Author: Tanvi Varma
If I were to sum up my four years of high school, I would say that it was an emotional roller coaster. On one hand, it was a time when I experienced some of the most amazing memories that I will always cherish. I met some of my best friends, who will continue to hold a special place in my heart, and had some interesting teachers, who challenged and encouraged me to think “outside of the box.” It was a time when I found myself and gained a whole different perspective and, subsequently, a new level of confidence.
However, while these memories shaped the individual that I am today, they did so at a cost. The highly stressful environment took a significant emotional and physical toll on myself and the individuals around me. I remember instances when I would witness my friends and classmates reaching their breaking points because they could not handle the pressure.
We live in a society in which we are pressured to excel and strive to be the best of the best. Every year, the acceptance rate for school admissions decreases and the standards increase. Every student is expected to be well-rounded, striking the perfect balance between school and extracurricular activities. In that balance, students must put in 100 percent effort, in order to obtain leadership positions, and cope with an intense school workload. It is highly demanding, and there are instances when it feels like there is no time to breathe.
During my sophomore and junior year, I was constantly on-the-go. Between school, sports, clubs, volunteer work and homework, I hardly ever had time to socialize with friends or to even formulate strong relationships with my parents. In the blink of an eye, the day would pass by with all the activities. I also remember instances when I would be overly frustrated if the results of one test did not go the way I expected. I would feel unmotivated because I thought I had put in my best effort. I felt like a failure, even though it was only one bad assignment.
While academics play a key role in stress, there are other aspects. For example, by not receiving the adequate amount of sleep necessary for success, many students are not giving their bodies the rest it needs. I remember having one friend who would sleep at three in the morning every day, and constantly had dark circles under her eyes. Whenever there was a school holiday, which meant having more time to complete assignments, she would get sick because her body would unwind, and the combination of immense stress and lack of sleep took a toll on her. Her all-nighters started to impact her academics. She would not sleep and then not perform as well as she had hoped on the exam. As a consequence, she would be devastated and start questioning her abilities. Every step of this process moved her closer toward reaching her breaking point. She kept going because she could not stop for fear that everyone else will race on ahead, leaving her to frantically try to catch up.
While pressure comes from the individual, there is also pressure from external sources. In most cases, parents are the source. Every parent wants their child to succeed, and this desire can manifest itself in different ways. I have had friends whose parents would be angry if they got a B because they knew that their child could have done better. This anger would only stress my friend out more, as it would cause them to fear their parents’ reactions. Conversely, when parents back off, people might not have enough motivation and guidance to succeed.
Being stressed-out seems to be normal for individuals in our society. In actuality, it seems odd to not be stressed out. It makes an individual question whether they are working hard enough if he/she is not as stressed out as everyone else. Yet, what we do not realize is that if this level of stress continues, it can become detrimental and even lead to depression.
According to a study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, the risk of drug use increases significantly if the student is highly stressed out. The article XIII Teens and Parents Columbia University reports about half of 12 to 17 year olds leave home during school nights without their parents’ knowledge. Also, research done by the University of California, Berkeley showed that continuous stress can develop into chronic stress. Chronic stress can increase the likelihood of developing health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and a weakened immune system.
Stress can also affect a person’s mental health. Many studies illustrate a correlation between stress and the development of mood disorders such as those of anxiety and depression. While generations are becoming increasingly better, the last thing needed is to have stress take a toll and make a lasting impact.
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