Excessive stress levels detrimental to student health, must be addressed

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Alya Mehrtash staff writer

There’s no doubt that high school students all across the nation deal with some level of stress throughout their academic careers. Research shows that a little stress can be quite beneficial, but it seems that more and more students are dealing with excessive levels of stress as a result of school work and academic pressures. As something that can be detrimental to students’ mental and physical health, these high-stress levels are something that students, as well as their parents and teachers, should be more cautious of.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of teens surveyed say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades. The same sentiment was reflected in a Highlights poll, in which 88 percent of the 50 students surveyed said that they feel pressure to get straight As. 

This data is very concerning. It seems that the majority of high school students have been taught to believe that receiving good grades is the only criterion to deem a student as successful. This is simply not true. Yes, good grades are an indicator of success, but it’s not the only factor. 

One of the main reasons that students feel this way revolves around the college admission process and the impact that their GPAs have on admission decisions. In fact, 92 percent of respondents feel that students at Beverly face a great deal of pressure to get into college. It is important for students to note, however, that admission decisions are not solely based on high school grades. Colleges also take into account many other things including athletics, extracurriculars, community service, etc. In other words, grades are not the only thing that matters.

A better, fairer definition of a successful student should be one who is always trying their best in school, who is proud of everything they submit and who simultaneously takes care of themselves. This last criterion is one that unfortunately is absent in the lives of many students nowadays. It is important to acknowledge that students’ mental health is incredibly important as well, but unfortunately, many students don’t pay much attention to this.

At BHHS, we are lucky to have the resources, particularly in NormanAid, to handle the stresses and pressures that come with the high school experience. When it comes to promoting NormanAid and the resources they provide, educators and administrators can only do so muchit is up to students, themselves, to utilize this incredible resource for self-care when they feel it is necessary. Ignoring excessive stress can pose a serious threat to one’s health.

Too much stress can cause short-term anxiety, but it has many more negative health effects. In the long run, elevated levels of stress hormones can weaken the immune system, cause heart problems, worsen respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, and cause chronic anxiety and depression.

According to Marya Gwadz, a senior research scientist at NYU College of Nursing, this is especially bad for high school students because “colleges are complaining that kids are disengaged, they’re dropping out, taking a long time to graduate. It’s not developmentally appropriate for them to work so hard.”

Academic stress has, in some sense, become an institutionalized aspect of the high school experience. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. It’s true that some teachers need to be more wary of the fact that students are balancing many classes with extracurriculars, athletics, and lives outside of school. At the same time, most teachers are simply doing their best to prepare their students for the curriculum of their respective classes. 

When it comes to course selection, students need to prioritize their own health–mental and physical–over school. One should not be signing up for five AP classes if they don’t think they can truly handle it. Rather, they should focus on their strengths while also finding balance in their lives. 

Stress is inevitable in high school, but excessive levels of stress can and must be avoided. It’s up to us, as students, to use the resources provided to us, to prioritize ourselves and to find balance in our lives that work for us.

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