Stress Sucks, Here’s Why


What is stress? “Stress can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable” (Mental Health Foundation); it is something we all deal with throughout our lives, whether it is caused by an external stressor like work or an internal one such as a personal dilemma. A very common modern day stressor is money troubles or debts, however stress appears in many different forms and no two people will experience it the same. 

While stress may seem daunting, not all stress is bad. A relative amount of stress can help us to learn how to cope and experience a flow of different emotions. Stress, when under control, can make one more aware and focused on their surroundings. Elizabeth Kirby, who has a UC Berkeley postdoctoral, states she thinks “…intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert”. Deadlines on school assignments for example, help to put enough pressure on students to complete tasks in a reasonable time frame rather than teach them to procrastinate. This alertness described by Kirby can also contribute to the level of pressure needing to be put on students in order for them to succeed. If a child is not challenged and constantly given the right answer, they will never be able to think for themselves and motivate themselves. 

The website Psychom stated that school is actually the top source of stress in teens, with the social aspect, workload and deadlines both contributing to this. Another factor attached to school is post secondary, teenagers are encouraged and some even forced to choose their career path for the majority of the rest of their lives as young as 17. High school students must decide where they will continue their studies, what career they want to pursue, how they want their life to look and where they hope to live. While we can never eliminate these decisions entirely, we can educate them on how they can cope and deal with stress caused by big decision making and dilemmas. From personal experience I can vouch for the truth behind the idea that some people have poor decision making skills when they are under pressure or stress, while others thrive under pressure. There is no in between, therefore learning when you produce your best work is key in being successful. 

In my personal opinion, as someone who has struggled with anxiety for the majority of their life, finding some personalized coping mechanisms that you can incorporate in your daily life is key to thriving even with a mental illness. I have always found public speaking at school to be a real struggle and weight on my shoulders, even simply saying here during attendance would make me break a sweat. It was never so much the thought of a million eyes on me, it was more or less that I had conditioned myself to believe that I was simply just a person incapable of public speaking, that it was not a choice so much as an unchangeable fact. 

In order to combat this, I have found that surrounding myself with people I respect and want to impress but the key factor is that they must be people I am not very comfortable with. This strategy has worked for me in a school setting because I have always been a student who aspires to create personal connections with my teachers since I find that also helps my anxiety and makes it possible for me to come to class; therefore I strive to impress and gain the respect of my teachers and peers. Understanding that teachers and adults react better to you saying “hey I just want you to know this may not demonstrate my best work since I am very uncomfortable, but I am going to try”. The latter half of that sentence will earn the respect of the teacher, let them know what you are going through as well as force you to go out of your comfort zone. 

Taking baby steps out of your comfort zone can help you to become more accustomed with whatever it is that you may be anxious about. For many, anxiety can appear when they are faced with something new since they are not familiar with it, forcing yourself to slowly try to do this specific task can help you later on when presented with similar things. Anxiety and stress are all personalized which means they require personalized coping strategies; the people who tend to handle stress better are the people who push themselves to experiment with different coping mechanisms. Yes, what I’m telling you to try is challenging, I’m well aware of this as I have to push myself every day but I also know it can help you see improvement. The pupils who are organized and are able to continuously challenge themselves are the same ones who tend to handle stress better, since they tend to be the people who have found what strategies work best for them by being brave enough to try. 

My question for you is are we, as a society, providing our teens with the appropriate tools and coping mechanisms in order for them to manage and navigate daily stress? In recent years we have made immense progress in helping teens cope and drawing attention to anxiety and stress by having clubs, organizations and multiple school counselors per school; as well as more and more resources for parents, guardians and others to educate themselves on stress and mental health.  

Parents often used to, and sometimes still do, refrain from acknowledging the stress upon a teens shoulders; the daily life of an average teen has adapted and evolved from what life was like for the majority of teens’s parents. However, in order to help teens, we must not only acknowledge their emotions and stress but also teach them how to cope with this, which parents are becoming increasingly more open minded towards the topic of mental health. Any role model or guardian in a young adult’s life should be finding time to check in on their youth’s stress level and ensure they have the correct coping and management skills. Ways guardians can help teach their children how to cope with mental monsters are by not only teaching them healthy strategies but also teaching them ways to let out stress and not bottle up their emotions (C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital). This simple lesson will help to facilitate a teen’s success in gaining and maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul. Harris Interactive Inc conducted a survey in which the results suggested that “unhealthy behaviours associated with stress may begin manifesting early in people’s lives” which truly emphasized the importance of teaching proper and successful coping strategies from a young age. 

Teachers are following closely in parents and guardians’s footsteps. Many teachers and school staff are not only becoming increasingly educated on the topic of mental health but are also slowly providing more adaptations. For example, someone like myself who suffers from social anxiety amongst other things, is often given presentation and public speaking alternatives. It is imperative that teachers understand, acknowledge and help students deal with daily stress since stress “impedes learning and interferes with memory retrieval” necessary for standardized tests (Association of California Student Administrators). While many students can be successful in standard classroom activities and assessments, some benefit from slight adaptations in the curriculum which can lead to a more accurate demonstration of a youth’s intelligence. 

While we are in the midst of a worldly pandemic, the stress levels have heightened for people from all different walks of life. People have lost their jobs, faced wage cuts, an endless amount of new protocols, not to mention the education system has had to adapt drastically. 

We, as a society, have drastically diminished the stigma surrounding mental health however there are still to date stereotypes, prejudices and assumptions regarding mental health and its victims that we genuinely need to work on. 2020 has surely been a shit show of a year, however our society has gone through many movements, protests and mini revolutions this year including but definitely not limited to the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights movements and movements for mental health support. While there are many perspectives and conflicting opinions on these movements, they have helped our society to evolve and progress. Gen Z has had an incredibly powerful impact on our world, especially in 2020. Therefore while this year can be described as overall negative, traumatic and surely one we shall never forget, all we can hope for now is that we, as a collective, continue to embody the motto of Meet the Robinsons and “keep moving forward”.