Being stressed about stress

My journey through being stressed in high school and how I have become accustomed to it.

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Being stressed about stress

by Olivia Wirtz, Writer

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Stressing about an assignment, project or upcoming test has become a part of my high school routine. First, I receive the assignment or project, then I realize that it is more challenging than I first thought and finally I spend the rest of my time stressing about how or when I’m going to complete it. As a senior looking back on the past years, I feel as though being overly stressed about school has caused me to miss out on my appreciation of high school. Being stressed has almost become a part of the way I am. Whether warranted or not, stress has consumed a substantial portion of my high school years.

At STA, we are held at a different standard, and we have access to challenging courses. The rigor that these advantages demand is attached to an unhealthy amount of stress for students. According to The Atlantic, a recent survey on a handful of high school students revealed that about half of them are chronically stressed.

Though some amount of stress can be healthy in order for individuals to succeed, I realized that most of the stress I put on myself is unnecessary. I always get the assignment or project done no matter the amount of pressure I put on myself. Many students experience an unhealthy amount of stress whether its from school, parents, teachers, etc. According to The Atlantic, studies found that 49% of students reported feeling “a great deal of stress” on a daily basis.

Our school’s culture plays a major role in the amount of stress our students feel on a daily basis. Almost every conversation I have at school touches on how stressed someone is or how much they need to do. It’s almost like a competition between who is more stressed than the other. Though school culture could shift,  it is unlikely that it will change anytime soon. However, I think a way that students could contribute to shifting the culture of stress at STA is really empathizing with each other’s stress. I think if I talk about how much pressure I am feeling, I want someone to acknowledge me and make my worries feel valid. This technique could possibly shift the way that conversations about stress take place.

“School cultures reflect the greater competitive environment of global capitalism,” Bo Paulle says, a sociology professor at the University of Amsterdam and author of the book Toxic Schools. “Our current system is a warped manifestation of our general anxiety about downward social mobility and what it takes to move up.”

I have even noticed that when family members ask me how school is going, I respond immediately with, “It’s very hard right now,” or “It is very stressful right now,” while giving them a distraught expression. In a survey published by the American Psychological Association, teens reported their stress as a 5.8 on a 10 point scale compared to adults’ 5.1. I think it is alarming that teens experience the same if not a greater amount of stress than adults. That’s why when adults disregard a student’s stress with the statement: “You are only in high school,” it creates more damage rather than comfort. I would like to see this stigma of high school stress change into one that is supported by adults.

However, even in times where I think “This is the most stressed I have ever been,” finding ways to distract myself has really helped. If I am volunteering, visiting with family or friends, or being active, I find it hard to think about how stressed I am. Additionally, I think it’s very easy for STA students and all students for that matter to become so wrapped up in their own lives whether it’s academic or social. I have learned that helping others whether it’s volunteering in your community or just helping out a friend with a small task helps get my mind off of what I feel pressure about.