A guide to a healthy dose of stress - by Wayne Dayata - EAPP Article

Philippine Christian Gospel School
Junquera St., Brgy. San Antonio, Cebu City, 6000 Philippines
A Guide to a Healthy Dose of Stress
for Students
As requirement for English for Academic and Professional Purposes
Second Semester – School Year 2018-2019
Wayne Matthew A. Dayata
Ms. Anie M. Paujana
January 14, 2019
Since the signing of the K+12 program into law by President Benigno Aquino III on May
15, 2013 as Republic Act 10533 (Sobel and Delgado, 2013), the country’s high school education
has been extended by two years, giving students four different strands to choose from in order to
be more equipped and prepared for college and work (GOVPH, 2018). Simultaneously, the entire
education system is also incorporating the output-based learning style where students do various
tasks from written to practical activities, giving them a more realistic learning experience
compared to the old system.
Students go to school every day mainly to learn and accommodate new information from
the teachers and resources around there, as well as to train themselves in becoming independent
and ready for greater responsibilities as they grow into adults. Moreover, American educational
philosophers and sociologists LeCompte and deMarrais also pointed out in their works that the
four major processes of schooling include “intellectual purposes such as the development of
mathematical and reading skills, political purposes such as the assimilation of immigrants,
economic purposes such as job preparation; and social purposes such as the development of social
and moral responsibility” (Stemler, 2012, para. 5).
This information makes students think that school is a conducive place for students to
prepare for all the above goals and fulfill the purpose of education. However, with the increasing
standards and levels of demand for outputs from the teachers and students to cope with, this kind
of education itself is becoming an issue not only to the ones teaching or giving, but also to the ones
receiving it.
The purpose of school works and the issue arisen
Learning does not only take place in classrooms where teachers discuss their lessons to
students at their seats throughout the day. At times, assignments may be given to the students to
work at home for the core purpose of increasing their practical skills and other different qualities
such as creativity and critical thinking, especially for those that require practice such as Math,
Science, and even Language subjects. Assignments are also helpful for students in experimenting
for and discovering new possibilities and preparing them for various exams and future occupations
(Importance of Assignments at the School and College Level, 2014).
However, it is now evident that most of the high school students are struggling with the
heavy load of assignments, projects and school works being given to them, making them unable
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to fully experience the perks of education in an enjoyable way but by suffering the uneasy way.
Worse, some students may even consider breaking down their interests and hobbies by not doing
them, or even their relationships with families, friends, and relatives, just for compensating for the
time needed to complete their outputs by isolating in their rooms during the entire night.
A recently conducted survey by the Senior High School students of Philippine Christian
Gospel School showed that at least 85 percent of their Senior High School students experienced
significant changes in their behaviors physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally as they faced
increased amounts of workload most of the time with a limited period of time allotted that cost
them such changes in their activities mentioned earlier. Moreover, their class attendance sheets
also indicate several absences of some students due to sickness or the acquisition of time for the
completion of their projects.
These changes are often known as stress, one of the most overlooked and underappreciated
issues in modern life. It is everything that a person feels as the result of how the body reacts to
various internal or external demands (Hansen, 2014), with each student responding in a different
way even if they are facing identical concerns. This means that having these ignored or dismissed
is wrong for any student or faculty member to do so, for others are not experiencing the same
amount of stress.
The causes of stress
The leading cause of stress, as widely known by most students and their parents, is that
they continuously face large amounts of school works that consumed their energy and their
personal time, making their body work harder than usual. However, the issue does not stop there:
some of the students have their personal challenges in life, which add up the levels of stress by the
increase of their responsibilities that make the effects more devastating on them. These causes
include being alone unsupported by anyone within the family either by distance or by issues in
their relationship. Common problems in school like bullying, constant nuisance in classrooms, and
labels by teachers for any particular reason (YoungMindsUk, 2017) should not be ignored in this
list, for all of these may disrupt the learning process and efficiency of the students. Those forces
make them harder to deal with their tasks due to the constant discouragement and isolation they
are experiencing everywhere in their lives.
Although it is essential for students to possess some stress to produce training adaptions,
learn new information, and do works that require high levels of creativity, many students are no
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longer having that healthy dose of stress. These are the kinds of stress that humans are designed to
manage through, but it eventually becomes a disease if it becomes heavy and persistent (Asprey,
2012), and left ignored despite the arise of the symptoms, which is now happening around the
school and the community.
The effects of stress
The effects of stress can be massive that students could feel them in four varieties. First,
the cognitive symptoms include having memory problems, poor judgment, constant anxiety, and
lack of concentration in class and at home. Second, the emotional symptoms include having
shortened temper, sense of loneliness, rapid moodiness, and relaxation issues. Third, the physical
symptoms include having digestive disorders, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, aches and pains, frequent
colds, and dizziness. Lastly, the behavioral symptoms include having the desire to either eat more
or less food than usual during meals and sleeping too much or too little every day (Aspery, 2012).
According to a study by Carleton University, a college institution in Japan, the following
are the clear signs that may alert people about the excessive stress levels that are built up in a
certain student: observing that he or she has increased absences from class, missed assignments
and tasks, become more aggressive or emotional, participated less in class and experienced
loneliness by choice (2009). Students seen performing any of those actions should be assisted
professionally or by counselors before they enter depression, a series of traumatic experiences that
affects that student emotionally and many parts of the body a level deeper than those caused by
In addition to that, some students may have the desire to consume psychotropic drugs and
alcohol as a getaway from those issues, as Addiction Resource (2018) noted that the rate of abuse
of drugs and alcohol by college students worldwide rose from 34% in 2006 to 43% as of 2016.
These are clearly not the right choices those students made, however, it is the emotions that drive
them into this path of substance addiction.
Initial steps in coping with stress
To resolve those issues in mind and establish better capacities for a student, the first step
and perhaps the hardest among all steps in managing one’s stress is to recognize, detect, and accept
that it is occurring in his or her body. Here, one must give extra attention to the fact that once his
or her body becomes conditioned to respond in a certain way, it will be harder for the person to
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change that response (Asprey, 2012) or to apply any of the succeeding steps discussed in the
remainder of the article.
Next, it is essential to seek help from trusted friends and people. Voicing out to others is a
need for them to be aware of one’s situation so that they may comfort him or her and find ways to
calm down, meditate, and reorganize themselves together. Being in a support group is always
better than working alone as there are more minds working together, making the sharing of ideas
and insights possible towards one another. One may discuss and adjust his or her goals in life as
they might be too much for the person to handle, causing the pressure that erupted the stress levels
in him or her.
Then, as students know that the more negative thoughts they keep in their mind, the more
devastated and discouraged they feel in their lives. The remedy to a negative situation should be
in a positive way. So be passionate and always keep things in perspective, for having a positive
attitude not only does give a sense of hope and determination; but approaching things from a
different perspective also leads to the discovery of the other parts of the issue, the helpful solution
and the lesson behind it.
For instance, the stress of dealing with groupmates who do not contribute properly can be
reframed into a positive learning experience for all the members, which can be done by treating
the issue in a good way through being patient and giving step-by-step motivational advice. By
handling issues that way, it encourages each member of the group to aim for better output and not
giving up on themselves until everything succeeds.
Lifestyle changes are needed
After that, he or she should now consider making changes to his or her lifestyle, from
having a healthy diet and regular exercise to gaining enough rest and sleep, and none of those
components should be ignored. There may be nutrients that the body is missing that keeps the
student from focusing on their tasks. For instance, a person deficient in iron leads to Anemia, a
disorder that weakens his or her learning abilities; while a person deficient in Vitamin B12 makes
him or her easily tired, and therefore loses focus and concentration in life. Hansen (2014)
mentioned in her article that both caffeine and sugar offer temporary solutions towards stress, but
when repeatedly used, it may lead to poor sleeping habits and increased fatigue, being a few of the
negative long-term effects of those substances in the body.
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Even when a person gets stressed, a balanced diet containing the adequate amount of each
macronutrient (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and water) as well as the micronutrients (vitamins
and minerals) should still be observed throughout his or her meals; that is because they are all
necessary in stabilizing his or her emotions and optimizing energy levels that allow him or her to
continue working. Food supplements are not the best alternatives for they sometimes oversupply
a person with a particular substance and making him or her forget the others to balance the diet.
The next component of a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a regular exercise. There is no
specific plan as to how long should a person exercise at a certain period and how many times
should it be repeated within the day; for as long as the person does it consistently without tiring
his or her body. This makes the person physically active as that energized body effectively helps
him or her in responding to things quickly and have a better presence of mind every time he or she
goes back to work.
The principle of adaptation in exercise (as cited from Gaal, 2012) stated that “over time the
body becomes accustomed to exercising at a given level; this adaptation results in improved
efficiency, less effort and less muscle breakdown at that level” (para. 6). Therefore, for the body
to cater new capabilities at work, he or she should gradually increase the duration and intensity of
the workout; also, the principle of overload warns people that any heavy exercise adapted too soon
risks injury without the person mastering the lighter and shorter attempts of the workouts before
It is a good idea for people to exercise in groups rather than doing it alone, for aside from
being able to socialize with people, each member can increase his or her morale as they easily feel
protected and motivated together as a group. Researches from the American Osteopathic
Association (2017) have determined that group exercise participants showed significant
improvements in various life measures (12.6% mentally, 24.8% physically, and 26% emotionally).
Moreover, they also reported a notable 26.2 percent decrease in perceived stress levels after the
The last component of a healthy lifestyle is gaining enough hours of sleep and rest. With
the increasing demands of studying and project submissions, and with the possible temptation to
stare at their phones or gadgets at night, many students get far fewer amounts of sleep than they
should. Sleep should not be neglected in the lives if students for it possess several essential
benefits: John Peever and Brian Murray (2015) , directors of the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory
at the University of Toronto and sleep laboratory at the Sunnybrook Health Center respectively,
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said that sleeping “reenergizes the body’s cells, clear waste from the brain, and support learning
and memory” (para. 2). It is also responsible in regulating mood, appetite, and sexual desires.
The way chronic stress affects one’s sleep is that when he or she experienced physical,
psychological, real or imagined threats, the body’s hormonal stress response triggers, leading to
the release of cortisol in the endocrine system, a hormone that enables him or her to either face or
run from a present danger (also known as the “fight or flight” response). This could last for a long
period that keeps the person from sleeping well; whereas a healthy stress response follows these
steps but follows by a rapid decrease in cortisol right after the stressful event has occurred, bringing
the body back to its normal resting state (Scott, 2018). These responses are controlled by negative
feedback loops directed by the pituitary and adrenal glands of the endocrine system.
To prevent this poorer quality and shorter duration of sleep, a student may do some
strategies and activities that reduce emotional avoidance like having quiet times and regular
devotions; also, avoid activities that are energetic, emotional, or brain-stimulating right before
bedtime. Furthermore, he or she should make sure to put away his or her phones and other gadgets
away from his or her area such that he or she will not be distracted by the ringtones or have the
temptation to check for notifications at midnight to prevent unnecessary stressors for the body.
Applying these changes every night often lower stress hormones and can help him or her sleep
more easily and soundly.
Relieving stress on the spot
One way to take some rests at the middle of a student’s working time especially when he
or she feels uncomfortable or tense is to perform the Pranayama Yoga Breathing, a series of
breathing maneuvers that could easily calm him or her down during tough situations. As the
inventor of the technique Hatha Yoga Pradipika (As cited from Asprey, 2012) noted that the
breathing rate affects the steadiness of the mind, she suggested that people should learn how to
breathe with proper control for the mind to follow through the breathing pace and absorb the
oxygen as naturally and relaxingly as possible.
Instead of forcibly sucking in air using the intercoastal muscles of the chest (known as high
breathing), one shall breathe into his or stomach and with his or her diaphragm (known as low
breathing or belly breathing) (Asprey, 2012). The best timings for that is breathing into the
diaphragm through the back of the throat for four seconds, then followed by holding the breath for
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another four seconds, exhaling for six seconds, and finally pausing for two or more seconds before
beginning a new cycle.
This technique is proven to be useful for many students that they can calm their minds in
just moments after they have performed those steps, although this will be especially hard for first
timers as they are not used to holding long breaths at a time.
Time management – an essential skill to develop
For the last and the most important step in relieving long-term stresses, the person should
improve his or her time management skills regardless of the items that are tasked to do. This is a
skill that majority of the students overlooked at but are not conscious of doing so.
Procrastination is getting occurrent among students that they fail to take their tasks
seriously and end up give low-quality outputs due to pressures with time. This is not what school
works or even education itself is designed for, since these behaviors do not just stress students
unreasonably, but they also break their learning opportunities by not doing their works step by step
with precise reviews and adjustments prior to submission. Furthermore, the more a student
procrastinates even before exams, the more likely they will forget the entire lesson, finishing what
they need to do just for the sake of being able to answer the exam. These students often perform
their tasks for the sake of complying his or her projects instead of focusing on where those works
could bring him or her to in the future.
It is highlighted in the article Importance of Assignments at the School and College Level
(2014) that the purpose of students receiving multiple assignments at a time is for them to be
trained to be better time managers. This way students can learn to make and manage their schedules
well, as well as to prioritize their tasks to have everything done and submitted promptly.
As students grow up, the more responsibilities they will be facing in life, and their tasks
will gradually get harder as the workload increases every time students advance by a grade level.
These hardworking and serious qualities are what companies are looking for in jobs, not the ones
putting their efforts in minimum. Even in business management, having long-term patience and
perseverance is required for everything to be properly sustained, and procrastination just destroys
them all in any moment that he or she would not expect to occur.
Balancing health, work and social life
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Life is meant to be fulfilled with challenges, at home, in school, or wherever students go
and are in. School works, although being one of the areas where most people develop the highest
levels of stress at, is just one out of the three components one should balance in life, and the other
two being health and social life. Students should not treat education or work solely in such a way
they discard their health maintenance and relationships with their family and friends. Education is
not designed for stressing the minds and bodies of students; instead, it is designed for students to
make wiser decisions and make the most out of every minute of their lives.
Students should keep in mind that not all stresses are bad for them, and they are needed for
them to reach new and capabilities as they face heavier tasks as they grow up. There is no point of
perfection, as the failures they committed are to be considered the best turning points towards
success, only when students treat them positively and not in a stressful way that ruins their
relationships others and their health. Students should treat unexpected situations as a real-life
opportunity to apply whatever they have learned in their lives; accept every possible outcome they
may fall unto; learn from the mistakes they made throughout the entire process; and most
importantly, establish methods that will improve themselves, that they will not fall into the same
trap again.
Students should remain passionate towards their works and never stop discovering and
experimenting for the perfect balance in life, so that neither time, health, energy, nor the relationships
will be put into waste; in that way the memories of their school life will be worth keeping, and they
will always be armed for anything they will face in their journeys.
Addiction Resource. (2018, August 28). Alcohol and Drug Abuse in College – Substance Addiction
Statistics. Retrieved from https://addictionresource.com/addiction/college/
American Osteopathic Association. (2017, October 30). Group exercise improves quality of life, reduces
stress far more than individual work outs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from
Asprey, D. (2012, June 14). 6 Ways to Hack Your Nervous System to Consciously Manage Stress [Web
log post]. Retrieved from https://blog.bulletproof.com/hack-stress/
Carleton University. (2009, March 31). Coping with Crisis. Retrieved from
Gaal, M. (2012, August 28). 7 Principles of Exercise and Sport Training. Retrieved from
GOVPH. (2018, September 27). The K to 12 Basic Education Program. Retrieved from
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Hansen, F. (2014, March 17). Coping with Stress at School. Retrieved from
Importance of Assignments at the School and College Level. (2015, February 04). Retrieved from
Murray, B., & Peever, J. (2015, August 15). What Happens in the Brain During Sleep? Scientific
American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-happens-in-the-brainduring-sleep1/
Scott, E. (2018, December 13) The Relationship Between Sleep and Stress. Retrieved from
Sobel, L., & Delgado, M. (2013, May 29). President Aquino Signs K-12 Program into Law. Retrieved
from http://teachforthephilippines.org/our_press/president-aquino-signs-k12-into-law/
Stemler, S. (2012, February 5). Purpose of School | Philosophical. Retrieved from
YoungMindsUk. (2017, April 13). Problems at School. Retrieved from https://youngminds.org.uk/findhelp/feelings-and-symptoms/problems-at-school/
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