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Let’s Make Stress Our Friend

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As the dog days of summer are far behind us, we try to grab hold of the last remnants of summer that are nearly buried under thick piles of growing homework. School and stress go together like cookies and milk; it’s a pair that’s hard to break. If you’ve never been stressed before, you haven’t ventured outside your comfort zone or strived for something beyond your reach. While a stress free day at Blind Brook sounds like an oxymoron, it it doesn’t have to be.

Some students thrive on stress, using the adrenaline created to fuel them through their school careers and beyond. For the overwhelming majority of students in our district and throughout the country, this isn’t the case. According to the American Psychological Association, stress levels in teens now rival those of adults due to increased standards of education and intelligence.

We live in a world where we are always expected to be one step ahead of the person next to us. In a national survey, the APA concluded that 49% of students feel overwhelmed by the combination of assignments, extracurriculars, and the college process. A staggering 42% of those students admit that they do not know how to deal with stress, while 13% say they don’t even have enough time to set aside to be able to.

Stress triggers a myriad of issues: poor sleep habits, depression, eating disorders, and over all angst and resentment. If we don’t give ourselves enough time to simply take a step back and think, we are doing ourselves a major disservice.

In schools like ours, we can look at stress in terms of the big three: pressure, competition, and atmosphere. There is a constant strain not only on grades, but what you should be able to amount to. It’s not enough to only be able to test well, but to be involved and show leadership in clubs, sports, and among peers. We are expected to be this perfectly well rounded person that doesn’t exist. There is this mentality that you are constantly competing, especially in terms of college, not only with students in your grade, but now on a global level. This creates an atmosphere in which students are mentally exhausted and are inclined to create a pessimistic outlook at such a young age.

 A study by Noelle Leonard, PhD, conducted at NYU, brings up a valid point, “We are concerned that students in these selective, high pressure high schools can get burned out even before they reach college.” It’s time to realign our perspective and reevaluate what’s important to us as a community. High School should be looked at as a beginning. Yes, it is where stress is born, but it is also where we can learn to manipulate it to make it work for our benefit. The Study conducted by NYU explains how some stress is healthy, that it pushes us forward and gives us a drive. It’s all about making sure it doesn’t reach that next level that could damage us without our realization.

Before we all dive into the bulk of this year head first, let’s agree to show stress it’s place. One major aspect is time management. Cramming and procrastination have become a norm, but it’s a known fact that students with good organizational skills are significantly less anxious than those on the other side of the spectrum. Moreover, this creates room to enjoy things other than work and school, like breathing. In all seriousness, something as simple as making a to-do list and checking it off can ease anxiety. Another facet is being involved in things you feel passionate about, making activities less about having to do them and more about wanting to. Being with people who you enjoy and make you laugh is something that has benefits all through life, as shown by a study by The Huffington Post.  Laughing causes a physical reaction by stimulating circulation and aiding in muscle relaxation.

One thing that countless studies show is it truly comes down to balance. Maybe we shouldn’t be in a rush to accomplish things, but instead working harder to first find this harmony in our life. We often try to do this backwards, but it shouldn’t be a vice versa situation. Stress isn’t going anywhere, so it’s better to learn now how you can be friend’s with yours. Like all friends, you are going to have bumps in the road. It’s there to accelerate you, not hold you back. Keep it all in perspective and judge yourself by the whole, not by a bad day or poor test score. It’s easier said than done, but next time you find yourself freaking out about the pop quiz in front of you, remember this: You are never alone.