Beating Student Stress: How to Stay Organized and On Track at the Busiest Time of the Year

As the weather is turning colder and the days are becoming shorter and shorter, college students are gearing up for that end of semester push. In high school, students are receiving initial feedback from teachers on their progress to date, and aiming to improve and remediate specific areas before the end of the semester. As a result, it is no secret that at this time of year, levels of stress and anxiety begin to increase for many students of all grade levels. Parents may also begin to notice increased tension at home, as they are busy preparing for the holidays ahead and other important tasks as the end of the year approaches, while simultaneously supporting their children during this time.

While mild to moderate levels of anxiety and stress are deemed healthy and can motivate us to power through these periods, it is also important to remember that too much stress can have a negative impact on our ability to function and complete tasks in an efficient manner. Therefore, as the demands placed upon us increase, simultaneously is the greater importance that organization and planning becomes to help us manage all that we have going on in our day-to-day lives. Moreover, being mindful of when we need a break is also crucial. Below are a handful of tips to help alleviate such stress and anxiety during this time:

  • Organization of Materials:Students – notice your backpack has put on some weight since the beginning of the school year, and that papers and worksheets scattered throughout are becoming increasingly wrinkled? Take some time to clean out your bag and properly file old homework assignments, exams, notes, and worksheets. We are moving into an electronic age, which means it is also time to organize your electronic files, PowerPoint presentations that you have downloaded for class, and other documents. Take the time now before final exams and the end of the year creep up on you.
  • Agendas: Are your agendas up to date? I hear from many students I work with that they use their agenda book on a regular basis at the beginning of the school year, but their initiation and consistency in utilizing this resource wanes over time. It is time to revisit; don’t worry about the past, but how you can utilize this resource to plan ahead for when the work begins to pick up. Moreover, plan for downtime, trips to the movies with your friends, and other social activities.
  • Time Management: Ever heard from your parents or teachers that cramming last minute for tests does not work? Ongoing research supports that students are more likely to retain what they have learned when they space their studying over multiple time periods, and that better time management skills in general leads to better outcomes in terms of academic performance. Therefore, space your studying over multiple days, especially when you have material from multiple classes to study for at once. This will also aid in helping to reduce the risk of interference effects, i.e., when information from one source interferences with your ability to learn new material, and vice-versa. 
  • Organized Learning: Rote memorization (learning based on repetition), is not always the most efficient way to learn and retain information. Instead, it is more beneficial for students of all grade levels to attempt to cognitively organize information to aid in learning and retention. When studying, utilize outlines, graphic organizers, and highlighting key information. Always try to think about the material on a deeper level and focus on studying information in the context provided and not solely memorizing facts in isolation.
  • Stress Management:All individuals need time to re-boot after a long day and engage in social and preferred activities that are enjoyable. As stress and anxiety increase, students have greater difficulty adapting and their awareness of when they need a break is not always satisfactory. Moreover, adequate sleep, hydration, and exercise at times can take a back seat. Take care of yourself and remember the great importance these activities have on your mood, attention, and ability to manage all that you have going on.


Dr. Jason Tanenbaum is a neuropsychologist at The Center for Neuropsychology and Counseling, providing testing and intervention services to children, adolescents, and adults. He is particularly interested in supporting students’ cognitive and academic needs and providing tools and strategies to help individuals overcome daily challenges in school and in their personal lives.

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