Student Stress: An Examination of an Epidemic
November 13, 2017
Stress vs Anxiety: Is There a Difference?
As Prep students, we have all either felt or known someone who has felt stressed. However, when talking about stress, people also mention anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference between the two.
Stress, by definition, is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Anxiety, on the other hand, is “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” In other words, stress is a feeling you get when you are responding to an uncomfortable situation. Anxiety is the response to being under high levels of stress for prolonged periods of time
Stress is an emotion experienced by every living human, and is not necessarily a bad thing. Because you feel stressed when you are challenged, this feeling actually helps in maintaining your brain function.
Typically, being stressed is a short-term condition that goes away when the stressor disappears. For example, if you are being chased by a bear, you will feel extremely stressed while you are trying to get away from it. However, once you are safely out of harm, you won’t feel stressed anymore; instead you will probably feel relieved.
Physically, stress occurs when your nervous system gets tense, which leads to shallow breathing. It is the first stage leading into anxiety. Physically, anxiety arises when your brain receives too little oxygen, an effect of shallow breathing due to stress.
Unlike stress, anxiety is more of a long-term ailment and is diagnosable as a mental health disorder. Symptoms of this disease include sleepless nights, obsessive worry, and shaking. Many people who have anxiety suffer from loss of appetite, weight gain, headaches, stomach problems, and irregular heart-beats. People who have anxiety are more prone to anxiety/panic attacks, which are triggered by feelings of fear or worry. These emotions alone usually do not cause a person to feel stressed.
According to Prep Counselor Mrs. Boyle. “deep breathing can be the first step to lowering anxiety or stress.” She also adds that thinking of calm, rational thoughts can speed up your recovery.
Throughout your life, you are guaranteed to feel stressed due to any number of causes. When this is the case, just remember to take deep breaths, and try to create a plan to eliminate your stressor. If you are ever feeling anxious and are in need of help, find someone to talk to. A counselor, parent, or good friend will be more than willing to listen to how you’re feeling and help you to calm down, think over the problem(s), and form a solution.
Seniors Give Stress Advice
Stress is a common thing for teens to deal with, especially at a school as challenging as Seattle Prep.
Senior Sadie McCann reflected on the most stressful moments she’s had as a student at Prep. “College apps have been very stressful because of the deadline. There’s not as much guidance as big projects like UN, which makes it a lot harder. UN was also pretty stressful because it’s such a big project and there’s so much pressure for it. The Junior Research Paper was also pretty stressful.” Many things can add to the stress factor of being a student hard at work.
There are also many other factors that can make Prep a more stressful environment for Panthers. McCann added, “I think a lot of students do sports and that’s often stressful, especially if you’re pretty competitive in your sport. Also homework—there’s a lot of homework at Prep. It’s quite hard to balance your social life [with everything else going on]. Sometimes there can seem like there’s cliques and it can be stressful to navigate that kind of stuff as well, especially for Freshmen.”
Mason Fleischauer ’18 said, “Everyone’s studying so many different things and it’s hard to prioritize everything you’re learning and all the stuff going on in your life.” Fleischauer and McCann summed up the daily stressors that are common for Panthers.
McCann has many techniques she has discovered over her years at Prep to help combat stress. “It is important to try techniques to cope with stress until you find the one that works best for you. I would say, my advice is to try out different ways [to cope with stress] and go through a bunch of ways until you find one that works for you, like coloring, working out, or meditation, or something like that.”
Fleischauer also has valuable advice for younger students at Prep. “Do your homework early, and do A day homework on A days, and B day homework on B days.” Fleischauer and McCann explained the best ways to get rid of stress using easy and simple techniques.
Students at Prep can be quite familiar with stressful situations, but with a few tips and tricks from the experienced Seniors, any student can get through it.
What Stress Does to Your Health
Many students, especially at such a rigorous school as Prep, feel high levels of stress from school in their life. It may surprise you, but stress is actually a normal response in your body. It is a reaction that your body produces when you feel threatened or your everyday routine is disrupted. Stress can be good because it helps keep you motivated and can even protect you in certain situations. However, feeling too much stress is not healthy. Feeling stressed regularly could lead to greater health issues later and could negatively interfere with your everyday life, which is not good news for many of us Prep students to hear.
According to the director of Affective Disorders Research Program at Silver Hill Hospital, 75- 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress related issues. Coach Deino Scott also added in on the matter by informing me that “stress creates chemicals in the brain which can lead to other more harmful conditions such as depression. It can be very emotionally and physically draining.”
Stress can play a role in many physical problems that you may experience, such as asthma, anxiety, depression, headaches, skin conditions, and much more. Because stress can cause these health problems, I decided to investigate what we can do to try and prevent or deal with stress as well, as learn all the facts on why stress is especially impactful on students.
There are many aspects in a school that can be stressors in a student’s life. Coach Scott observed some of the biggest stressors in his students and indicated that they were “academic pressures” such as tests, “time management,” and “social pressure such as ‘fitting in.’”
During stressful times, it’s important to take care of your body by exercising, eating healthy foods, and limiting sugar and caffeine intake. Another especially important part of preventing stress is getting lots of sleep, which can be hard for Prep students with lots of homework every night. It’s going to be hard, but use your time wisely during class, lit-study, and after school to try and get eight hours of sleep each night. Different remedies and tactics help different people, so it’s important to find what works for you when dealing with stress. You can choose to talk to friends, go on a run or exercise, draw, or write in a journal. Coach Scott recommends “finding those things that make you happy and do them.”
Ironically, stress that comes from school can affect students learning. It has been found through many tests and The Yerkes-Dodson law that students in low and high stress environments learn the least and students under moderate stress environments learn the most. There are many other tests as well that support this notion that excessive stress is harmful to performance in school. Stress can specifically affect students by causing them to over study for an exam or even rush through an exam. Although some stress is necessary for personal growth to occur, an excessive amount of stress can overwhelm a student and affect his or her ability to cope with school work.
Remember that some stress in your life is natural and even helpful, but make sure you are also taking time out of your busy schedule to take care of yourself and de-stress.
Mindfulness in Students; Meditation in Stress
Stress. Anxiety. Panic attacks. Whether it comes from not understanding a concept, a math exam, or the lunch line being too long, many students deal with a form of stress every day. However, according to studies, practicing meditation can help deal with anxiety in life.
What is meditation? The Webster Dictionary defines meditation “to engage in contemplation, reflection, or mental exercise (such as to concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” So why does this have an effect on Seattle Prep students? Well, the inclusion of meditation into students lives an greatly increase your mental and physical well-being. When people meditate, their minds have the opportunity to gain peacefulness, once they have peacefulness within, it limits the negativity from stress, anxiety, and overall discomfort that enters the body, therefore, making life easier and filled with happiness.
How does it work? According to the website artofliving.org “When meditating, beta waves, which indicate a state where information is being processed, decrease and are replaced by alpha waves, which are associated with total brain coherence. The frontal and parietal lobes, which deal with reasoning, planning, and processing sensory information, slow down. And without a glut incoming stimulus, the nervous system is able to rest, resulting in relaxation and improved functioning in the entire body.”
The benefits of meditation are endless, both mentally and physically. Mentally, meditation can help decrease anxiety, help increase creativity, and help develop intuition. Physically, mediation helps lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety attacks, decreases tension related pains such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems, increases energy, and improves the immune system. All of which leads to greater happiness.
Mr. Bond, one of our school’s science faculty members, leads his students through meditation before they take a big assessment. Through meditation, Bond says, “It was also, and has continued to be a really good fit on how I try to handle the world.”
One of Bond’s IPC students, Lauren Royce ‘21, claims that when she was guided through meditation before a test has helped her. “I totally felt so calm and relaxed when I took the test. It really helped me concentrate,” says Royce. When asked what students should do as a simple meditation when stressed, he says they should try to:
- “Think about something that makes you feel good. When you have a focus that makes you feel positive, or reminds you of something positive, I found that its easier to be calm because you’re thinking of something nice.”
- Sit comfortably. “How do you sit and how are you in the world will help to facilitate to be more meditative.” Then, take a few deep breaths. Stop for a moment. It will help calm yourself and let you know that you’ve prepared for this moment. This is your moment to recognize that you’re ready to do well.”
According to various sources, these meditation practices can help reduce any stress:
- Do yoga. It might seem trés bizarre, as French speakers say. However, simple yoga positions such as the cobra pose or warrior pose help to promotes relaxation, which is the natural opposite of stress.
- Gratitude journal. This is where you write down a few positive things that happened during the day, what you were thankful for that day, and what you are hoping for to happen in the future.
- Guided meditation videos on YouTube. Put some headphones on and sit comfortably. There are videos forever how long you want to meditate; 5 minutes, 10 minutes, even an hour!
- Meditation apps: such as Headspace
Meditation can be proven very effective, for taking a moment to rest within silence becomes an excellent source of reducing constant high school stress. Through these exercises, it can lead to more appreciation and allow you enjoy life with ease. In the joy of silence, you may find yourself wanting to do it more often.