Gifted Students and Stress Management
A gifted student is a unique entity. She stands out in the crowd and will invariably seek the creative solution to many a problem. Her coping mechanisms are unique too -- some ways work, others are dead ended.
Healthy coping strategies
- Change the scene -- put the books away and go for a walk or jog;
- Take the bull by the horns and confront the source of stress -- ask that teacher for an extension;
- Vent. Talk it out. Find an "ear" and try out possible solutions;
- Use humor;
- Look at this situation as a challenge and a learning experience;
- Keep learning -- learn skills that make tasks easier;
- Learn to say "no" gracefully;
- Formulate a goal;
- Schedule time-outs for fun;
- Be with people with whom you can totally be yourself;
- Listen to mindless music or shoot hoops;
- Do "nothing," for a change; or nothing much...
- Ignorance is bliss -- but only for a while. Procrastinate a little and choose not to think about that stressful project;
- Exercise and eat well -- physical activity burns off muscle tension built up from burying stress; eating good meals with enjoyable friends /family should be a daily treat.
Unhealthy coping strategies
- The great (fake) escape -- drugs, alcohol, over-/undereating, sleeping (too much or too little) -- all this only leads to withdrawal and avoidance;
- Being afraid to fail -- Gifted students link their identities with achievement, so failure signals a drop in self-esteem. By not trying, or selecting impossible goals, students escape having their efforts challenged;
- Not aiming high enough -- Trying to "get by" by choosing the path of least resistance while still staying within the proscribed parameters of giftedness (like selecting less competitive colleges or courses) sets the stage for self-recrimination and even failure;
- Overscheduling -- too many courses, too many activities, fussing over assignments; seeking perfection in every detail.
Checklist for Burnout
Students respond differently to stress. How to draw the line between constructive excitement and downright overload takes finesse. Here's a list of symptoms. Your student:
- Is no longer excited or happy about school, activities, teachers, courses, classmates, parents, achievements;
- Resents assignments or acts with resignation;
- Is bored;
- Suffers from sleeplessness, difficulty waking or falling asleep;
- Overreacts to everyday events;
- Exhibits low energy and extreme tiredness;
- Develops nervous habits like stuttering, blinking, head shaking;
- Complains of ailments, headaches, stomach aches;
- Is frequently ill;
- Needs constant support, reassurance;
- Engages in acting out, being aggesssive, and seeking attention;
- Feels "trapped" or out of control;
- Loses perspective and sense of humor;
- Is just plain exhausted -- physically, emotionally, mentally.
Source: Adapted from"Helping Gifted Students with Stress Management" by Leslie S. Kaplan, 1990, ERIC EC Digest #E488, The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC).