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Spring is often the hardest for local students.  This is why
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Spring is often the hardest for local students. This is why

LIVINGSTON COUNTY – Local counselors often find that spring is stressful for high school and college students.

Between final exams, graduation, and sudden changes, May and June bring a sense of excitement, uncertainty, and anxiety. Fortunately, local counselors and their institutions suggest several ways students can cope and thrive.

Cleary University recently hosted a De-Stress Fest for students during finals week. The event included a volleyball match between staff and students, a yoga class and an outdoor bonfire.

“(We wanted) to provide an opportunity for connection among students, giving them a sense of belonging and intentional presence with themselves and their peers during difficult times,” said Andrew Chamberlin, a licensed professional counselor and adjunct professor at Cleary .

Activities like De-Stress Week allow students to experience peace and balance, Chamberlain said.

“It can be challenging for the brain to organize the data it processes during stressful times. This is essential for focus… and the energy students need to succeed academically during the tough finals week.”

Brighton High School counselor Jeff Miner says the end of each quarter or semester, plus the last few weeks before the December break, are among the most stressful times for high school students.

One of the most important ways students can manage that stress is to get as close to nine hours of sleep as possible, a goal often complicated by busy schedules and countless obligations.

“It’s a problem for students who don’t go to bed until 1 a.m.,” Miner said. “That’s about the most important thing students can do to reduce their stress.”

Miner said it is also important for students to maintain perspective on their daily activities and stress. As younger people, students often find it difficult to remember that good days can be followed by bad days and vice versa.

“It’s part of life,” Miner said. “We often talk (with students) about how when you’re having a bad day, understand that not every day is going to be like that.”

Semester finals create different types of stress for students, depending on their previous academic performance, future goals and individual personalities, said Theresa Marcum, counselor and department chair at Howell High School.

“Some students worry about how their grades may be a reflection of them (as a person),” Marcum said. She added that some Howell teachers offer semester-end projects as an alternative to tests, which may be better suited to students. “There are other ways to demonstrate mastery of a subject (beyond) memorization.”

Chamberlin emphasized the power of self-awareness and invited students to recognize the signs of stress, learn the practice of connection and become aware of distractions that can impact their academic lives.

“Our students manage so much from a mental and emotional standpoint throughout the school year,” Chamberlin said. “Healthy eating, adequate sleep, and social and relationship habits fuel the brain that wants to control our experiences.”

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Miner believes that students who plan ahead and feel better prepared for their end-of-semester exams will naturally feel less anxious and worried.

There are practical ways students can prepare for busy times in their lives, Marcum says. She often suggests they create a “to-do” list to help organize priorities and gain a sense of accomplishment when a task is completed.

Many students could also benefit from more direct communication and interaction with their teachers, parents, or other adults in their lives, something that is difficult in the age of social media and texting. Either way, meeting with a school counselor can help, Marcum said.

“Good supervisors see students as individuals and do not treat every student the same way,” says Marcum. “Verbal communication goes a long way.”

— M. Alan Scott is a freelance writer for The Livingston Daily. Contact the editors at [email protected].