How Keystone students respond to stress

Dec 17 2021

How Keystone students respond to stress

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”
–Maureen Killoran

Dr. Armentrout leading Upper Schoolers in a yoga practice

If you asked Upper Schoolers how they were doing last week, the response usually came as: “This has been a really stressful week!” A combination of tests, papers, and end of the semester assignments made for a week of studying, writing, and performing at a high level. By Friday, the students seemed to be tired, relieved, and truth be told, a little giddy. They were playing games during free periods and letting off steam in a seemingly healthy manner. They also said they much preferred this week’s semester exam schedule where they have one test a day rather than the two reading days and two tests per day that we had in the past.

But beyond exams and assignments, how do Keystone students deal with stress on a broader level? A couple of weeks ago, our students discussed stress with Ian Groves, an educator from Prevention Strategies/Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. For more than a decade, Keystone has partnered with Prevention Strategies ( previously named Freedom from Chemical Dependency) to teach students how to live a substance-free lifestyle.

Among Prevention Strategies’ goals:

  • Promote awareness of addiction, including alcoholism, as a progressive, chronic, and often fatal disease
  • Empower young people to make healthy, responsible choices regarding alcohol and other drug use
  • Educate students, parents, teachers, and school administrators on the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol and other drugs
  • Teach students and adults to recognize the early warning signs of substance abuse and to intervene appropriately
  • Encourage and support the non-use of alcohol and other illegal or illicit drugs during the growing years.
  • Provide our community with the guidance and training necessary to implement comprehensive, effective approaches to substance abuse prevention.

Through these sessions and other educational efforts, we hope our Cobras learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, and avoid substance abuse as a means of escape.

According to post-program student surveys, Mr. Groves did an excellent job. Students said he was relatable, honest, straightforward, and humorous. They said they learned a great deal and appreciated Mr. Groves’s candid and open approach.

Following his week with the students, Mr. Groves met with Counselor Dr. Erica Shapiro, Upper School Head Bill Spedding, and me via Zoom so he could share his findings. Mr. Groves expressed repeatedly that for the most part, Keystone students have a very healthy attitude toward alcohol, drugs, and nicotine. As one would expect of our students, they wished to know more about the scientific and neurological elements of addictive substances. Mr Goves emphasized that compared to their peers, Cobras appear to be at a lower level of use and abuse than their peers.

Mr. Groves also commended Keystone students on their means for handling stress.

They like to:



Do art



And play video games.

To be sure, our students do experience stress. That comes with a challenging, academic program combined with a motivated student body. Nevertheless, Mr. Groves applauded the students’ stress management skills and ingenuity in finding ways to relax.

As we know, some stress can be healthy as students push themselves to learn and grow. In the same way that muscles expand when they are pushed and experience difficulty, intellectual growth and development come as a result of hard work and strain. In both cases, students emerge even stronger than before based in part on the struggle.

But too much stress can prove harmful. If you believe your child’s stress or coping mechanisms are unhealthy, please reach out to Dr. Shapiro for a private conversation.

By the time you will receive this week’s edition of the Keystone Communiqué, we will have commenced the Winter Holiday Break. We wish you a restful and restorative vacation, and we hope your children find time to wind down and practice good self-care. We look forward to seeing you in the new year.

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