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More sleep and asking for help can help students with stress

Posted at 7:44 AM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 09:44:47-05

PUEBLO, Colorado — When the bell rings, the work for many students at Pueblo South High is not over. Athletics and activities take up a large portion of their daily lives.

Luke Guarienti, a junior, is a three-sport athlete playing football in the fall, hockey in winter and baseball in the spring. Geonna King, also a junior, is a member of the dance squad, Girl's Cabinet and takes college classes at Pueblo Community College. Mailee Holley is also in Girl's Cabinet and is a member of the Cross Country and Track teams. Louden Christie is also on the Track and Cross Country Teams and participates in Student Council and the Newman Club.

The students say the demand schedules can get overwhelming at times.

"I get a little stressed out with school and all of the homework that we have to do," Guarienti said.

For Christie, it's his Advance Placement classes like Algebra II.

"We do like test prep, SAT practice and it's really stressing me out," he said.

A recent nationwide survey by conducted the American Psychological Association found as many of 35 percent of high school students reported lying awake at night, unable to sleep because of stress.

Colter De Witt, a Health Promotion Specialist with the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. He said everyone can feel stressed, the key is learning how to cope with it.

De Witt believes learning to handle emotions can be as valuable, if not more valuable, to students later in life than the traditional lessons.

"I think, in general, if we try to improve the lives of our youth so that they are pro-socially engaged, it's going to reduce that stress," De Witt said.

A key element that can affect stress is getting enough sleep. The most recent Health Kids Colorado Survey found that 75 percent of students in Pueblo reported getting less than 8 hours of sleep each night, slightly worse than the statewide average of 70 percent.

"I think the most sleep that I get is probably about 5 hours," King said.

Holley said she usually gets around 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night. When asked if she wished it could be more, she replied, "definitely."

While participating in extracurricular activities can be time-consuming, De Witt points out that students who are more involved tend to have better mental health overall.

"Students who are engaged in those extracurricular activities are capable of having better mental health and having less suicide risk and stress in school."

He went on to explain that the data show those youth who are not as engaged tend to have high rates of mental health issues and suicide thoughts overall.

When Guarienti feels overwhelmed with homework, he said he relies on his desire to keep playing sports as motivation to get through.

"I honestly put school first and then grads, get that done, and you have to get good grades to play sports," he said.

"(When) I get stressed out and I don't know what I'm doing, I need to just take a moment and breath, and I'm good," Christie said of his method for coping with stress.

De Witt's best advice to any student feeling overwhelmed is to ask for help.

"I would say that talking about it is the most important thing that you need to do," he said. "it's not just about your own personal mental health, it's also about how you're going to interact with the world going forward and how you're going to do well in school."

De Witt is part of the health department's Communities that Care program. They work with local schools to encourage substance abuse prevention, mental health awareness and pro-social involvement in the community.

Elise Maestas is a Sophomore at Pueblo South High School and is enrolled in the broadcast program. She filed this report as part of a partnership with News 5 for National News Literacy Week.