CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Sara McElheny wants her classmates at Horace Greeley High School to just relax and take a deep breath.
The soon-to-be senior studied major stressors last year for a science research project and found that Greeley students have anxiety over college, grades, relationships and more.
"I just decided to embark on this topic because at Greeley there’s so much stress," McElheny said. "Everybody’s stressing about colleges, what schools they’re going to, and I figured it would be interesting to find out more about stress at Greeley specifically."
With an anonymous survey of 172 students, she found that the top four pressures were self-pressure to do well in school, peer pressure to do well in school, parental pressure to do well in school and parental pressure to get into a good college.
While its important to know what's causing the stress in Greeley students, McElheny said, how those students deal with the stress is more important.
"Positive coping strategies help lessen the effects of stressful situations. They help to resolve it," she said. "Whereas negative coping strategies would lengthen the duration of a stressful event and not help to resolve it."
She said the two most popular coping strategies at Greeley were active behavioral coping and avoidance. Religion was the least commonly used coping strategy.
"Avoidance would be doing things to take your mind off the situation, so you’re not resolving it all, you’re just avoiding it," McElheny said.
McElheny worked with doctors from the University of Connecticut Health Center to help analyze her findings, and discovered that stress can have negative health implications if students let it linger.
To raise awareness of stress at Greeley, McElheny presented her research Wednesday to an audience at the Chappaqua Library, and she will also make her findings public.
“I want to raise awareness of stressors affecting adolescents today so that the administrators in the schools can better serve the students,” she said. “Presenting stress management in school could decrease the harmful effects of stress, and workshops to develop and teach effective coping strategies and positive ones would be much appreciated in the high school.”