On Stress

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Dear Ceanray,

I’m sure you have heard conversations at school where people compare the amount of sleep they get each night. I always find these conversations frighteningly enlightening. I am frightened, of course, by the sheer lack of sleep some of my peers get. “I get two hours on a good night,” I once heard someone say. This is scary.

I am enlightened by the reasons why my peers get such little sleep. It is sometimes because of Netflix or cell phones; but often, it is because of their gigantic workload. Many students have part-time jobs, and participate in sports or other out-of school activities (sometimes at a competitive level). And that’s not to mention homework, and school co-curriculars.

No wonder teens are getting such little sleep; our waking hours are filled to the brim. The fact that all of the activities we are involved in cause us to be stressed doesn’t help, either. Stress manifests itself in physical symptoms – exhaustion, headaches, illnesses – and also mental and emotional symptoms.

Stress only grows as our to-do lists grow; and yet, we can’t abandon the to-do list because that would cause us to be more stressed. Sometimes, though, it is necessary for us to take a break and relax. Relaxing can come in many different forms; reading, spending time with family or friends, or taking a well-deserved nap. It can also be spending time pursuing a passion that doesn’t make it onto your to-do list like writing or painting.

Another way to deal with stress is by prioritizing. Although it’s tempting to try to finish your entire to-do list in one night, it’s probably not very likely to happen; nor is it the best use of your time. Aim to do the most important things first (eg. the things due tomorrow) and then work on one or two longer projects (eg. a project due next week). Use the time you saved not tackling everything on your to-do list to relax. This will clear your mind, and make you feel less stressed!

One way that I like to “de-stress” myself is by rediscovering my motivation and passion for what I am doing. When I become stressed, I forget why I’m doing the things I am doing; when I remember the reason and the fog clears, I am reminded of what is important and what I should devote most of my time to.

How do you deal with stress?

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

Well said! The thing is, high school students in particular are more stressed out now than they have ever been and anxiety disorders in teens are worryingly common.

Only a few years ago, my biggest worry was if I’d have enough time to squeeze in an episode of Hannah Montana before dance class. Now, I’m having to make decisions about the courses I take next year and what will affect my ability to apply for different universities in various faculties. This is one of my primary sources of stress. Which brings me to –

The Future.

What an exciting and terrifying idea! It’s fun to imagine myself 10, 20 years from now and wonder what my life will be like. The thing is, I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I am constantly reminded by adults to just “enjoy being young” when I voice my concerns for my future – this is proving to be quite difficult. The voice in the back of my mind telling me to succeed now or pay the price later doesn’t help the situation.

I can also sympathize with a number of the other causes of stress you mentioned. Some nights I don’t get home from various extracurriculars and sports until after 10:30 pm, which leaves me studying and doing homework long past my bedtime. Waking up the next day feeling like a zombie certainly doesn’t help matters.

To manage stress, I find exercise as my primary source of relief. Going for a run or heading to the gym is a quick and healthy way to clear my head, along with traditional methods (bubble baths!)

All in all, summer is within reach and that’s what will keep me going through these last few hectic months!

Ceanray

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