Burnt out, overwhelmed, stressed, and depressed. These words
may not be the first that come to mind when you describe the typical high
school student. However they are quickly becoming the norm. At North Toronto,
stress is a regular occurrence. We constantly feel the overwhelming pressure of
our busy school, social and extra curricular lives. But how bad is stress for
us? How negative is the effect on students?
Graffiti has conducted a survey to find out how students are feeling, leading up to exams. Surveys were handed out to the two classes in each grade with the most students. This survey was in no way intended to diagnose depression, generalized anxiety disorder or any other mental illness; it was merely meant to gauge the general feeling among students. In total, 250 surveys were given out. 205 responses were
received, 110 from girls, 95 from boys. Every survey was completely anonymous,
and all students were told that the results might be published.
As previously stated, stress is a regular part of the lives of NT students. Students are expected to be stressed out to the point that appearing relaxed or in control of your work is shocking to others. We have developed a ‘stress culture’ – we simply accept that a high level of stress is normal and manageable; we assume that we are all alike, both in the amount of pressure we receive and the way we manage it. However, this
notion is completely false. Different people perceive stress differently; for
some it can be seriously detrimental, while for some it can be very
motivational. Stress is a natural part of life, and can be very good, in
moderation. Like all emotions, we feel it out of necessity for survival. As we
evolved, stress became less about warning us we were in danger and more about
warning us that we were going to miss our deadlines. However, it is when we
allow stress to rule our life is when we get into trouble.
This survey was intended to find out how deep in trouble we really were. The results were expected to indicate that students were experiencing moderate levels of stress and anxiety due to summative and approaching exams. However, the results were a lot more negative than expected. For instance, 60% of students admitted that they felt
‘overwhelmed’ in the past month, 73% said they felt exhausted, and only 34% of students said that they felt optimistic and energized. However the most shocking result
is that 18 percent of students surveyed admitted that they had thought about
suicide or self-harm and 7 percent revealed that they had actually self-harmed.
People self harm for a many different reasons, some feel like their lives are out of control, and through the pain, they are able to gain some sort of foothold. Others feel as if they have to ‘punish’ themselves out of shame or guilt. Self-harm is often a side
effect of depression, or generalized anxiety disorder. While both disorders can
be stress related, they are often confused with one another. Depression is a
mental illness, characterized by causing a persistent feeling of sadness, and
lack of interest. On the other hand, generalized anxiety disorder is described
as being in a state of constant worry over things that are out of control. Both disorders affect us socially, and academically. they caused by many different reasons, however they are commonly related to over or unhealthy levels of stress.
After a lot of thought, I realized that the results of the survey were not that surprising after all. We live in a society based on constant and bottomless interaction with ever person around us. These are the days of the 24/7 news cycle, the rapid 140-character
punch of a tweet, Facebook statuses tossed out minute by minute. Our lives have
become sprints, we not only face competition for university from our friends, and
we are up against people all over the globe. The economy isn’t perfect, the job
market is harsh and cruel, and the list goes on and on and on. In this
situation, stress is understandable, but should it be acceptable? Like
everything in life, it must be handled in moderation. It can be a powerful tool
to motivate, or it can be a destructive force to burn you out. As the great
Ferris Bueller famously said “life moves fast, if you don’t stop and look
around once in a while, you might miss it”, in our stress saturated lives, no
words could be truer.