Before we tackle it, we must understand what stress is. I would define it as a response to physical or theoretical situations in which we feel uncomfortable, pressured or overwhelmed. Imagine if you conducted an investigation to determine who has the highest stress levels. Who would be at the top of the list? Possibly a busy CEO. Maybe an overworked, underpaid teacher. Or perhaps… a student? Whatever stage of life you are in, I think we can collectively agree that high school is a stressful time. Ultimately, it’s because us students are given so much to worry about. Along with trying to understand who we are, there are internals, exams, career choices, part-time jobs, driver’s licenses, and relationships to keep our minds occupied, along with the matter of balancing sleep, a social life, and homework. The list of stress-sources goes on, and it gets progressively more ridiculous.

I’ll give you a prime example of said ridiculousness: The school ball. Advertised to be the highlight of any senior’s year, the ball is an expensive night injected with self-consciousness and superficiality. The entire ordeal is based on physical appearance, and thus, judgement blossoms. At my school, they used to display the airbrushed ball photos in the office hallway. Younger students would rate, giggling, who they thought was the prettiest or the ugliest. The paper faces would be scratched out. Stress, particularly for teenagers, often stems from the pressure to have a perfect appearance. Where is this insecurity born? Perhaps it’s magazine photoshop, social media, or simply judgement in school?

Intertwined with the notion of superficiality is the subject of competition, which, in my experience, contributes significantly to students’ stress levels. Essentially, we are being pitted against one another. It disgusts me, mostly because this competitive pressure is an expectation enforced by parents and teachers. Students also embody the competitive spirit. When you cram young people into school grounds – effectively a cage – most will attempt to take control and ‘win’ the social game, Lord of the Flies style, thinking that this will perfect their lives. In reality, as soon as Year 13 is over, whatever went down at school is irrelevant. So why should we worry about it?

In terms of advice, my approach is always to remove the issue at the root, rather than at the surface. There are countless ways to manage stress, such as beating procrastination, taking time to relax, and setting a stable sleep pattern. These will have a positive impact on you, but they won’t stop stress arising. Perhaps it is more effective to remove the unnecessary worry, rather than attempt to manage it. How might you do this? It begins with focusing on what is important to you in relation to school, and ignoring the rest. If you don’t acknowledge the meaningless rubbish as a problem, then you can’t stress over it. Choose wisely what you focus on. It differs with each individual, but personally, I would say that getting the most out of your education is important. Doing your best to get good grades, whilst allocating time for fun. Keeping a balanced lifestyle. Maintaining relationships with family and friends. Staying healthy, safe and motivated. Setting yourself up for a fruitful future. It’s natural to feel stressed over important things like these. If you weren’t worried, you would be taking the easy route, and that never reaps reward.

We’ve covered what matters. So… What doesn’t? Pretty much everything else that might potentially stress you out, for example: What your hair looked like yesterday. The atrocious grade you earned on that first Physics internal. Your friendship drama with Jennifer (who, by the way, you’ll forget about after the end of Year 13). All the superficial stuff you would roll your eyes as if it was someone else panicking over it. In the grand scheme of the entire universe, the majority of high school is insignificant. Humanity has split atoms, cured diseases, created art, languages, religions, societies – yet here we are, fixating on everything that doesn’t matter. Letting our school lives be dampened by stressing over what will leave a lasting impression on… no-one! Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself feeling stressed. Instead of letting it consume you, perhaps investigate why you felt that way in the first place. Find the root of the problem. Try to detach from the negativity, broaden your perspective, and understand that, most of the time, there’s no need to be stressed.

Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves writing and the subject of English. She intends on one day becoming an Editor or a Technical Writer.

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