Anxiety and Me

When the pressure of being a modern day high school student is too much to handle.

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Anxiety and Me

Madison Gallant

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You often hear about college students dealing with an unbearable amount of pressure, often leading to anxiety. It’s not often talked about high school students who go through the same thing. Not to say that high school and college are on the same level when it comes to workload, far from it, but the students still have their own stress to cope with

What exactly is anxiety? Merriam Webster defines it as an “abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.” Anxiety has many adverse effects on those who suffer. In the short-term, it can cause headaches, nausea, irritability, and extreme fatigue. When endured long enough, this level of strain can also cause frequent panic attacks, heart and lung problems, increased blood pressure, and depression. Now, nobody loves being anxious. Many despise the feeling and wish to keep it out of their lives as much as they can. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for many students anymore.

Psychology Today stated that the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s. They go on to say how we, as a population, get worse with passing time.

It’s obvious why this is so troubling. With stress at an all time high and mental health rapidly declining, it’s no wonder we haven’t all gone mad.

I interviewed a few students and one teacher at Tewksbury Memorial High School (TMHS), who all wished to remain anonymous, and asked them a few questions about the hot topic.

First, I asked if school impacted their mental health – if they had noticed any significant change in their mindset. One student said, “yeah, I feel more stressed and anxious. Since I’ve started highschool I feel like the workload has been more and teacher’s expect more of you.” Another joked that they were on the verge of a mental breakdown. If you listen long enough in the halls of TMHS, you’re bound to hear someone joking around about their poor mental wellbeing. This may be concerning, but it’s also very common amongst students nowadays. It could even be seen as a coping mechanism to deal with the burden of such stress.

When asked what about school made them anxious, it was a varied response. Almost all of them blamed the amount homework they receive. One brought up the pressure of AP classes, which everyone knows are incredibly difficult courses. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the deadlines put a lot of pressure on students, especially having “multiple deadlines at the same time.” One answer that I found interesting was the expectations. This student firmly believes that teacher’s can sometimes get out of hand when it comes to what they expect of their pupils – this puts a lot of pressure on the students to reach the teacher’s level of perfection. The anonymous individual reiterated that they don’t think teachers should drastically lower their expectations, they simply wish that they would ease up a bit, and be a little bit more empathetic when it comes to the intertwining of schoolwork with students’ personal lives.

I then asked how they coped, which two students simultaneously responded “you don’t.” One suggested venting to their friends, and another admitted to crying. Not once did any of them bring up seeking professional help or counseling. When asked about the possibility of opening up to a guidance counselor, they were both displeased with the idea. Both said they had been to guidance for issues involving anxiety brought on by school, and were brushed aside, or simply weren’t provided the help they needed. The anonymous teacher, however, said they have seen many students getting assistance with this issue from guidance. This teacher has received a few emails from the counselors themselves informing about students with anxiety issues.

Curious, I decided to question this mystery teacher to see if they feel the same stressful feelings we do. They replied “[I do] not feel very anxious, just minor things. A lot of deadlines. You know – grading, planning a lesson every class. And we get evaluated so that also adds the pressure on.” It seems that once again, deadlines is the culprit and linking variable behind so many people’s anxiety. There is so much pressure to get so much work done at a certain time that sometimes it just feels unmanageable. But don’t worry, there is hope.

So what can our school do to help? Well, since it doesn’t look like they’ll be pitching homework anytime soon, all the school staff can do is be there for their students. Support and reassure them, and help them calm down whenever panic may arise. If you happen to be under a lot of pressure right now and found this article applying to you in a negative way, please, I urge you to seek help. Whether it be guidance counselors, teachers, your family or some close friends, opening up about the stress you are under may help to ease your mind.

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