students to check in on themselves. In-person learning is back in swing and the pressures that might have gone away as students stared into their computer cameras are back and more apparent than ever. 

WCHS is known to be academically rigorous and tough on its students. While the workload is good practice for college and life post-grad, it can all be too much and it is important to recognize that perfect grades and 100 percents are not the end all be all. With AP classes, extracurriculars and college application deadlines, the constant competition can create a toxic and high-stress environment for students. The expectation to succeed and the pressure put on students from both themselves and other figures in their life, whether it is intentional or not, can be detrimental to their well-being and mental health. 

With all of these combined, it is easy for students to feel overwhelmed or anxious. This feeling is a shared experience between many teenagers, but many do not know what to do when they encounter these feelings. As students have an increased amount of work piled onto their already busy schedules, it is important to recognize when they need a break and to make sure that they are mentally alright. Below are important reminders and tips for students to deal with stress and improve their mental health

Talk to a trusted adult or friend. 

Whether it is a teacher, a friend, a parent or a guardian, asking for help is one of the most effective ways to communicate feelings and concerns. The trusted person might have tips to combat anxiety or depression, such as breathing exercises to decrease heart rate, mediation and other destressing strategies.  

“Hands down the very first thing is to talk to someone you really trust. When teachers at WCHS  say ‘I’m a trusted adult’, not everyone is going to take up that offer and walk and start telling them everything,” Elizabeth Qui, the president of the WCHS Thrive Club, a club dedicated to spreading positivity and awareness for mental health, said. “WCHS teachers will be at least one person you can trust and talk to. I always find hope in that.”

Ask for help when it is needed and rely on supportive people. 

As embarrassing as it may seem, asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The people students surround themselves with are there to help during difficult times. If students are feeling depressed or anxious, they should not have to go through those feelings alone. Students should never feel afraid to ask for help, especially if they surround themselves with people who they feel comfortable with and can trust! 

“Asking for help early on is one way to get ahead of your problems. There was one teacher that knew I was struggling learning during virtual school but I never asked for help and those problems got worse,” Qiu said. “I think reaching out early is the best way to go. This teacher explained it as problems snowballing until the snowball gets too big.”

Do not be too hard on yourself and listen to what you need. 

Especially when it comes to school, students can be their own worst enemy. Whether it is beating themselves up about a bad test grade or making themselves feel stupid/selling themselves short, high school can be a toxic environment full of self-doubt and feelings of being not good enough. This should never be the case. Students are trying their best and that in itself should be an accomplishment they are proud of. 

“Knowing your own boundaries and limits and knowing when to say no is also incredibly important. If there are too many things going on in your life, you don’t have to explain yourself,” Qiu said. “I think so many people, especially on social media, want to look like they have the most positive and healthy life, when in reality that is not the case.”

Students need to take time for themselves when they need it. Each student knows themself the best and when everything becomes too overwhelming, it is helpful to take a step back and reflect. Taking a break might be in the form of a mental health day where the student uses the day as a break from daily stressors. Mental health days are real and important

Take advantage of resources and programs. 

Between school, counselors and the internet, there are many different ways students can get help for their mental health. 

On the Montgomery County Website, they offer certain activities and websites for students to look at such as Be Well 365, an action plan to educate students in areas of psychological, physical, and social development, and the Signs of Suicide (SOS) Prevention Program, a program dedicated to teaching students the warning signs of suicide in themselves and others around them. MCPS also made the decision to add mental health days to the list of excused absences. This is a step in the right direction for the county and shows their trying commitment to their students’ mental health. 

WCHS also has devoted time to helping the mental health of students. The week of Nov. 8 was mental health awareness week. During lunch, the school offered activities and a wellness fair to the students including interacting with therapy dogs, guided meditation, chair yoga, sidewalk chalk and more. Students were also asked to wear lime green to raise awareness and break the stigma of mental health. This is another example of WCHS attempting to raise awareness for mental health and show their students they cared about. The WCHS Thrive club helped pass green ribbons for mental health awareness to all 2,000+ students and stickers at the Wellness Fair. 

As for general mental health resources, there are hotlines and programs dedicated to helping anyone through navigating their mental health and supporting anyone dealing with intrusive feelings:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

During an incredibly stressful time, it is important to remember, especially for students, that they are enough, things like grades and academic success do not determine self-worth and being in a good mental state where they are happy with themselves and with their life is the most important thing.