Stressed, Depressed, and College Obsessed

In recent years, the adolescent population has been infected by a pandemic: stress. The fact of the matter is that stress is an unavoidable part of life. Small amounts of stress are essential to a successful existence, as the absence of stress can lead to a lack of motivation. Excessive amounts of stress, however, can lead to the permanent presence of physical and mental irritation.

In addition, stress is exceedingly challenging to alleviate as it is produced by the brain’s adrenal glands and hypothalamus, which instinctively send subconscious signals that trigger the bodily reactions associated with stress when hazard is perceived. It would seem as if stress has drunk the elixir of life, as it never really expires completely, but simply transforms into a new worry when the first is over. Thus, stress has the ability to poison every facet of life when not managed correctly.

For today’s students, school has overtaken global affairs, home life, and personal relationships as the most substantial source of stress. In years past, high school was seen as microcosm of reality, where the pressures the outside world were abridged and amusement was placed above the necessity of excellence. Recently, however, the notion of the golden teenage years has been eclipsed by the daunting trend of “Harvard-bound or homeless”.

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association this February found that adolescents are significantly more stressed than adults. Furthermore, more than a quarter of teenagers surveyed stated that they undergo “extreme stress” during the school year. This is largely due to the modern student having been tasked with the massive undertaking of not only achieving perfect grades, but also possessing a résumé of extracurriculars and awards that represent a range of interests so diverse that they would rival the subjects studied by the great scholars of Antiquity.

In a recent interview with St. Luke’s Mrs. Demarco-Havens, she noted that teenagers’ intense inclination to build résumés is unique to this generation. For example, as recently as the late 20th century, community service was not done in order to bolster college applications, but out of a personal desire to help others, and primarily through religious organizations.

Ironically, this drive to impress often leads to modern students to pursue activities that they do not actually possess any interest for simply to magnify their chances of being one of the few students selected to attend their dream schools. Moreover, in wake of recent financial crises that have befallen the world, more incentive has arisen for students to obtain college degrees from a prestigious school in order to secure employment. The media constantly perpetuates the idea that only a degree from one of the best schools can lead to a stable future. For many students these new pressures transform simple ambition, which is vital to achievement and personal happiness, into an unhealthy obsession.

Many parents groom their children to be the perfect college applicants from birth, instead of allowing them to naturally pursue the activities that truly interest them. Psychologically, this can be devastating for children, causing them to feel that their only purpose is to be attractive to college admissions officers and all other aspects of their lives are irrelevant. Balance is crucial to managing stress; therefore, having such a perpetual one-track mind can be a serious detriment to one’s mental health.

In light of these stressful times, it is important for individuals to take control of their health. Symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, heart palpitations, and frequent illnesses often remain unrecognized until they intensify into mood disorders or serious health complications, including heart attacks, chronic pain disorders, and depression. To combat stress, simply getting enough sleep, sustaining one’s nutrition, using basic time management skills and frequently engaging in activities that release a healthy amount of positive chemicals to the brain can be very helpful. Some of the abovementioned activities include listening to music, exercising, and social interaction.

For high-strung students, the meditation and yoga can be very effective, as they  increase mindfulness. Mindfulness is very beneficial for those who are fixated on the future and  unable to live in the moment.  Mindfulness is a principal that defines a conscious choice to focus one’s attention on the present, analyze one’s thoughts, and express one’s emotions. Additional benefits to mindful practices include a boost in memory, focus, emotional resilience, immune system, and insight.  All in all, life can be stressful; therefore, no matter how hectic one’s schedule is time should always be reserved daily for relaxation.

— Colette Juran, Staff Writer

Posted by on November 12, 2014. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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