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High School Students Describes the Stress of Daily Life

84% of WC high school students reported (in a recent survey) that they sometimes, often or always experience anxiety over their academic performance. Teen stress and pressure to achieve are not issues limited to one school, community, or demographic, though; it seems that these issues pervade our society as a whole.

Angst in adolescence is not a new phenomenon. We can certainly all identify with worrying about future plans, feeling pressure to do well in school, struggling with interpersonal relationships, and the difficult process of discovering who we are. Yet there are some facets of life today that complicate adolescence. The use of social media and our culture’s obsession with early achievement are at the top of that list.

WC English teacher Mrs. Abby Palmer recently challenged her ninth-grade students to write about their high school experience, what (if any) pressures they feel in school, what they wish parents knew about their stress, and more. In response, one of her students wrote the following:

Parents may think that everything is easy and fine for their teenage kids. Chances are, though, they really don’t know the thoughts and thought process of their teenager. Today’s teenagers always have a lot on their mind and it can be hard to get it out. Little by little the thoughts build up and a day can quickly become stressful. I invite you, parents, to walk alongside me and share in my thoughts for a day in hopes that it might help you understand the challenges teens encounter these days.

7:00 a.m. Wake up, check phone

“What did I miss after I went to sleep last night? Oh no! I missed a group call at 1 a.m. My friend texted me at 2 a.m. and I didn’t respond. I hope they’re not mad at me.”

7:10 a.m. Get dressed, go to the bathroom to brush my teeth

“What should I wear today? Oh shoot! I forgot to wear my retainer! Do I look bad in this outfit? Will I get made fun of for what I wear today?”

7:40 a.m. Go downstairs to eat breakfast

“I have to eat healthy or I’ll get fat! Oh shoot! I have to leave soon! Oh man, did I do all of my homework?”

7:50 a.m. Ride to school with my sister, arrive 20 minutes early before school to hang out with friends

“What if my friends don’t want me there? What if they make fun of me? What if they think my hair looks bad?”

8:20 a.m. Bell rings for first period 

“Oh shoot! We have a math quiz today! If I fail this, my grade will be an F!!! If I get an F, will I be able to play in my game? How did I not know we had a quiz today?!”

9:01 a.m. Bell rings for second period, I see friends talking in the hall and they don’t talk to me

“Are they mad at me? Did I do something?”

Noon Lunch

“Today is open lunch day. Who should I sit with today? Where are we going to sit? Will someone be mad at me if I don’t sit with them?”

2:17 p.m. Bell rings for ninth period

“Finally!! Oh no! I have a history test…”

4:00 p.m. Go to soccer practice

“I need to be on my A-game, I didn’t do so well at the last practice. What if I never make varsity?!”

6:30 p.m. Go home 

“Finally, I’m home! I pray Mom made dinner, I’m STARVING…whew she did make dinner.

8:00 p.m. Time for homework

“I literally have tons of homework tonight.”

10:00 p.m. Still doing homework

“I am literally going to fall asleep right now…I have got to get ready for bed.”

10:30 p.m. Put homework away, get ready for bed

“Darn it, I still have to pack a lunch. And I have to get my soccer clothes ready for tomorrow, too.”

11:00 p.m. Still awake

“I almost forgot to put in my retainer!! And I have to keep up my streaks with my friends on Snapchat.”

11:47 p.m. Still awake

“It’s almost midnight!! I didn’t even get to talk to my Mom today and tell her about my math quiz. I hope she’s not upset. I studied, I just don’t think I studied the right stuff. Maybe I can get some extra help from the teacher. My friends are still awake, but I really need to go to sleep. I hope I don’t miss any important calls or texts.”

This is how the life of a teen can easily become stressful. It’s not that a single math quiz stresses a person out; it’s everything on top of that. It’s needing to get an A and make varsity and be popular (or at least NOT the least popular), it’s not being considered the fat or ugly friend. When you think about it, having a test, and playing a sport, and wanting to spend time with friends and even sometimes your family, these all compete for teens’ attention and make them question something. Teens question themselves and worry about all the things. Adults often remind us to be kids and have fun, but there’s no time for fun if we ever want to get into a college!

This is just one teen’s account of her daily life and her perspective on stress. Each teen has a story of their own, but it is likely that one common thread among them all is the experience of anxiety and pressure. It is critical for us as a school community and as families to engage with our teens in the midst of their individual experiences. WC seeks to understand these issues and how they affect our students, address them, and encourage parents to do the same at home from a distinctively Christian approach. 

It is for this reason that we’ve invited the publisher of Forbes magazine, Rich Karlgaard, to come and speak here at WC. We want to start a conversation on the pressures teens face today as a result of intense cultural pressure to achieve, and we want you to join us in this conversation. Please make plans to attend “An Evening with Rich Karlgaard” on Thursday, February 13, at 7:00 p.m. in the AC Auditorium. Seating is limited; make sure to purchase your tickets while they last. 


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