Don’t Freak Out: The Causes and Cures for the Stress Epidemic in High School
By Joe DiFuccia
One of the best parts of being a kid is having absolutely nothing to worry about.
I remember the days when I could soak in all the fun of being a kid — free of stress and without a care in the world.
Then high school happened.
When I transitioned out of middle school, I was completely bombarded with stress and problems I couldn’t handle. I didn’t know what to do with all of my anxiety, so I continued to let it eat me alive throughout most of high school.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who’s experienced this. The statistics are alarming, to say the least. Studies have shown that close to half of high school students in the U.S. experience tremendous anxiety every day, and it’s increasing among teens twice as fast as it’s decreasing.
What’s to blame for this incredible uptick in stress among high school students?
Below is a list of the biggest stressors high schoolers face on a daily basis, along with some advice I wish I had listened to earlier.
High school students often struggle with expectations placed on them by parents, bosses, coaches, and other significant adults in their lives. While having high goals and expectations set for you can be a good source of motivation, they often become stressful and difficult to obtain. Often, the biggest source of these expectations is ourselves – and the expectations we put on ourselves are often the hardest to achieve.
Fortunately, there are ways to cope. First, make sure the expectations placed on you are realistic. Chasing an unachievable goal will often leave you disappointed, frustrated, tired, and stressed out. Second, don’t let anyone measure you based on what you can and cannot achieve, and don’t lose hope if you can’t reach a certain goal.
Every high school student knows what it’s like to spend long nights sitting at a computer screen, doing the homework that couldn’t have been done earlier due to a busy schedule.
Activities such as sports, band, clubs, and extracurricular events often fill schedules – leaving little time for other necessities, such as sleep. A national study by the CDC found that over 70% of high school students don’t sleep as much as they ought.
It’s difficult to handle a busy schedule as a high school student, but having enough time to sleep, eat well, and do homework successfully is extremely important.
The best way to handle a busy schedule is to reorganize it and then master it. Make sure that taking care of yourself and the important things in your life (such as eating, exercise, and sleep) are the highest priorities of your schedule, and don’t hesitate to free up your schedule when needed.
Social media pressure
The introduction of social media into society has massively impacted the high school scene. Social media benefits teens in many ways, like providing them with a new way to connect with friends.
However, numerous downsides have been noted as well. Many high school students feel more stress by comparing their posts, pictures, or likes to those of their peers, damaging their self-esteems. Social media is also responsible for the increase in cyberbullying, another widespread problem in high schools nationwide.
Social media usage is also highly addictive. Many teens spend too much time on it, which leads to neglecting their important work.
What is social media doing for you? Are your social media platforms really helping you improve, or are they robbing you of your happiness? Assess the impact your time spent on social media has had on you, and don’t be afraid to cut out the platforms you find are doing more harm than good.
Bullying is a much larger problem than many realize. One survey reported a shocking 91% of people are bullied as teenagers, saying the way they look, their hobbies, and their abilities made them subject to harmful treatment from others. Bullying has been a major contributor to the massive uptick in stress, depression, and suicide among teenagers.
Dealing with bullying is perhaps the most difficult issue on this list, largely because emotional scars cannot simply disappear. The best way we as a community can deal with this problem is by understanding that our worth and our identity is found in God, and nothing we say or think will ever change that. Don’t ever let anyone stop you from being yourself! If you are being bullied, report the problem to school officials immediately.
Picking the right college is a crucial step in achieving your dreams. This makes the college decision one of the most important and stressful decisions a teen can face. There are many different factors that go into a college decision, and subsequent pressure from family and friends only adds to the stress that comes with this decision.
The best way to keep a college decision as stress-free as possible is to make your decision sooner rather than later. Waiting to make a decision only increases the pressure that’s placed on you. Figure out what you want to do in college, in your career, and in your life, and make a decision based on that.
Pressure from friends and family typically increases the difficulty of the decision, as well as the stress that accompanies it. Be sure to listen to advice from your loved ones, but keep in mind it should resonate with what you really want to do.
Fear of the future
Many high school students deal with anxiety caused by the thought of life beyond high school. From the terrors of college life to all of the uncertainties of life after you graduate, it’s difficult for many teens to envision what their future holds, facing the possibility of failure.
Focusing on the present and setting yourself up for success now is the best way to ensure you won’t have to face failure in the future. Matthew 6:34 instructs us to “not worry about tomorrow,” because we can only handle so much stress.
Also, try turning your anxiety into motivation – work hard in school and make wise decisions now, in order to reduce stress and increase your chances of success. Many teens become pessimists when looking at the future, focusing on all the things that could go wrong. Having a more positive mentality about the future will also reduce anxiety.
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