Stress Management and Coping Strategies for Secondary School Students

Stress management for students can play a vital role in helping achieve one’s potential as a learner and maximising academic results. There are three main steps in managing stress for secondary school students.

1) Identify the stressor

Some examples of things that young people may find stressful during their V.C.E years:

  • School (exams, assignments, teachers)
  • Career choices (pressure)
  • Time-management
  • Extra-curricular activities (part-time job, sport)
  • Body image/health (including mental health problems)
  • Friends/relationships
  • Family
  • Identity


2) Recognise warning signs

Stress or feelings of being overwhelmed may manifest in a variety of ways, including:

  • Marked differences in mood – angry or demanding, restless, sad, nervousness and/or apprehension
  • Changes in energy levels – tired all of the time, unable to get out of bed
  • Physical complaints – stomach ache, headache, nauseous, light headed/dizzy
  • Poor concentration, memory, organisation or planning skills
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities/hobbies
  • Reduced school performance
  • Confused or scattered
  • Changes in social circle/socializing – new friends, going out more, staying out later, going out less
  • Changes in appearance – lose/gain weight, dramatic changes in hairstyle/piercings, dramatic changes in dress sense


3) Identify ways to cope and manage stress

  • Ensuring positive relationships with parents and caregivers – according to Child Psychology Services (2016), the best predictor of a young person’s wellbeing is their relationship with their parents. A home environment in which young people feel able to study, can relax, and can talk about things that are bothering is likely to enhance performance at school (Child Psychology Services, 2016).
  • Staying healthy – whilst students may feel overwhelmed by the thought of healthy diet and exercise on top of study, eating healthy food, exercising regularly (at least three days per week) and getting as much sleep as you need can increase productivity and help to ensure more is done each day (Beyond Blue, 2014).
  • Ensure adequate sleep – with ‘adequate’ defined as 6-8 hours of sleep per night regularly (i.e., most nights of the week). Adequate sleep strongly linked to improved functioning and wellbeing in adolescents (Cheng, Wang, & Jeng, 2006).
  • Create a study friendly environment – ensuring that the environment in which young people study is quiet, tidy and away from distractions is thought to help with concentration (Child Psychology Services, 2016). Handing over phones or any other potential distractors before studying is also thought to be helpful. Studying in bed is not helpful, as it will cease to be relaxing for actual sleep time, if it is associated with stressful activities. The same goes for eating in bed or even in the bedroom. Snack breaks are a good chance for getting up, clearing one’s mind, and talking to family or friends whilst taking a real break (Child Psychology Services, 2016).
  • Relaxation techniques – downloading a Mindfulness app (e.g., the Headspace app) and engaging in 10 minutes of relaxation/meditation per day will allow time for young people to practice self care.
  • Visiting a psychologist – if things just feel too overwhelming, a psychologist may provide additional support and comfort throughout this stressful time. To learn more about the psychologist at Deco Place click here – Psychologist at Deco Place



Beyond Blue (2014). Surviving year 12. Retrieved from:

Chen, M. Y., Wang, E. K., & Jeng, Y. J. (2006). Adequate sleep among adolescents is positively associated with health status and health-related behaviours. BMC Public Health, 6(1). 1.

Melbourne Child Psychology and School Psychology Services (2016). How to help your child survive (and even thrive) during VCE – part 3. Retrieved from: