Are high school students over-stressed? Is this stress leading to negative health effects and behaviors? These are questions many professionals, parents, and even teens themselves are asking.
According to a 2015 study done at New York University, chronic stress is in fact negatively affecting teenagers.
“[I]t impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risky behaviors. Students consistently report feeling depressed and anxious,” the study reported. Almost half of the students interviewed reported “feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis.”
Stressing factors included succeeding academically, maintaining a social life, getting into the ‘right’ college, and competing for scholarships.
So, how are students dealing with this stress? Researchers found that students did implement many positive coping skills such as meditating, exercising, playing video games, planning ahead, and having realistic academic goals. However, the study also revealed that over two-thirds of students turned to substance abuse to relax. Many reported “getting high or drunk” to release pressure.
Considering the number of students that struggle, how do students feel about stress and what resources are available for Brevard High School students?
Interviews with three sophomores at Brevard High revealed they feel high levels of stress on a regular basis, do not believe they are handling it well, and definitely lose sleep because of it. The students noted they are most stressed about grades because of the pressure that is put on them to make all A’s and get into an excellent college. They all feel that behaviors of an over-stressed student include being anxious, constantly worried about school work, and being exhausted or irritable.
Experts believe that stress management classes for high school students would be beneficial and teach breathing, calming, and refreshing techniques for over-stressed individuals.
Sophomore Evie Rackley is not sure classes would be the most effective answer.
“I think it would definitely benefit the school, but I also think that is a two-part job. Students have to go in willing to learn from the stress management class,” said Rackley. “If students are not willing to learn from that then it is not going to help.”
Sophomore Cate Prince does not believe that classes would be beneficial.
“Students just have to figure stress management out on their own,” said Prince. “People deal with stress in many different ways, and I don’t feel that one class could be able to teach everyone the same thing and it be effective.”
All of the interviewees felt that drugs or drinking were an outlet that many students turned to for stress relief. Even Brevard High guidance counselor Hallie Moore knows some students do make that choice, but she hopes that those who feel compelled to turn to drugs know the guidance counselors are available to look for healthier ways to cope with stress.
Moore knows students stress out about grades, home factors, and time management. She says students do have a variety of coping strategies.
“I think that some students go home and unplug. They might run or do a hobby/sport,” said Moore. “Those extracurricular activities may be their ways of de-stressing, but it may also be that they find support in friends and family.”
Moore hopes to offer stress management classes in the future.
“I think that it would be a wonderful opportunity and maybe with our Devil’s Den time that could be a topic that a teacher or guidance counselor could offer in the future,” said Moore.