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Jehovah’s Witnesses

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AWAKE! SEPTEMBER 2008

 Young People Ask

How Can I Cope With Stress at School?

“Stress at school doesn’t let up when you get older—the reasons for it just change.”—James, New Zealand. *

“I felt so much pressure at school that I often felt like crying and screaming at the same time.”—Sharon, United States.

DO YOU feel that your parents just don’t understand how much stress you’re under at school? True, they might tell you that you don’t have a mortgage to pay off, a family to feed, or an employer to please. Likely, though, you feel that at school you face as much pressure as your parents do—or more.

Just getting to and from school can be stressful. “Fights often broke out on the school bus,” says Tara, who lives in the United States. “The driver would stop, and everyone would have to get off. We would all be delayed by half an hour or more.”

Does the stress let up once you arrive at school? Hardly! Perhaps you can relate to the comments below.

Teacher-induced stress.

“My teachers want me to excel and get the best grades possible, and I feel pressure to gain their approval.”—Sandra, Fiji.

“Teachers push students to excel academically, especially if the student has some ability. The teachers pour on the pressure to succeed.”—April, United States.

“Even if you have worthwhile goals for your life, some teachers make you feel like dirt if you don’t pursue the academic goals that they think you should.”—Naomi, United States.

How are you affected by teacher-induced stress?

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  Peer-induced stress.

“In high school, kids have more freedom and they’re more rebellious. If you don’t join them, they think you’re not cool.”—Kevin, United States.

“On a daily basis, I face the temptation to become involved in drinking and sex. Sometimes it’s hard to resist the desire to join in.”—Aaron, New Zealand.

“Now that I’m 12, the biggest stress for me is the pressure to date. Everyone at school says, ‘How long are you going to stay single?’”—Alexandria, United States.

“I was pressured to go out with a boy. When I refused, I was labeled a lesbian. And that was when I was just ten years old!”—Christa, Australia.

How are you affected by peer-induced stress?

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Stress over how your classmates will react to your religious beliefs.

“It’s hard telling your classmates about your religious beliefs because you’re not sure how they’ll view you afterward. You worry that they’ll think you’re odd.”—Carol, Hawaii.

“In middle school and high school, kids are into drugs, sex, and alcohol. It’s really stressful because you don’t want kids making fun of you for being different because you live by Bible standards.”—Susan, United States.

How are you affected by issues involving your religious beliefs?

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Other stress factors.

Check the one that affects you most—or write in the one that does.

  • Upcoming tests
  • Homework
  • Parents’ high expectations
  • Living up to your own high expectations
  • Bullies or sexual harassers
  • Other ․․․․․

Five Steps Toward Less Stress

Realistically, you can’t expect to make it through school without having to deal with some kind of stress. Granted, too much stress can be oppressive. Wise King Solomon wrote: “Mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) But you need not let stress drive you crazy. The key is learning how to manage stress effectively.

Coping with stress is like lifting weights—it will make you stronger, if done properly

Coping with stress is like lifting weights. To be successful, a weight lifter must prepare properly beforehand. He lifts the weights correctly and avoids lifting too much weight. If he takes such steps, he builds strong muscles without damaging his body. On the other hand, if he fails to take these steps, he can tear a muscle or even break a bone.

Similarly, you can manage the stresses that you encounter and successfully accomplish the work you need to do without causing damage to yourself. How? Take the following steps:

  1. Identify the specific causes. “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself,” states a wise proverb. (Proverbs 22:3) But you can’t conceal yourself from oppressive stress unless you first identify the most likely cause. So look back at the comments you wrote earlier. Which stress factor affects you the most?
  2. Do research. For example, if a heavy load of homework is stressing you out,  research the suggestions found in the article “Young People Ask—How Can I Find Time to Do My Homework?” published in the January 22, 2004, issue of Awake! If you feel pressured to engage in sexual misconduct with a classmate, you’ll find helpful advice in the article “Young People Ask—What if I’m Invited to ‘Hook Up’?” published in the March 2007 issue of Awake!
  3. Plan your response. If you’re stressed over how your classmates will react to learning about your religious beliefs, don’t wait until a crisis arises to think of what you’ll say or how you’ll react. (Proverbs 29:25) “What helped me to cope,” says Kelsey, 18, “was that I prepared before the situation arose. I had already decided how I was going to explain my beliefs.” Aaron, an 18-year-old in Belgium, did the same. “I thought ahead about what questions I’d face, and then I prepared answers to those questions,” he says. “If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have dared to talk about what I believe.”
  4. Don’t procrastinate. Few problems will disappear if you ignore them. Instead, they usually become worse, thus increasing your stress. For instance, if you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, identifying yourself as such as soon as possible can be a real safeguard. Marchet, now 20, says: “Right at the start of each school year, I initiated a conversation about some subject that I knew would give me a chance to explain my Bible-based standards. I found that the longer I waited to identify myself as a Witness, the harder it became. It really helped when I made my stand known and then lived up to my ideals throughout the year.”
  5. Ask for help. Even the strongest weight lifter has his limits. You do too. But you don’t have to carry the burden by yourself. (Galatians 6:2) Why not talk to your parents or other mature Christians? Show them the answers that you wrote earlier in this article. Discuss with them how they might be able to help you cope with some of these pressures. Liz, in Ireland, told her father about her fear of being ridiculed because of her religious beliefs. “Every day,” Liz says, “my dad would say a prayer with me before he dropped me off at school. It always made me feel safe.”

Good Stress?

You might find it hard to believe, but the fact that you feel some stress is actually a good thing. Why? It may be an indication that you’re diligent and that your conscience hasn’t become lazy. Note how the Bible describes an individual who seemed to feel no stress at all: “How long will you lie there doing nothing at all? When are you going to get up and stop sleeping? Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber.”Proverbs 6:9-11, Contemporary English Version.

Heidi, 16, sums up the matter well. She says, “School may seem like a really bad place, but the pressures you face there are the same ones you’ll face in the workforce.” True, coping with stress isn’t easy, but if managed properly, stress won’t harm you. In fact, it can make you a stronger person.

^ par. 3 Some names in this article have been changed.

TO THINK ABOUT

  • What symptoms might indicate that you are under stress?
  • Why would being a perfectionist only increase your stress?
  • To whom might you talk if you feel overwhelmed by stress?