Stress Less: Finding Life in All the Right Places


Your heart race quickens, a knot in your stomach forms, and an overwhelming sense of dread falls over you.  You’re stressed. According to Psychology Today, the definition of stress is the psychological perception of pressure, and the body’s response to it, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory.  Stress is a human emotion, participating on a psychological and physiological level.

Stress typically is the body’s way of motivating performance, but, as with most things in life, stress must be kept in moderation.  All Bolles academics, from regular to AP, are incredibly rigorous, and aren’t for the faint of heart. On the day to day basis, students meet slews of assignments, tests, quizzes, labs, well, the list goes on and on.  Naturally, these situations can be stressful. So, when stress becomes less of a driving force and more of a debilitating one, people need to find ways to cope with the situation at hand that is causing stress.

        Guidance Counselor Lauren Genduso, described her daily meetings with students as, “[I see students who] woke up on the wrong side of bed today, ‘I’m just not good, everything is going wrong. I just can’t handle this, can I just come here and talk to you’ or really bad, just the worst day. Sometimes I see kids on the worst day of their life.”

Genduso  explained how she tries to help students when they face obstacles that seem unbeatable, She frequently meets with students who feel overpowered by the vast amounts of stress in their lives. “[I] present the problem in a different way, present all the options and solutions that child has and kind of see which one works like trying to look through, a different perspective. Like that. Glass half full kind of way.”  

Many times, the stress we encounter creates an opaque block in our line of sight, that the stress is the only thing we have, that we cannot get around it.  The fact that worries most of us is the feeling that stress seems uncontrollable or unmanageable. Genduso says, “Sometimes you and I, everyone does this, you get stuck worrying about all these things you can’t control, and that’s exhausting because you can’t control it. [For example,] it’s like trying to control the weather for a soccer game, it’s going to rain. So, what can you?  What do you have control of? [For example,] you can’t control other people. But what you can control, maybe the way they perceive you were the way that you react to something.”

Part of what Ms. Genduso does is try to reframe a student’s perspective, hinging on the fact that stress is temporary, that it doesn’t last forever. That perspective offers really valuable insight, because stress does not need to be a dominating factor, and there are activities we can do to subdue the high amounts we face.  

To offer different ideas, I asked Ms. Genduso what she recommends.  Ms. Genduso says, “I put exercise in some way to get those endorphins going.”  She says that the exercise can be anything, from walking on the beach, to playing a sport, really anything that stimulates endorphin release, which you can tailor to your own likes and dislikes.  Aside from exercise, Ms. Genduso says, “So maybe listening to music, drawing, writing, music, reading. Journaling. Just carry a book around, journal, coloring journal. Photography. I mean, any hobby.”  Along with Ms. Genduso’s ideas, I asked juniors Yash Gulani and Christina Klassen for some as well.  

Christina Klassen described her freshman year as being a first encounter with a stressful situation, and that she adapted ways to help, saying that art is a method she likes.  She described her process, saying, “ I like to use art, particularly drawing. I’ll just get a blank sheet of paper and then I like to start off with flowers, which are really fun. And I like to draw those. And then usually I’ll just like let it flow into whatever my mind’s on, if it’s stress.  Sometimes it’ll get a little chaotic. [It] helps me get it [the stress] out.” She goes on to say, “When I start out, it’ll probably be orderly. And then, as I just let it go, it’ll look more abstract, then sometimes, I’ll put color into it and you can tell like which colors I’m feeling. It’s like a visual representation of what you’re feeling.” Klassen says that by no means do you have to be extremely talented at art to do this, that simply drawing out what you feel is therapeutic for anyone.  

However, if you’re not particularly fond of art, then you may find Yash’s ideas more appealing.  When Gulani finds that his studying gets less productive, he takes a break to watch Netflix or to workout.  He says, “I watch The Office on Netflix. It usually de-stresses me. This usually helps me. I always end the night with an episode or two.”  Even something as simple as watching a TV show to clear your mind helps to refresh and become more productive during long study sessions. In addition to this, Gulani enjoys working out and recommends it to others. He says, “I workout in the morning before school. That way I’m energized and it really clears your mind. Getting that blood circulation early in the morning, even if you’re really tired when you started, it really wakes you up.”  

The possibilities for stress management activities are endless, and can be adjusted to your schedule easily.  Whether it be taking fifteen minutes to draw or watch Netflix, simply taking that time ensures clarity of mind and overall productivity.  

While taking breaks eases the immediate feeling of stress, finishing the work which causes stress dissipates the feeling in its entirety.  According to Forbes, creating a productive atmosphere is fairly simple. Some of their recommendations include: creating to do lists, setting realistic ambitions, and constantly asking if your current activities are productive, in other words, if you are actually getting work done. Additionally, procrastination catalyzes most of the stressful situations in which we find ourselves.  

To stay productive, Klassen typically puts her phone in a separate room while she studies, and keep the room she is in relatively quiet to eliminate distractions.  Klassen describes that her drive stems from wanting to set a good example for her two younger brothers who also go to Bolles, saying, “[By] showing them I work hard and study, hopefully they’ll do that too.”

Sophomore Sophie Monahan finds she is most productive when she turns her phone off and goes somewhere where she isn’t distracted, usually her room or a Starbucks.  Monahan says, “Knowing that working hard will result in a good grade motivates me.”

Yash Gulani focuses with music, for reading he listens to a calm playlist, specifically “Reading Sounds.”  For math or physics, he listens to rap and songs in the top charts. Additionally, Gulani always stays hydrated while studying to help him focus. To motivate himself, Gulani thinks of his future at college, saying, “The idea of not getting into college usually scares me straight and keeps me motivated.”  

With these various approaches, maintaining productivity and staying motivated does not have to be as difficult as we may think.  Stress does not last forever. While the anxieties which encompass the high school experience appear detrimental or defeating at times, remember that we all have the capability to work through it.


How do I get through my exams without panic attacks?

-Definitely start studying earlier, because trying to cram won’t work. I would say spread it out a little bit. Also, I like going to teachers. I feel like they help. (Christina Klassen)

-All right, first look at your exam schedule and mark the days where you think you’re going to have the hardest exam, some are definitely harder than others. So mark those days, and then you create a study plan the weaker of the two weeks before, especially during the breaks. You have maybe two more weekends after Thanksgiving break, so definitely use those. Your advantage don’t just slack off. Also, have fun. (Yash Gulani)

What are good study tips you have?

-I like to color code things. So like, by chapter or by, like, certain themes, because that really helped me get, like, things organized. (Christina Klassen)

-If there’s a study guide given, I’ll use that first. And then if I really need more practice, going through the textbook, skim through my notes a little bit and then go online, take quizzes. Definitely take good notes in class. Pay attention in class because a lot of teachers give out answers on their tests in class. Also, do your reading every night because that’s the way you’re going to be prepared for the answers to questions in your teacher’s class. (Yash Gulani)

How do I keep track of time during an exam?

-I try to finish everything, not rushed, but get through it, finish everything first. And then I go through and look back over and fix anything I may have missed. (Christina Klassen)

-You split that up in your mind, take forty five minutes if there’s fifty multiple choice questions and then take the rest for review. (Yash Gulani)

Do I need to go to the exam review?

-If one is offered, go. For example, with Bio Honors freshman year, it was helpful because the teacher obviously knows what’s gonna be on the exam. (Christina Klassen)

-Yes, you should because a lot of teachers give out extra credit for coming, they give out answers on exam, and they let you go over your tests. (Yash Gulani)  

Bugle Blossoms Define Stress

  • The inability to feel joy until I get done what I need to get done.
  • Simmering panic.
  • The panic of realizing you have so much to do in so little time.
  • The feeling of everything needing to be done perfectly.
  • An emotional force that puts a physical pressure on you as a result of the fear of anything from failure to completing a task.
  • When your mind is filled up with too many things that you have no space for relaxing thoughts.
  • The SAT.

Apps for Stress Management


-Head Space

-Office Space

Tips and Resources

Forbes “12 Tips for Increasing Productivity”