Holiday Stress(tivities): Students, staff consider how holiday season can be more stressful than relaxing, discuss how to relieve stress


Maddie Kosc

NONSTOP: Sophomore Audra Marchese works in Greyhound Station before school on the morning of Nov 20. Marchese said that as finals approach she has seen an increase in schoolwork and stress.

Wendy Zhu

While people often see the holiday season as cheerful time to unwind and spend with friends and family, the weeks leading up to it can be anything but relaxing for many, including students. In fact, with the sheer number of tasks they must accomplish, from purchasing gifts to studying for final exams, it is easy for students to feel overwhelmed. Audra Marchese, New Edition member and sophomore, said she knows that feeling.

For choir members such as Marchese, the weeks before winter break are especially overwhelming due to the large amount of time they commit to preparing for the annual Holiday Spectacular. While the performance is only during the first full week of December, Marchese said the time spent rehearsing for it takes away from time that could be spent preparing for tests and exams as the end of the semester approaches.

According to Marchese, it has also become harder for her to balance her time this year because she has more difficult classes now than she did during her freshman year and is now also in a more advanced choir.

“Last year, I was in Counterpoints Women, which is our freshman female choir, so the rehearsal time commitment is the same, but the intensity isn’t,” Marchese said. “Being in a competition show choir this year, it’s definitely that they expect more from us than last year. And with classes freshman year, they’re definitely easier than classes any other year, so that also plays into having even better time management skills.”

According to director of choirs Kathrine Kouns, time commitment varies depending on the specific choir, but all choirs participate in Holiday Spectacular each year, which Kouns said is the biggest time commitment of the year for choir students.

“Holiday Spectacular is a whole other thing because there are five shows to it, and it involves a different kind of stage setup,” Kouns said. “We have the orchestra and costume changes and just a lot more moving parts to it, so we require a lot more rehearsals to get that prep. We also do a lot more combined numbers, so they have to have time to practice with the other choirs. It’s a lot, but (the choir students) know about it starting in August. We try to plan ahead as best we can.”

However, even though students can feel especially busy during this time, Kouns said the choir directors help them stay on top of things. Because it is so easy to feel overwhelmed with a large workload, Kouns said time management is crucial.

“As far as helping the students goes, we do a lot of encouraging them to manage their time by saying, ‘You have to be communicating with your teachers; you need to be taking some downtime and making sure that you’re catching up with your work,’” Kouns said. “We do hold the students accountable; if they’re not passing their academic classes, they are not going on these trips with us; they’re not going to get to go compete. They know that there is that expectation for them to keep their grades up. We try to make it possible for them to do everything, but it’s also hard for me to be aware of every student’s commitments.”

Marchese also said managing her time was key to finishing all her work.

“I try to do my homework right when I get home from after-school activities; if I have an after-school activity that’s later in the evening, I try to get my work done before that,” Marchese said. “I feel like (time management) depends on the person. Personally, I feel like I’ve gotten good at it because I do do a lot of things, and so I’ve noticed what works best for me and how I need to space things out and when I need to get things done. I know what classes I’m good at, like ‘Do I need to spend a lot of time studying this or not?’”

Besides choir, there are also many other clubs and extracurricular activities that can add to students’ workloads during the holidays. Senator and sophomore Bradley Snyder said he has more obligations during the weeks leading up to winter break due to the Care-to-Share holiday gift drive.

“(The holiday season) is definitely busier because we have Care-to-Share going on, which is a huge event where we get a lot of gifts for families in need, but it’s a lot of fun. I no longer have my SRT time to work on things, so that makes it a little bit harder to get things done, but I definitely think it’s worth it because it really makes the families happy,” Snyder said.

Both Snyder and Marchese also said they not only have several academic and extracurricular commitments during the holidays, but also many holiday-related activities in their personal lives.

“I would definitely say that the holidays are a pretty busy time because you’re decorating and cooking and spending time with family, and …with Greyhound Connections, we’ve taken a family in for Care-to-Share, and we’re going to go shopping for them for Christmas,” Marchese said.

While the holidays may be a very busy time for some students, counseling department chairperson Rachel Cole said she thinks the finalization of semester grades is what mostly causes stress during the holiday season rather than the holidays themselves.

Students are always more stressed out at the end of a semester,” Cole said.

Marchese and Snyder both said another reason they felt more stressed during the holiday season was upcoming final exams.

Finals are harder because throughout the semester, you’re like, ‘Oh, tests, I can study for this; I know what I’m doing, and I know how to study,’ but then when it comes to finals, you have to go over everything from the semester, and sometimes, you don’t know how to study,” Marchese said.

However, the current finals week schedule, according to Cole, has been beneficial to students.

“I think the schedule change to allowing office hours has really helped to reduce the stress for students during that week,” Cole said.  “The ability to sleep in and get more rest or just take your time getting ready to come in is a nice bonus for your mental health.”

To prepare for finals and organize his time, Snyder said he uses various methods to keep himself on track with his academic work.

“I think time management is really key by keeping a planner and making sure that you have all your priorities in check and knowing when everything is due,” Snyder said. “You’re not always going to have the time to get everything done at once, but as long as you get done the things that are most important, then you’ll probably be okay.”

According to Cole, if students are still feeling stressed about their academics or exams, staff members will be there to guide them.

“Teachers and counselors are available to help students if they are struggling with putting a time management schedule together. SRT is a great resource for getting help right from the person who is writing your final exam,” Cole said.

Kouns also had words of advice for students who feel overwhelmed. “The first thing that I would say (to a stressed student) is, ‘This too shall pass. It’s okay; sometimes, when you’re in the trench of it, it can seem just so overwhelming, and it is a period of time that will cycle through, and you’ll be okay,’” Kouns said. “The second thing I would say is that the way to tackle anything is to take it one step at a time and not think about everything at once but to just make small little goals for yourself…I always tell my students that it’s really good to compartmentalize, like being present with whatever you’re doing when you’re doing it.

“Part of growing up is learning how to manage your time, how to say yes, how to say no to things, what your own capacity is for stress levels, how much rest you need, who you need to lean on for help, and I think that letting our students be pushed a little bit is actually a really good lesson for them to be able to handle more.”