The Importance of Mental Health in High School: Coping with Stress and Anxiety

In high school, where academic demands and personal growth intersect, prioritizing mental health becomes paramount. Clinical Educational & Developmental Psychologist Erin Galt explores the pivotal role that mental well-being plays during the high school years, sharing effective strategies for coping with the stress and anxiety students often face during this transition.

Cluey Learning Monday, 5 February 2024

The transition from primary to high school is an important milestone for young people of today. The high school years are characterised by significant life changes, and for some this can be a rocky time as they juggle the demands of their education, family and social lives, and building a sense of individual identity. At the same time, they are experiencing significant developmental changes. 

Developed through many years of working with high school students, here are my top 5 tips for coping with stress and anxiety during this important transition to high school.  

  1. Set realistic expectations: Young people will have their own expectations of themselves, and their high schooling experience as will their parents. Sometimes these expectations don’t align and create stress, pressure and confusion for young people. Keep in the present moment and allow yourself time to adjust to life in high school; maintain focus on short to medium term goals. Keeping in the present moment will help to increase a sense of control, overcome setbacks and sustain effort as you work through the early stages of high school.
  2. Take a strengths focus: Play to your strengths to support self-esteem and confidence, whilst actively seeking support in areas of challenge. This may be in the form of academic support, social support and trying your hand at different activities available.
  3. Maintain organisation and time-management: Effective organisation and time-management is an essential part of managing mental health through high school. Planning your week, your study and relaxation time helps us to create life balance and mitigates the negative impact of high stress and anxiety. The organisation and time-management skills mastered in early high school will be valuable for successfully navigating Years 11 and 12.
  4. Sustain regular self-care: Basic self-care includes good quality and quantity of sleep (average 9 hours for teens), nourishing your body and mind with a healthy diet, exercising regularly, making time for relaxation and social engagement, and limiting screen time where possible. Evidence shows that engaging in enjoyable activities or hobbies can help you achieve a sense of fulfillment and mental wellbeing.
  5. Use a proactive approach to coping: Proactive coping strategies include mindfulness practice (get the free Smiling Mind app), self-check-ins, and journaling. Research supports the benefits of talking through our concerns with a friend, family member or a professional. Talking can help to reduce feelings of overwhelm and encourage a problem-solving approach to life’s dilemmas. Ensure you seek support before your concerns get too big. 

Overall, high school can be a wonderful experience and offer opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. Ensure you’re checking in on yourself to support healthy lifestyle, engaging with your education and cocurricular pursuits, and taking a proactive approach to your mental wellness. And if you find yourself struggling, seek help from others early as there are always avenues for support. 

Erin Galt

Clinical Educational & Developmental Psychologist MAPS FCEDP 

BA(Psych), PGDip(Psych), MPsych(Ed&Dev), APS Clinical Bridging Plan 

AHPRA endorsement in clinical and educational & developmental psychology, Psychology Board of Australia-approved supervisor for psychology registration pathway students and educational & developmental psychology registrars. 

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