Overcoming Stress in the Pandemic
by Sophia L.
Enduring the remote-learning experience took a toll on both students’ grades and their mental health. This is when the Duxbury community realized that school is not just a place to study; it was the source of their motivation, connections, and memories. Three individuals in the Duxbury High School system, a Guidance Counselor, School Counselor, and the Student Council President, were asked about how to survive and thrive as a high schooler in a pandemic.
•Ms. Bridget Mellon, Guidance Counselor at Duxbury High School
It is not uncommon for students to struggle to make a balance with assignments and club activities. Students should try to find self-care activities that work well for them. “Are there activities that bring you joy or peace, even if only for a small amount of time?” asks Mellon, “Once you find that activity or activities – make that coping strategy a vital part of your daily routine. Even 15-20 minutes a day can make a positive difference.”
One positive coping strategy is meditation. Mellon recommends headspace.com, which has a number of free resources available for meditation and mindfulness. Students can also take a walk while listening to music, write in a gratitude journal, try mindful coloring, drink a cup of tea, watch videos that make them laugh, yoga, exercise, or take a break from your phone and social media.
Mellon adds that it also never hurts to break things down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Students should take things one thing at a time and write things out to provide a bit of relief.
When asked about seeking medical assistance, Mellon says that many are in the same boat. If someone is struggling, it certainly does not hurt to follow up with your pediatrician as they are the best resource to support your physical health. Again, she asks that students make sure they let a trusted adult like their guidance counselor know how they are feeling.
Finally, what often goes overlooked in these academic struggles is paying attention to nutrition, hydration, and activity. “These factors absolutely play into how we feel,” said Mellon, “If we are not feeling well, we are not as well equipped to handle stressors and feelings of overwhelm.”
If any student needs support, Mellon strongly urges them to reach out to their guidance counselor or a trusted adult. They are here to listen, help, and provide support in finding resources outside of school if needed.
Some students have trouble with the amount of daily screen time. Some students struggle as they are missing the in-person connection with their peers and teachers. Some students struggle as their home environment is difficult to work in — this could be due to a loud pet, trying to focus with siblings who are distracting, not having a designated workplace that they feel comfortable in or only having a workspace that feels too comfortable.
It’s difficult to completely avoid the problem given the pandemic, but I think it is more important than ever for students to identify what coping strategies work for them and to implement those coping strategies consistently.
If you are having a hard time, please tell a trusted adult in your life. The guidance department is here for support! If a student ever needs help, our hope is that they come to see us as quickly as possible so we can help them as quickly as possible.
•Ms. Mellisa Laidlaw, the Special Education Team Chair for DHS
There are several ways to alleviate the stress that require very little time or even effort, Laidlaw said, such as taking a few minutes each morning even before you get out of bed to take several deep breaths and think of some positive things that will improve your mood and possibly remind you of what you are grateful for and what you can look forward to in the day ahead. This could include anticipating time with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors, planning a fun activity, etc. This technique can be used at any time of the day to reframe your mindset to look towards something positive. Other possible strategies that are effective for minimizing stress are stretching deep breathing techniques, mindfulness strategies (Calm.com is a great free resource), meditation, talking to friends, talking to your guidance counselor or school psychologist or any trusted friend or adult, watching a silly video, listening to music or podcasts, spending time with animals, reading, art/crafts, exercise, watching tv/movies, things that you find fun and relaxing.
If you are feeling especially overwhelmed at school, reach out to your teachers and guidance
counselor who are trained and want to help. Consider your involvement in extracurriculars/
jobs/ volunteer work- are you overcommitting yourself to too many responsibilities? Do you feel
comfortable cutting back in order to have some more time to relax? Give yourself permission to
do what is best for your own individual health and well-being.
When asked if social media is a good platform for communication, Laidlaw states that it is unique to the individual. What is fine for one person may be too much for another. She thinks it’s important to recognize patterns of our own behavior to identify when something (any
habit) could become problematic. If someone feels the need to constantly be checking social
media and seeking feedback or validation from other people, then that could become an
unhealthy habit. If you find that you are relying too heavily on onlyvirtual interactions then you may want to consider the benefits of in-person communication and seek out safe social opportunities at school or within the community. “There were many creative options last summer,” she said, “like the return of drive-in movies, where kids could safely get together and connect in person.”
There are many ways to stay connected both in person and online. In addition to Facetime
and texting, maybe consider exploring zoom online games for a game night or playing other
online interactive games (my daughter loves Roblox), or spending time in person together
outdoors now that the weather has been nice, and making engaging in safe, socially distant
activities a priority to maintain friendships. It’s important to remember that everyone has had
“When considering overall physical, social, emotional, and mental health, be gentle with yourself,” Laidlaw said, “this has been a challenging and unprecedented time for absolutely everyone regardless of age, health, socioeconomic status, career, etc. Be kind to yourself, take time for self-care, check in on friends, reach out for support if you feel overwhelmed or alone, try to stay hopeful, and be assured that eventually, this will end. Know that you are stronger for having gone through this challenge, and you have been building resilience that will be a valuable trait to help you face adversity in the future.”
•Carly M, Student Council President
Carly M is currently a senior at Duxbury High School. She is the president of Duxbury High School’s Student Council and will graduate second in her class this spring.
When asked about balancing homework and club activities, Carly said that was something she struggled within the first year in high school. One measure she took was preventing overbooking from happening. She often reserved the time from 3 pm to 5 pm for meeting friends, going to student council meetings, and planning stuff along those lines. She took the time for extracurriculars and homework after those hours.
For scheduling, she used the agendas during freshman, sophomore, and half her junior year and said that was helpful. She would block out each block when it was done and have a place to write everything down. Then during the switch to virtual classes during the pandemic she used the online calendar that was very helpful to figure out when to do homework. Now she uses Google Docs and links all the zoom links for classes just like the blocks of all homework.
On setting routines, Carly said to not overbook yourself and try to prioritize your mental health whenever you get the chance to. She tried to do yoga or meditations to de-stress when she had time. “Focus on having a good relationship with others,” said Carly. “That way if you ever are in the pinch that you need help with a class or feel overwhelmed, you can turn to someone to talk to and you’d look for someone who could help.” Her personal goal for sleep is 7 hours, and she generally gets 5 or 6.
When asked about the tendency to skip breakfast, Carly admits being one of them. While driving to school, she would eat a bagel she made before on the way. She also gets to school early around 7:15 and sits in the parking lot to eat. Especially on Wednesdays, she said, now that students have to stay until 1:10 (without lunch) it’s a good way to start a day by eating breakfast.
Regarding exercise, McDermott doesn’t play team sports anymore but does a lot of Yoga at home which she has found beneficial for de-stressing. She also loves to walk her dog. It’s a good way to get out and be active, and she can spend time with her family if she goes out with them.
Carly is asked about socializing during the pandemic, and if social media is helpful. “It’s a lot easier now definitely,” she said, “We get the class conversations going and talk to teachers if you need help. But I used to do it through emails and if I needed help I would go to the office hours and receive one-on-one instructions with teachers. Then I asked for family, friends by texting, FaceTime, Instagram, and social media, even though sometimes it could carry negative connotations and self-imaging. They’ve been beneficial. I also use Zoom for family gatherings.”
The most challenging in this year for Carly would be the college admissions and application. She also adds trying to get back to routines like continuing to find motivation to do school work, and working hard even if you are at home.
All of these interviewees emphasize reaching out to others. They are all aware of the struggles of the pandemic and are equipped with coping strategies as well. In the end, they state that mental and physical health is a priority, and taking care of yourself should come first.