Students experience unhealthy levels of stress

Sam Uhlarik, Staff Reporter

Almost every student, regardless of grade level, experiences at least some level of stress during their schooling. The causes of stress can vary widely from excessive schoolwork to a lack of a time for daily activities. It has been shown in several studies that teenagers, specifically, display increased amounts of stress during the school year as opposed to during summer months.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that teenagers appear to begin mirroring the high-stress lives of adults, possibly setting themselves up for a future of chronic stress and illness. The association’s CEO and Executive Vice President Norman B. Anderson, PhD says it’s “alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults.” He also mentions how concerning it is that most teens underestimate the impact stress can have on their mental and physical health.

The study also reported that teens’ stress levels during the school year far exceeds what they believe to be a healthy levels of stress. 59% of students found that managing their time throughout the day was a significant stressor. While 21% of students said that they neglected schoolwork because of stress. 40% mentioned that they neglected their responsibilities at home because of stress as well.

The effects of stress can be much more severe, however. A major study by New York University found many students describing emotional exhaustion and feelings of lethargy and immobilization in response to being overwhelmed and stressed. Students described their feelings with sentiments such as, “I just don’t do anything,” or “I lose the ability to function.” Furthermore, a substantial minority (26%) of students with varying levels of stress reported symptoms of depression at a clinically significant level.

To cope with their stress, students displayed a wide-ranging variety of unique stress release methods. Sports and exercise were two of the most popular responses, along with the development of quality time management and planning skills. Another coping strategy exhibited by students was the maintaining of a balanced perspective on school and grades. Students had found that weighing the importance of their schoolwork in comparison to other activities was beneficial to their balancing of stress.

While students displayed many positive coping mechanisms, a multitude of less-adaptive techniques were also exhibited. Substance use for stress was a major recurring element in the findings of the New York University study. Alcohol and marijuana were the two primary substances used for relaxation and stress management purposes. Unlike other coping mechanisms, substance use was not gender-specific. Qualitative data indicated no differences in gender for the general use of substances. Furthermore, the frequency that students reported to using illegal substances was one to two times more than reported in national samples.

Many educational institutions are very much aware of students’ excessive stress levels. Schools are using strategies to combat stress, such as adjusting their daily schedules to allow for students to get more sleep and lightening the workload placed on students. Some schools even offer activities or clubs that help manage student stress, such as help finding positive ways to control it and meditation.

The immoderate levels of stress placed on students are a significant concern. A majority of students feel an intense amount of pressure in their daily lives, and in many cases make use of negative coping methods. However, school administrators have the ability to reduce students’ stress, and potentially lead them to a better future.