Dealing with Stress: 3 Steps to Finding Joy in School

by Matt Kitchell, High School Principal

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is advising students and parents when they feel overwhelmed with the pressures of college preparatory schooling.  While the issues are diverse, and there is no one size fits all solution to every student’s struggle, I have found the following three steps helpful when counseling students and families dealing with stress.


  1. Redefine Work

Our sole purpose in life is to bring God glory and the mission of FPD is to educate and equip students to change the world for God’s glory.  Students can sometimes fail to see how what they do now will effect what they do in the future, and it’s often because they do not have a good understanding of work.  Ecclesiastes 2:24 says work is a gift of God, and it is good to “find enjoyment in it.”  Hard work does not start when one gets a job, and it is not a means to an end.  We do not work hard so that we can get into a good college, which will lead to a good job, which will lead to an early retirement.  We work hard in school because work is a gift from God that we are not to take for granted.  We work hard in school because it brings glory to the Father.

  1. Become Outward Focused

By recognizing that work is a gift, and that it brings glory to God, we can rest in simply doing the best we can with the skills and abilities that He has given to us.   I heard a church planter recently say that churches begin to die when they become too inward focused with their gifts and talents.  They argue about music, length of service, and a plethora of other things that cause them to lose sight of their mission.  Likewise, our students are emerging adults that are consistently being told by the culture to be more self-focused, which leads to inordinate amounts of self-esteem.  This in-turn leads to students who have a hard time settling for limitations, which becomes disabling when they struggle or fail.

When students recognize their worth and identity lies in the One who overcame all of their inadequacies on the cross, they can be liberated to focus their gifts and talents in Kingdom shaping work (Eph. 1:10).  They can begin asking questions like, “How can God use my gifts in my community?” And, “Where will God have me use my gifts in the future?”

  1. Do less, and be Passionate about More

Students are busy and over commitment is common.  With college admissions standards on the rise, students often fall prey to resume building.  When students feel that work is only about moving on to what’s next, they will only do what is necessary to ‘check the box.’  Let’s be clear on this point.  I am not advocating dropping extracurricular activities, clubs, or honors classes because they may bring more stress and less joy.  I do, however, want students to ask themselves if they can maintain their priorities while engaging in that extracurricular activity or honors classes.  Do they become alive with excitement about the joyful discoveries being made in class, or do they not have time to engage wonder, because they are too busy moving on to the next task?

The struggle is real, and students face challenges today that simply were not present in the past.  Humbly, the teachers and staff at FPD accept the call to come along side parents and seek to build self-aware, engaged and persuasive students that are lifelong learners, challenged by the Gospel, equipped for wellness and sensitive to the needs of others.  These traits make up the profile of a FPD graduate.