Top 5 Signs of a Stressed-Out Student

As testing season for AP®s and finals approaches, it is normal for students to feel some degree of academic pressure. However, students this year have the added burden of negotiating pandemic-related changes, upheaval, and learning loss. In fact, the surgeon general has called the impact of the pandemic on youth mental health “devastating,” and the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with two other leading organizations, has declared the issue of child and youth mental health “a national emergency.”

Surveys of parents only support this characterization. A recent Mott Poll, conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, measured the impact of the pandemic on five specific areas:

1. Anxiety
2. Depression
3. Sleep Issues
4. Withdrawing from family
5. Aggressive behavior

The findings showed that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys experienced “new or worsening anxiety” since the start of the pandemic. Nearly half of parents reported a “new or worsening mental health condition.” 1 in 4 parents found their child’s mental health condition concerning enough to seek help from a mental health provider.

The terminology used in the Mott Poll is familiar to most teens and parents. Words like “anxiety” and “depression” are part of the culture and often get used without particular significance. However, it is important to note that these terms can describe a range of emotions and resulting behaviors. “Anxiety” can simply describe a feeling of worry or “nerves.” But it can also be expressed through social disorders, self-consciousness, obsessive compulsive behaviors, or perfectionist tendencies. A significant component of anxiety is its capacity to cause or reinforce self-doubt.

“Depression”  is another familiar term. Students often say “I’m depressed” to describe a feeling of sadness or lack of interest. But depression can also be expressed through absent-mindedness, lack of energy, lack of effort, and tardiness.

The next three items on the Mott Poll (sleep issues, withdrawing from family, aggressive behavior) may be outward manifestations of anxiety and depression, or they may be symptomatic of other mental health disorders.

It is important for parents and educators to recognize the scope of student mental health issues as a national problem, as well as look out for the signs of declining mental health in their own students. This is particularly important as we approach the high-stress, high-stakes testing season in which students prepare for their AP tests and finals. 

Parents can help their students by providing emotional support through sympathy and encouragement or finding professional help when needed. In addition, there are practical ways in which parents and educators can mitigate test-specific anxieties. One of the innovations that FLEX has implemented across California school districts (and available to FLEX students) is through its FLEXT program, an after-hours text-based tutoring platform that gives students access to trusted instructors during those weekend or late night hours when they feel most alone. 

Such simple solutions can often have a big impact on a student’s sense of resilience and self-esteem. In light of the fact that mental health issues such as depression often start off small but can escalate, it is all the more important for students to have convenient and efficient access to help.

For more information on strategies for alleviating academic stress and enabling student achievement look for the next Blog post and click here for more information about FLEXT.

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