How can students’ stress be properly addressed?

Adolescence proves time and time again to be a difficult time for teens in America. With increasingly competitive colleges and universities, students are required to find more and more to put on their resumes. Whether or not a student decides they want to attend the most competitive universities, they still have to deal with a variety of pressures socially, academically, and quite possibly commitments to their families.

In high school especially, students are attempting to navigate the murky waters of the social hierarchy, academics and family issues, all while attempting to grasp the discovery of who they are and how they fit into the world. Next level education encourages students not only to enroll in the most invigorating, challenging courses that their school has to offer, but to also thrive and accomplish at a high level in each one of these demanding courses. These schools also want to see a healthy social life full with a variety of sports, clubs, and community service.

The issue of time management is under appreciated in our academic system. Teens are rarely taught how to manage their time, and according to CNN and the Washington Post, they waste an average of nine hours a day consuming and reproducing media using phones, computers, and other various outlets. The nine hours is inclusive of the “multitasking” teens think they are doing, when in actuality, they are only be distracted. This addiction does not get the required attention it deserves and teens are too distracted by their solipsistic ways to understand what is happening to them.

Between homework, sports, musical commitments, and a million other extra curriculars, students are dealing with stress. A study done by the Benson Henry Institute says that 60 percent of all doctor’s visits are due to stress and according to a study done by NYU,  49 percent of students report a great deal of stress on a daily basis, and 26 percent report feeling depression on a clinical level. In order to reduce stress, they resort to the consumption of media, and illegal substances as a way to release dopamine and other endorphins (Uky.edu).

While technology addictions shouldn’t be ignored, this is not the most severe consequence that is a result of student’s stress. In fact, 38 percent of students reported getting drunk within a 33 day period, and 34 percent reported getting high on illegal substances. Students resort to this kind of substance abuse, and sometimes even self-harm because they don’t have proper, healthy coping skills and they need some relief. Stress is found to be a direct cause for some mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, which can linger for many years after high school, often persisting through to a deteriorated adulthood. (NYU Web Communications)

So what are some healthy coping strategies for dealing with stress? Are there even any healthy coping strategies that will reduce stress? The answer is yes, there are many healthy outlets: meditation, seeking support (whether it is just with trusted companions or professionally), taking time to relax, yoga, humor, physical activities, monitoring and obtaining the proper amount of sleep, reading, hydration, or even starting a stress journal to identify everything that may cause personal stress. Striving for solutions within ourselves and accepting help from others are healthy, beneficial ways to reduce stress. A study from John Hopkins University claims that eight weeks of meditation proves to help treat depression, anxiety, and pain just as much as medication. Scientists have started to use something called neuro-imaging technology to argue the case for meditation. Research with neuro-imaging done at Harvard exemplifies the positive effects on the brain that meditation has in helping chronic stress. There are healthy solutions. We just need to know about them, and learn how to use them. (Goodtherapy.org)

The responsibility of resolving the issue of stress does not lie on any sole entity. It needs to be a communal effort. It isn’t the educator’s job to assign less work or to expect less from their students. Students should have difficult courses to thrive in and to discover and push their intellectual capacities. The administrators don’t need to launch any major changes. However, it would be nice if we had seminars and assemblies to help teach kids healthy ways to cope, maybe even going as far as having a meditation elective class in our school system. Parents don’t need to walk their kids through their lives without granting independence, or enroll their kids in mental health hospitals. As students, we need to recognize there are healthy options to reduce stress, and we need to provide support amongst ourselves and be conscious, as fellow human beings, of the issues others may be experiencing. Parents need to make themselves known to be accessible to their children as a trustworthy adult that will be there to listen. As a school system, we need to inform our students of possible alternatives and how to manage stress well. As a community we need to consciously recognize the issue and have compassion and love for one another.