Happens to the Stressed of Us


Junior Kaden Ross (pictured above) competes in three sports, track, football, and basketball, with work and FCA on the side. “When you’re in activities the homework all adds up, and when I get home from practice, the last thing I want to do is stay up late doing homework,” Ross said. “Activities help me take my mind off of all the work.” Photo by Thomas Hoatson

Clay Stone, Managing Editor

After a long day of school, followed by an exhausting practice, you’re ready to go straight to bed. Until you remember that you have a test you haven’t studied for, homework from two other classes and your other activity has practice early tomorrow morning. Does some of this sound familiar to you? Chances are, it probably does. The North Platte Bulldogger surveyed NPHS students and out of the 190 that responded, over three-fourths said they had homework three or more days a week, and it causes them stress. Even with this imposing workload, 85.8 percent of these students take on activities on the side. Are there benefits to adding to this already complicated schedule?

Junior Natalie Miller is involved in eight activities right now between work, dive, dance, and the musical. “It’s sort of like a give and take, I can either go to one or the other,” said Miller. She says the benefit is to just be involved, “I just like to try new things, to get out there and get the whole high school experience.” Miller also thinks that a few of her activities are forced upon her. “There’s definitely a few things that my parents make me do that I wouldn’t do if it was my choice,” She said. For high schoolers, between the set schedules, parent pressure, and peer pressure, it’s hard to change activities that cause extra stress. If changing the activity isn’t an option, then the question to ask is: How can stress be beaten back?

To find the best way to handle stress, it’s best to understand what stress is. When you get really nervous before a speech, a game, or a date, then you actually trick your body into “fight or flight mode.” If you’ve ever watched an intense action movie then you probably are familiar with it. Your palms start sweating, your heart pounds in your chest, your breath comes in short, raspy breaths, your whole world reduces to a tunnel vision. Cornerstone Counseling Therapist Karen Muller explained science behind these fight or flight signs.

“Cortisol is a chemical, released when you stress that tells your body to shut down secondary functions,” said Mueller. One of those secondary functions is digestion. “Say if you’re running from a dog, your body won’t focus on digesting because it’s not so important. That’s what makes the ‘butterflies’ in your stomach,” she said. Rapid heart rate and raspy breaths go hand in hand because if you don’t get enough air into your body, then your body is going to have to pump quicker to give you more oxygen.
Once your body gets into this mindset, it’s hard to reverse it. Your instincts take control and all your bodily functions can only focus on safety. Well, all of them but one. “You start to breathe shorter and more shallow breaths, but your lungs are one part you can still control,” said Mueller. She said that you should focus on inhaling and exhaling to counts of four or five. “Once you get your breath under control, you are also focusing your brain,” Mueller said. “One by one, all of your senses are going to go back to normal.”

If you’re one of the three-fourths of students stressed by your school work, deep breaths are only one of the ways calm yourself down. Another way to help relax is exercise, it burns off the extra adrenaline that is created by your tunnel vision experience. This can look like competing hard in a sport or just a taking a daily walk around the block, exercise is a great way to clear your head and cleanse your body of the tension that you experience after a stressful day or event.

If all exercise seems like torture to you, sleep can also help with stress level a little bit. According to WebMD, when you enter a level of deep sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movements), your body is able to process and store information that your mind has gathered during the day. “Avoiding stress is about quieting your mindset, focusing on something that’s right there, and not worrying about the future,” Muller said.