Opinion: Teens are obsessed with stress

CAROLINE ENOS, Staff Writer, Editor

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I can’t remember a day at GHS where I haven’t heard students complain.

Topics often include, but are not limited to:

One : The almost enticing but downright disgusting aroma of juuls in the bathrooms.

Two: The fact that people STILL cannot move down the halls without desecrating the apparently lost art of walking.

Three (and the most common complaint): How school, sports, and life in general cause never-ending, vomit-inducing amounts of stress.

Yes. Stress.

Stress is the inevitable punch in the gut no one can avoid in life. It’s a natural part of the high school experience (and yes, I’m talking about you, freshman bio). But the stress radiating off of today’s youth is concerning, especially since it can often be self-inflicted.

“How so?” you ask. The answer is simple. Our generation is obsessed with the idea of being stressed.

I want to make it clear that it’s OK to ask for help if you feel completely overwhelmed by stress all the time. Studies show that teen anxiety is growing at an alarming rate, and we have to support individuals struggling with this reality.

However, the idea that life is constantly sling-shotting us below the belt has become so normalized through social media that we find ourselves practically throwing up over the smallest assignment or slightest misstep.

Social media is a mess of stress

To show you what I mean, let’s do a quick meme-study:

Pinterest

Pinterest

Pinterest

Pinterest

Pinterest

For those of you who are unfamiliar with “High School Musical 3” and my husband Zac Efron, the hallways are literally spinning in this scene as he violently tries to yank out his 2008 take on the bowl cut (I would too if I knew Bieber would be on the scene the next year).

Not to mention, he’s scream-singing about the plights of adolescence the whole time like the world is grabbing him by the small intestine and trying to yank out his humanity.

Adolescence isn’t a walk in the park, and this specific meme is just a nostalgic nod of a hyperbole. But the last part is what concerns me the most.

Me all the time.

I see captions under memes and text posts like this every time I open Instagram or Facebook. Teens constantly post extreme analogies like this with a comment or caption that says “me,” “honestly same,” or some other thing that implies that they are literally in the same state of psychological distress as “HSM 3” Troy, twenty-four-seven.

While we might not all truly think this way the first time we share this type of post, the more we reaffirm negativities like this, the more we subconsciously believe them.

On top of this, we are constantly exposed to the idea that we have to feel gut-wrenchingly stressed out all the time in order to succeed– or in order to relate with our generation. This is tainting our ability to function when faced with normal tasks.

Why it pays to not be perfect

I ended my freshman year as number seven in my class and a Sawyer Medal winner. How? I spent all of my energy in school, and put my schoolwork before Every. Other. Thing. In. My. Life.

That year absolutely sucked.

I moved from class to class with a knot of stress in my chest pulled so tightly I thought my grandma was knitting my arteries into a new cardigan. I was so stressed out about grades and getting straight A’s that I didn’t stop and enjoy my first year of high school, and I regret that to this day.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t prioritize your education (administration wouldn’t appreciate that, so for the sake of my publication, “Always do your homework, kids!”). Just ask yourself the same question I asked myself.

Is getting perfect grades worth wrecking your mental health and letting your high school years squeak by you in a mess of stress?

And if you’re muttering to yourself, “But I want to get into a good school!” guess what? Unless you want to go to Harvard Law and take down the patriarchy one murder-meets-beauty-fundamentals trial at a time, a degree is a degree.

Most employers don’t care if you went to one school or another, and you will get into a college that meets your needs and makes you happy even if you got an 89 instead of a 90 on that one geometry test your sophomore year.

Freshmen and sophomores, please don’t let stress dictate your high school careers. Don’t be afraid to cut a study session a little short so you can spend quality time with your friends, and keep in mind that midterms and finals are only worth twenty percent of your final grade.

Juniors and seniors, it’s not too late to stop and enjoy high school. Remember that AP test scores don’t impact your GPA, and don’t mean anything other than potential college credit. Colleges also care about the SAT less and less each year.

And if parents are reading this, I ask you to look back at your high school selves. Were you having a great time with your friends, letting life lead you into crazy adventures that make you smile when you look back? Or were you plagued with stress and wish you let yourself have some more fun?

Keep this in mind when you’re helping your teens be their best selves.

If we focus solely on school or anything else that can cause us so much stress, life won’t be enjoyable. And what’s life without a little joy?

As the late and great Franklin D. Roosevelt sort of said, “All we have to stress is stress itself.”

So please make a New Deal with yourself to look at the bigger picture and stop obsessing with stressing. If you start to freak out over an assignment or college, take a breath and remind yourself that everything will work out in some way– even if you’re not at the very top of your class– and that life goes on.

In conclusion, because I have no self-control when it comes to shoving pop-culture references down people’s’ throats, here’s a Ferris Bueller quote to keep you grounded on the road ahead.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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