De-stressing during the pandemic

What can Paly students do when they’re feeling stressed about current events?


Karlene Salas and Corie Jiang

Edie Gollub remembers the moment she watched the scene at the Capitol unfold. The sight of hundreds of maskless rioters waving the American flag chanting “USA! USA!” while desecrating the center of the American government was enough to shake her deeply.

“All the stress started piling up and started keeping me from doing well in school, and that’s when I started really thinking about what it could do,” Palo Alto High School senior Edie Gollub said.

Her case is not unique. 2020 was a year of conflict, and 2021 shows no sign of discontinuing that trend. With the Black Lives Matter movement and Capitol riots, not to mention the Presidential election taking place in an ongoing pandemic that has plagued the world for over a year now, the conflict brewing across the country seems to have increased the tension for everyone, including Paly students and faculty.

For Whitney Aquino, Palo Alto High School Wellness Outreach Worker, the events at the Capitol were particularly stressful.

Whitney Aquino, Paly’s Wellness Outreach Worker

“The day of the Capitol riots … it was so hard to focus and pay attention,” Aquino said. “I can only imagine for students too, it’s been really difficult to try to stay focused on school.”

Luckily, Aquino is quite familiar with methods and resources for those who find themselves overwhelmed. Students can talk with counselors and therapists or spend time in the virtual Paly Wellness Center by setting up an appointment or dropping in during lunch or Advisory on Fridays. According to Wellness Center staff, finding new hobbies and keeping in touch with friends and family are a few methods that can help channel stress.

According to Aquino, disconnecting herself from the world proved to be a valid method of releasing stress and is effective for many people, in whichever form it takes. Her preferred form of stress relief just happens to mean going outside and being active.

“With all these things happening, it’s been really helpful for me to call my friends, go for a walk and get outside,” Aquino said. “I feel like I get the fresh air, I get some movement and it makes me feel good as well.” 

Regular exercise is an activity that has been made both harder and easier by the pandemic. Although most sports clubs and competitions have been closed or canceled, more casual forms of exercise like taking a walk or going for a jog in the mornings have become more popular in their stead.

Another way of effectively disconnecting was taught to Gollub, who still values the lessons she learned about wellness, one of them being that learning to relax is an important aspect of stress relief.

“It’s okay to give yourself a break,” Gollub said. “A big thing with wellness is if you need to, you can just sit there for a few minutes and not do anything. … It gives you time to think through things.”

It’s okay to give yourself a break”

— Senior Edie Gollub

According to the Wellbeing Thesis, an online resource for postgraduate research students, multiple studies have shown that taking breaks from work or school can have both long and short term benefits. This includes increasing energy levels and productivity in your daily life, and “restoring mental and physical functional systems to their baseline.”

But for those who like more social forms of destressing, spending time with family and friends also qualifies as a good method of disconnecting, especially with solid in-person support systems.

For senior Andrew Pham, discussing events with his friends and family as they happen helps him process information more effectively. “Talking about things and just being open about it is more healthy than not talking about it,” Pham said. “If you ignore something and don’t address it then it can’t be fixed.”

All the methods mentioned have different ways of working out and are mostly dependent on the personality of the person. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.

“Do things that make you happy,” Gollub said. “In a time like this when the world is so stressful and scary, you’ve really just got to give yourself that break.”

Art by Karlene Salas