Stress is something that we have all felt at some if not many points in our lives; it’s a natural response to changes in our environment and plans. Are you worried about an interview for a job you really want or a test that you feel like you “have to” do well on? Do you feel pressure from your personal life, work, or another source? Are you uncertain of what may happen in the future? There are all things that can cause stress in a person’s life, and it can affect a wide age range from children to the elderly.
To a certain extent, stress can be good for you. Whether it motivates you to succeed at a task or improves your productivity and concentration, the chemical changes in your brain when you experience stress can lead to positive outcomes in the future. But what happens when your stress levels get too high? And what if you feel those levels for an extended period of time? There has been a lot of research done and there is a general understanding that too much stress is bad for you, and it’s no surprise that high school students experience a lot of stress during their four years.
School is stressful, especially high school, and it doesn’t help that there are so many things to juggle. Grades, sports, friendships, college, and extra-curricular isn’t a complete list of things 14 to 18 year-olds have to think about on a daily basis. Going to a private school at rigorous and mine naturally intensifies the stress that the students experience, and when statistics show that high school students experience more stress than adults, it’s time to set things aside and take a deeper look into the issue.
What You Need to Know
What is stress?
There are many ideas that pop into our heads when we try to think of a definition for stress. Personally, I define it as a mental and physical reaction resulting from change or pressure. A student at my school describes it as “when things get a little too overwhelming to handle, causing amplified worry and frustration.” The American Institute of Stress states that stress “is such a highly subjective phenomenon that it defies definition.” Regardless, there is a lot of evidence and research that has been done around stress and its role in our lives.
Causes of high school stress
- Heavy workload
- Lack of organization
- Busy schedule
- Too little down time
- Poor sleep schedule
- Social pressures
- Others’ expectations
- Worries about the future
- Fear of failure
- Concerns about college
My school’s experience with stress
With the rigor and challenges that my school has to offer, it’s no doubt that it’s a stressful environment. Mary Alvord, a clinical psychologist in Maryland, states that “a little stress is a good thing. It can motivate students to be organized. But too much stress can backfire.” One a scale from 1 to 10, the students said the median stress levels for a high school student is a 5, but the number is a 7 for our school which is expected because of the nature of it. Adding on, although more that three-fourths of students surveyed stated that they felt moderately to very comfortable sharing about their stress levels, only about 30% of students have talked to our school counselors about it. An environment where students feel high levels of stress but aren’t talking to a professional about it creates a space where many students internalize their feelings without realizing that they have a whole community they can share with.
My Response: What Can We Do?
With all the things that cause stress in high school students, there are also many things that can decrease the stress levels being experienced. One of the first things to do is realize that you’re not the only one experiencing these things. If you are a student in high school and are surrounded by other students, I can guarantee that they are feeling some level of stress. There are many activities and actions you can do to help decrease your stress levels, and a few of these are things that the students at my school already do:
- Engage in your hobbies
- Drawing, knitting, music, etc.
- Go on a walk
- Take a break
- Talk to friends
- Take deep breaths
- Spend time with family
- Play video games
- Clean your room
Although these are personal things that you can do to decrease your levels, it can also be helpful to think about the things at your school that cause you stress. Are they things that usually cause stress like a lit of homework or worries about college, or are they things that are unique to your school and have the ability to be changed? If the answer is the latter, then think about doing some in-school research and bringing the issue as well as an alternative plan to your administration? Who knows: you could be the change your school has been looking for!
Some observations I was able to make after collecting data from my school’s students:
- The sophomores are the most stressed grade this year
- There was a sharp spike in the stress levels during the senior class’ junior year
- The stressors each student experiences get repeated for each grade (a certain project, time of year, class, etc.)
How Will You Get Involved?
I’ve done a lot of teaching and presenting to you guys, and now it’s time to revese the roles and for me to hear from you! In the comments down below, answer the following questions:
- What is your favorite way to decrease your stress level?
- If you could change one thing about the American high school systm to reduce stress in students, what would it be and why?
- What effects do you think teen stress will have on students as they grow older into adults?
If you have anything else you’d like to share that isn’t related to the question above, feel free to leave them down below also!
Bethune, Sophie. “Teen stress rivals that of adults.” American Psychological Association, Apr. 2014, www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/teen-stress. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
“Common Causes of School Stress in High School.” Oxford Learning, 28 May 2018, www.oxfordlearning.com/causes-of-school-stress/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
Neighmond, Patti. “School Stress Takes A Toll On Health, Teens And Parents Say.” National Public Radio, 2 Dec. 2013, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/12/02/246599742/school-stress-takes-a-toll-on-health-teens-and-parents-say. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
Ossola, Alexandra. “High-Stress High School.” The Atlantic, 9 Oct. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/high-stress-high-school/409735/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
“Stress in America, charted.” Advisory Board, 13 Nov. 2018, www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2018/11/13/stress-levels. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
Terada, Youki. “The Science Behind Student Stress.” Edutopia, 24 Aug. 2018, www.edutopia.org/article/science-behind-student-stress. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.
“What is Stress?” The American Institute of Stress, www.stress.org/what-is-stress. Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.