Take A Deep Breath

Being a high school student, there seems to be an infinite amount of objectives and activities that you have to complete each day you are present in school. Papers, projects, sports, socializing—the list seems to grow extensively as our time within school increases. In talking to friends, or even a complete stranger, the word stress can easily find itself into the conversation.

Photo Credit: naimamohamed.com

Photo credit: naimamohamed.com

Contrary to popular belief, stress can be beneficial, to a certain extent. Stress is the body’s reaction to any kind of demand or threat that you may encounter. When you feel threatened or challenged, your nervous system responds by producing stress hormones, including adrenaline. These hormones stimulate your body by making your heart pound faster, tightening your muscles, heightening your blood pressure, quickening your breathing, and making your senses sharper. As a result, you are granted with an increase in your physical strength, stamina, and focus. These reactions and changes are known as your body’s fight-or-flight response: a method of protecting yourself.

Though stress can have positive effects upon an individual in some situations, it can also produce negative consequences. The problem commences with the nervous system’s difficulty in differentiating daily, mundane stressors, from life-threatening or greatly demanding tasks. Thus, in some cases, your body can react to a forgotten homework assignment due the following period in the same manner as a life-or-death situation. When you are constantly undergoing the fight-or-flight response, it can lead to stress overload, causing higher blood pressure, accelerated aging, and increased vulnerability to mental and health ailments.

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A younger looking President Bill Clinton in 1994 gives way to an older, exhausted one in 2002. Photo credit: brainjet.com

Examples of stress overloads are highlighted by examining jobs with immense stressors and demanding tasks. The primary example, and arguably the most stressful job in the world, is president of United States. Under the constant pressure of deadlines and expectations, it is no surprise that research has shown that presidents age faster, perhaps twice as fast than the average individual. Dr. Michael Irwin of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute comments upon this phenomenon by saying, “It is unequivocal that significant life stressors perceived by a person does accelerate aging.” Other high stress jobs which lead to more rapid aging include firefighters, police officers, military personnel, airline pilots, and newspaper reporters. This attribution of high stress originates from the various life-threatening situations they experience, hostile environments and situations they are forced to confront, and the pressure of being entrusted with the well-being and livelihood of those around them.

Though obviously not as taxing and difficult as being the president, being a high school student includes its own share of stressors and involving activities. Life within the Collegiate Upper School is non-stop, demanding, and fast-paced. Arriving at 8:35, with classes ending at 3:20, a normal school day is about seven hours. Adding the required two sport seasons raise the seven hour total to approximately nine hours spent at school on a normal day. Within these nine hours, there are a plethora of activities that can manifest stress within the students. However, this extensive amount of time does not include the commute that some students have to embark on every morning and evening to go from school to home. There are students attending Collegiate that have to drive 30-45 minutes to and from school, creating another hinderance from not only free time for themselves, but the needed amount of time to complete their homework.

Delving deeper into this subject, Tess Perry (‘17) (no relation) provided insight. Perry’s schedule keeps her constantly engaged and active, overflowing with three AP’s and three honors classes. Often, she has to carry two bags to transport all of her books to her various destinations. Participating in yoga after school, Perry has the luxury of arriving home at 4:30, unlike most Collegiate students, who arrive home closer to six. Usually starting homework at 5:00, Perry says that she doesn’t finish her work load until close to 11:30. Between her rigorous course load and her after-school activities, Perry says that at times, “It is not physically possible to complete it all,” and that her stress level is normally a “7/10.” She reflected that her stress does not stem from the work she receives, but “the amount of time available to complete it… a lot of teachers make things due at the same time.” Additionally, Perry stated that, “Collegiate offers so many activities and clubs, that she feels a need to be a part of everything”, and “it is difficult to balance at times.”

Grant Villanueva (‘17) leaves the house at 7:30 to arrive at school early to complete homework in the allotted time within the morning when he “is the most productive.” His current course load is filled with three honors classes, one AP, and one regular class. Participating in the musical in the fall, and basketball this winter, Grant says he is “honestly not as stressed about school,” and that he has “found his groove.” “I chop wood and carry water,” says Villanueva proudly. However, after-school activities, specifically basketball games and rehearsals, are very time-consuming. ”Coming home after practice and games, I do not want to overwhelm myself with homework.” In some cases, play rehearsal would last three hours, causing Villanueva to arrive home at 9:00, with an expectant and momentous amount of work to complete. When tasked with normal homework assignments, Villanueva is “typically able to do it,” but regarding projects, papers and larger assignments, “even spacing it out, I run out of time.”

When dealing with stress, it can seem to be unavoidable and ever-triumphant. However, there are many ways to combat it and its negative effects upon you. The first and most effective method is to establish strong relationships with people who you know that you can count on and confide in. By having others to talk to and share your frustrations with, you can find new solutions, and have help in dealing with daily stressors. Another remedy is exercise. Physical activity can serve as a welcome distraction to the various responsibilities and worries of the day. Finally, getting adequate sleep is a great benefactor for not only lowering your stress levels, but for simply a healthy lifestyle. Just ask Margaret Davenport.

If you find yourself stressed and in dire need of help, take a deep breath, relax, and breathe out, letting all your worries and stresses leave as well.

About the author

Excellence Perry is a junior at Collegiate School and wants you to know that this is in fact his real name.