5 Forms of Self-Care for Overwhelmed Students

Student Wellness
February 3, 2020
Self-Care For Students Should Go Beyond Bath Bombs And Motivational Locker Posters…

However, with increasingly stressful and busy lives, that’s the first bit of advice that many of us turn to when the world around us feels like it’s falling apart. Unfortunately, solving the inner turmoil that comes with growing up and gaining responsibilities isn’t as easy as slapping a “boss babe” sticker on your homework folder.

Thankfully, there are ways to deal with the stress and burnout many of us face during high school. While some of these methods may not be as easy as merely ignoring your problems, it’s vital that you determine how you best deal with stress before you leave high school and head off to college.

Learning how to deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed while you’re still in high school is a key skill that will help make your college years more productive, enjoyable, and memorable.

So, let’s put down the bath bombs and get ready to find an actionable solution to high school stress!

What You’ll Find In This Article

The Many Causes Of Stress For Highschool Students

According to Pew Research, 61% of students feel “a lot of pressure” to get good grades. If you feel overwhelmed by the pressure to make and keep a high-grade point average, you’re certainly not alone.

Here’s another dose of empathy-through-statistics: a poll conducted on social media showed that nearly 45% of teens feel stressed all the time! In this poll, over 35,000 students responded and the most commonly cited sources of stress were teachers and relationships.

However, these are not the only sources of stress for high school students. While everyone has different triggers for feeling stressed and overwhelmed, many students face stress that stems from the same source. Common causes of high school stress include:

  • Academic performance
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Test preparation and taking
  • Extracurricular responsibilities
  • Societal pressure
  • Relationships
  • Senioritis

Another huge source of stress? Our “always-on” culture. While it may seem harmless to respond to every text, share every meme, and stay informed, you’re actually making a huge trade-off. Our brains need time to rest and recharge. If you go too long without giving your brain the opportunity to unwind, you’ll start to feel the nastier effects of stress.

How Stress Affects You

Unfortunately, while the human brain is wonderful at many different things, multitasking is not one of them. Our brains can only truly focus on one thing at a time, and when you’re under stress, the part of your brain that gets engaged (the amygdala) is home to our survival instincts.

While this would be great if we were stressed out because we were being chased by a bear, having our amygdala fully engaged when we’re trying to study for next week’s final exams is not ideal. With this part of our brain fully engaged, the other parts responsible for helping making memories, learning, and creating can’t really be used.

This is what leads to a lack of motivation, clarity, and anxiety that regularly accompanies stress.

Stress does more than wreak havoc on our brains; our bodies can feel the effects as well. General tiredness, yet having trouble sleeping is a common sign of stress. Headaches and upset stomachs are known to happen as well. If your stress is left unaddressed for too long, these symptoms themselves can lead to long-term effects on your health.

Thankfully, there are ways to beat stress that can be turned into habits. Once you’ve made a habit of dealing with stress, when it flares up during test season or when your extended family comes to visit, you can fall back on your good habits to beat it.

How To Practice Better Self-Care In Highschool

When most people think of self-care, they think of the bubble baths and motivational posters we joked about earlier. While these can be essential tools in your self-care toolbox, taking care of your mental and physical health requires a bit more effort than settling into a hot bath with some nice music.

Below, we’ve outlined five strategies you can use, not only to destress, but to protect yourself from further stress. When you practice self-care regularly, you’ll start to notice the early warning signs of stress and know how to beat them back before they overwhelm you.


Sometimes, the easiest way to practice self-care is to start with your physical body. Poor health itself can cause stress, and even if you’re stressed about something else, neglecting your overall health will make it harder to unwind.

High school burnout can happen to all of us, but it’s still important to eat well and exercise. Small steps toward improving your health can make a huge difference in your stress levels. The stable energy provided by fresh fruit will last you longer than sugar-laden junk food, and a fifteen-minute walk after school every day can be a great way for your brain to decompress.

Additionally, recognize that barely sleeping isn’t a badge of honor or a sign of being busy; it’s a dangerous habit that can negatively affect your health and cause issues if not resolved before you head off to college. Study after study has shown that we need enough sleep to be able to go about our daily lives with any sort of success. Our brains use this vital downtime to recharge, make connections, and destress.

Sleep isn’t something you can skip, as this free time is essential for our mental and emotional well-being.


Especially in our “always-on” culture, our brains need a break to properly destress. Have you ever tried to just forget about something you’re stressed about, but yet your brain keeps coming back to the problem?

This is where taking a step back and allowing yourself to breathe comes into play. Take a walk with a friend, spend an afternoon reading a fun book, or try your hand at finger-painting. Your goal is to disconnect from everything causing you to feel stress in order to unwind.

Give your eyes and mind a break from the constant barrage of information on your phone, laptop, or television. Doing so gives your brain the space to work on the problems stressing you out without having to process new information. As we become an increasingly ever-connected society, the ability to take a step away from it all will serve you well going into college, where the pressure is even greater to do and see everything.

Note: The fear of missing out itself can be a source of stress, and it can make current stressors even worse. Yes, you could be worried about your grade point average, but your brain would much rather worry about that party you’d miss if you chose to study instead.


It’s nearly impossible to discuss student self-care without a touch of self-empowerment. However, the reason that so many people buy into the idea of self-encouragement and positive self-talk is that it can actually work!

Think about it this way: if your best friend constantly talked down to you, told you about all the things you “can’t do”, and questioned your fashion choices, would you still be best friends? Most of us are wonderful to our actual best friends, but our inner monologue to ourselves reads like a Mean Girls meme.

The number one way to change your narrative and ditch the negative self-talk? Focus on the things you can control, rather than the things that are out of your control.

You can’t control when your chemistry teacher is going to give a test or what will be covered, but you can control how you prepare for it. It’s completely within your power to create a study schedule that works for you; sure, you may have to give up scrolling through Instagram while you’re on the bus every day, but that’s when you learn to say “no” to yourself and the distractions that lead to burnout.


We’ve all heard about the concept of intelligence quotient (IQ) to judge how ‘smart’ we are. However, do you know what your emotional intelligence (EQ) is?

Your emotional intelligence refers to how well you’re able to handle your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. There’s no special scoring system for your EQ, and that’s partially due to the vagueness of emotions. Everyone feels differently. Not every person will have the same emotional reaction to the same event or set of circumstances.

Next time you feel the negative emotions related to stress and overwhelm, sit with them and ask yourself the following:

  • What emotion am I feeling? Is it positive or negative?
  • Where do I feel this emotion? (Common examples include feeling the heat of anger in your face)
  • What circumstance or event is making me feel this way?
  • How can I approach the circumstance in a different way?


Sometimes even our best efforts at self-care as a student can still leave us feeling stressed and overwhelmed. At these times, it’s essential to reach out for help wherever you can find it to help change your mindset.

Know a friend going through something similar? Meet up for a day off where you can both rant about your stress and come up with solutions together.

If it’s a little more serious or you’re finding that your friend’s best attempts aren’t helping enough, you should turn to trusted counselors or even a therapist to help you. A counselor or therapist won’t fix your problems, but they’ll equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to do it yourself.

As we’ve touched upon, we’re the only ones who know how our individual brains work to solve problems, process emotions, and learn new things. However, this is the same reason why it’s so beneficial to bring in outside help when you find yourself struggling.

An outsider’s perspective can shed light on new strategies, tricks, and ideas that your brain may find very useful and easy to work with!

Getting Into The Self-Care Habit Prepares You For College

It’s absolutely normal to feel stressed out during your high school years. It’s a period of rapid change where we’re all expected to grow up a little faster than we’re comfortable with. New responsibilities and expectations to meet are bound to come with a learning curve.

While you may not be able to control everything about your final years of school before you transition to college, the key thing to remember is to focus on what you can control.

One of the biggest areas where you have control as a high school student is preparing yourself for college. A great place to start is by educating yourself on your options and learning which colleges you’d like to attend (our college guides are an excellent way to get started on this!)

However, even the most motivated and well-prepared students can become overwhelmed during the college admissions process. Our WeAdmit counselors have been there before, and we know how to handle the added stress college applications bring. If you’re struggling to juggle all your high school responsibilities and the college admissions process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced team of counselors. We have the practical knowledge and the understanding of the overwhelm needed to help you find peace while still turning in your applications on time, and we want to see you succeed!

Above All, Remember To Breathe. Even When Life Seems Out Of Control, You Aren’t Alone, And There Are Actionable Steps You Can Take To Get Back On Track!



Need more Information?

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