Palo Alto students struggle with stress

Photo of Reyna Ochoa multitasks with multiple assignments in the Ozuna Library
COMM Major Reyna Ochoa multitasking with multiple assignments in the Ozuna Library.

By Victoria Uribe
Pulse Staff Reporter

A national survey by the American Psychological Association in 2013 found that the stress levels teens experience during the school year was higher than adult stress levels.

These teens also admitted that they believed their stress levels to be unhealthy. So what is stress exactly?

“Stress is a response to some demand that is placed on you in life,” said Dr. Yolanda Reyna, a Licensed Professional Counselor and chair of Student Development at Palo Alto College. Stress can be good when acting as a motivator; however, stress can be negative when it prevents the body from returning to its relaxed state.

How can this ‘relaxed state’ be found?

Reyna recommends some helpful tips to balance this emotion and assist your body in mastering “wellness lifestyle approach” techniques.

“The most popular form of therapy for anxiety and for stress is cognitive behavioral therapy,” said Reyna. “Change the way you think, and you’ll change your behaviors in your life.”

Aside from developing a positive mindset, Reyna believes it is important to be aware of the eating habits we develop.

Trade the greasy orange and white bag for a bowl of greens and a side of overall health. The National Institutes of Health promotes fresh produce, such as in-season fruits and veggies for a healthier option.

“Taking care of our physical health…empowers us to handle the other stress,” said Rhonda O’Cana, a Licensed Professional Counselor and PAC’s new counselor on staff. “There’s a recent study where 30 minutes of aerobic activity, three times a week, was just as effective as an antidepressant.”

PAC offers a variety of classes to try, including walking, jogging and boot camp.

Turn off Netflix; turn out the lights and sleep. The NIH recommends teens sleep at least 9-10 hours a day and 7-8 hours for adults.

“Sleeping is crucial, crucial, crucial,” said Reyna.

Have you ever tried breathing slowly and deeply to calm your body? What about taking a break to journal or practicing meditation to ease the mind? These exercises are all forms of “relaxation techniques” that allow the body to take a break and focus on methods to remove stress.

Andrew Torres, a freshman Advertising major at PAC, said he enjoys “taking breaks during my study time…watching TV and playing video games.”

Time management is another useful tool. Knowing how to manage your time can prevent feeling overwhelmed.

“Especially when you are a single mom…and you have to come to school,” said Reyna Ochoa, a sophomore Communications major at PAC. “A planned schedule for every week works a lot.”

When all else fails, do not be discouraged to talk to a counselor. “If you’ve tried some of the tips…and [the stress is] starting to have an impact on classes,” said O’Cana, “don’t hesitate to reach out.”

Reyna is no longer available as a student counselor. She now only teaches SDEV classes. O’Cana is the only student counselor on campus right now, and she is located in Room 129 of the Student Center. She is only available by appointment, and she offers personal and group counseling. Contact her at (210) 486-3750 or by email at