Teen stress is becoming a serious problem

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By Freddy Roberts , Round Table sports editor

The clock on a night stand clicks by in a student’s bedroom while he sits at his desk, trying to memorize the last couple of vocabulary words for a major exam the next day. Bags under both of his eyes begin to form and stress rolls over him until the student is done studying, which is far into the morning hours. But the teen’s only excuse as to why he is staying up so late was ‘I didn’t have enough time.’

Adolescents of all ages fill their schedule to the top in an attempt to keep themselves busy. Sometimes, teens still get chided for not doing enough outside of school on top of their regular extracurricular activities. Different influences and pressures can create stress for these teenagers, which can be unhealthy and even life threatening.

Stress could be categorized as either eustress or distress.  Lynn Dutrow, a therapist at Auntie Anxiety in Frederick, Maryland said, “Eustress is what drives us to perform and to ‘do well’; however, there can be a fine line between this motivating stress and where the stress crosses over to distress, which can be damaging to both our minds and our bodies.”

Having the motivation to be involved in many extracurricular activities can create a healthy type of stress, eustress, but harmful stress comes from worrying about things that can, overall, make a person unhappy.

The true cause of stress for teens in high school is difficult to figure out, but, according to Middletown High School counseling teacher Meredith Bagnell, stress is mainly caused by academics and the social aspect.

“Kids at Middletown want to be very high achievers… and sometimes they get in over their heads and they’re not necessarily prepared to manage their time and studying,” she said.

Falling into a bad habit of time management can create stress for a student. While bad habits can be harmful, sometimes the experience of stressful challenges can lead to students growing stronger and smarter.

“The other major part of stress is the social aspect. Especially with the social media venues, trying to manage that as well as real life relationships,” people begin to worry about what others have to say about them, added Bagnell.

Distress is only created by the individual themselves. Worrying about what other people have to say is unneeded, and teens should be smart about what type of stress will benefit them in the long run.

Teenagers may also cause their own stress by overworking themselves to “look busy.” Dutrow says that students don’t have to look busy all the time, and that it is important to find a balance.

When students decide to fill their schedules to the top, it is smart to choose extracurricular activities that will allow an individual to have purpose in what he or she does. Because of the pressures from adults and peers, happiness and being a part of something is the main aspect of creating eustress.

Eustress and finding homeostasis can be difficult for young minds, and the levels of anxiety can be unbearable. Students may overwork themselves in pursuit of being perfect, but this is simply not attainable. They also may have a lot of potential, but are afraid to put forth effort for fear of failing.

A way to deal with this is simply having “me-time,” said Kevin Lynott, a student services employee of MHS. “Me-time” is a way to possibly rejuvenate and recollect about what an individual has to complete. This could include journaling, meditating, sleeping well, being with friends, and eating right.

Another possible way to deal with stress is through the advice of adults and peers. Peers are the people kids mostly look to in times of trouble, but sometimes it can be smart to go to an adult who can help.

Psychology teacher Jeffrey Colsh said, “Other people will cause stress, including friends and family. I hope that those with serious stresses, people who feel major depressed, will go to adults first. Teenagers aren’t ready to handle things yet, some people may still have to work on not just going to peers with their serious stresses.”

Overall, student’s schedules should be enjoyable. If a part of a schedule is creating stress, then there should be a change, if possible.

Dutrow said, “We explore what they will do with the extra time.  I am a proponent of moving toward what you want, rather than running away from what you don’t want.” With some coaching on how to manage stress differently, teens find that their stress levels decreases and their enjoyment increases without “quitting” anything that they are doing.

When it comes to different activities, people should be able to challenge themselves and manage their time. Colsh said, “People who have a mind set to avoid stress are living the fantasy. People who manage stress and their time the best are the most successful.”

The most important things should come first, and teens should remember to “come up with a plan. In that plan, have achievable goals. Taking things one step at a time and chunking tasks down allows students to achieve things, even in a short period of time,” said Bagnell.