By Alanna Boland
Between rigorous classes, after-school activities, and the intense pressure of getting into college, it’s no wonder that teenagers seem more stressed than ever before. In a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), more than a quarter of teens (ages 13-17) reported having extreme stress levels, while only 18% reported having little to no stress. 59% of the teens surveyed reported that balancing all their activities was the thing that stressed them out the most. One of the reasons why many teens overload themselves with activities to the point of extreme stress is to impress colleges. Most colleges today want kids who can “do it all.” This means students who not only take challenging courses and maintain a high average in them, but who are also “well-rounded” and take part in multiple after-school activities. Because of this, I know many CPHS students who have taken a certain class or joined a club or sport just because they thought it would look good on their college applications – not because they had any actual interest in it.
Another study conducted by the APA found that today’s teens are experiencing more stress than adults. When asked to rate their stress on a scale of 1-10, teenagers averaged 5.8, while adults averaged 5.1. A possible reason for this might be that adults have their priorities in order much better than teens. Adults focus mainly on two important parts of their life – their jobs and their families. Teenagers, however, may care equally about every aspect of their life and try to devote the same amount of attention to each one. As a result, they can spread themselves thin and end up severely stressed.
According to USA Today, many students resort to unhealthy methods to balance their busy lifestyles, such as skipping sleep to finish assignments. In the APA’s survey, 26% of students reported losing sleep due to stress. Instead of choosing healthy ways to cope with their stress, such as exercising, students tend to choose less healthy ways, such as playing video games and spending excess time online. Of all the students the APA surveyed, only 37% reported exercising to manage their stress, and 28% said they played sports. In contrast, 46% admitted they played video games to alleviate stress, and 43% said they spent time online. According to USA Today, experts say these bad habits for dealing with stress can carry over into adulthood and result in detrimental health effects.
Some might say that this overwhelming stress is the fault of schools for giving teenagers more work than they can handle. However, you could also argue that the stress students are under is their own doing. They choose whether or not they want to take advanced courses, and they should know how heavy the workload is for these courses before signing up for them. Students can also choose which after-school activities they want to do, if any at all.
Others might say that colleges and universities are at fault for making students think that they won’t get into a good school if they aren’t able to do it all. This argument might have some merit, considering that the University of Phoenix released a TV commercial not too long ago that stated, “There are many requirements for a [college] degree...sleep isn’t one of them.”
On the other hand, some experts are saying that students may not be stressed at all. They believe the APA’s surveys are inaccurate because they measure stress based on what students’ own perception of it is. In an article for USA Today, teen psychologist Michael Bradley stated, “I'm not sure it would be the clinical definition of stress. I think they get stressed because somebody puts a demand on them and they don't want to do it.” In other words, it may not be the overwhelming amount of responsibilities students have that’s causing their stress; it might just be that they don’t want to complete those responsibilities. “However,” added Bradley, “on their behalf, I will fall back on the fact that hard numbers tell us kids are more anxious and depressed than they've ever been.” Severe stress is linked to anxiety and depression, so, while there’s a chance students are lying about or misinterpreting their stress levels, there’s also evidence to show that’s not always the case.
After reading this article about the effects of stress on teenagers, I’m sure the last thing you want to be right now is stressed out. So, here are some helpful tips for eliminating stress from your life: