Conquering the pressure: most teens suffer from stress

Tasneem Tawfeek, Staff Writer

When observing other peers at Becton, one might overhear certain phrases so often used by teens during stressful moments throughout their high school careers. Students often confess they “lose sleep” due to an upcoming exam or “skip a meal” or two in order to complete the required homework assignments for their classes.

During the process of preparing for their future, high school students are expected to produce successful outcomes in the face of enormous amounts of stress. They are preparing in order to get into college, which gets them ready for their future jobs, and consequently, allows them to strive for prosperity and happiness.

When it comes to academic stress, the list of issues that teenagers face seems endless: competition among peers, standardized tests, homework, keeping up good grades, midterm exams, final exams, AP classes, extracurricular activities, and pressure from both teachers and parents to excel academically.

A brief survey was conducted in June 2014 by myself, Tasneem Tawfeek,  in order to get a closer look at what students had to say when it came to these issues. With the assistance of Guidance Counselor Ms. Calvanico, this survey was distributed to over one hundred students here at Henry Becton Regional High School.

Students were asked to rate their stress levels on issues like homework, applying to colleges, standardized tests, and extracurricular activities. They were also asked to give their general thoughts on the stress levels that high school students face and to list the most beneficial ways to deal with stress.

Over 90% of students reported being under some form of academic stress; however, fewer than 10% of students could list effective ways to deal with this pressure. One student in eleventh grade wrote, “I get it. We need to work hard and that’s important but there also has to be a balance. We’re only teens. We can’t handle all of the stress being thrown our way. Things need to change.”

Once the survey was conducted, the next step was to raise awareness of high school stress levels in the community. A documentary, Race to Nowhere, has been shown in schools and libraries all over the United States. The first screening of this documentary took place at the East Rutherford Memorial Library on August 28. Both the director of the library, Christine Hartigan, and the Head of Youth Services, Maria Russo, were instrumental in allowing this to occur.

Ms. Calvanico deems it crucial for all parents, educators, and students to watch the film, as it addresses the growing concern of academic pressure on students and the effect this has on every student’s mental health. It even suggests measures that schools, families, and students can take in order to promote positive changes in schools.

The final step of research involved brainstorming useful ways to provide students with the tools and knowledge they will essentially need to effectively manage the stress that so often accompanies the high school years.

Workshops will be offered to students in high school that will focus on strategies to deal with stress that have already been proven to work by the experts. Instructors will focus on vital topics such as time management, healthy eating, fitness, and promoting positive changes. I will be personally advising students on the best after-school schedules they should implement in their own lives that will meet their unique demands.

Most of all, students will be encouraged to make time for hobbies and extracurricular activities that they enjoy and love. By engaging in activities that are unique to each person and setting aside time for hobbies that one truly enjoys, stress levels can be greatly reduced and one can, in turn, perform to his or her fullest potential academically.

Workshops will be held every Thursday from 3 to 5 P.M. at the East Rutherford Memorial Library throughout the month of October. All high school students are able to register at no cost.