Who is really to blame for student’s stress?

        BREAKING NEWS: Westminster students get stressed from time to time. Due to the high numbers of gifted students, competition to succeed, or even remain average, while balancing extracurricular activities makes the rigor of Westminster even more intense. Managing school with athletics and other extracurricular activities becomes a daily struggle of deciding whether to prioritize your academic and social life or your mental health. Unfortunately, often times students sacrifice their mental health in order to gain an edge on their college application and in the process they lose sight of what they actually want.

        Of course, in an environment like Westminster, we cannot only place blame on the students for their stress levels; the hyper-competitiveness and pressure to succeed would affect anybody. Given that we focus so much on what comes after high school, it seems as though every little quiz we take and game we play will influence our future. The expectations set upon Westminster students by family, faculty, and themselves elevate stress levels due to over-commitment. We are told by our role models to work as hard as we can, participate in multiple clubs and sports simultaneously, maintain a solid GPA, have an enjoyable social life, and while we’re at it, even cure a disease in our spare time. But with only 24 hours in a day, how can we possibly manage to do all of these things? The simple answer: We can’t.

        Along with many other students at Westminster, I feel most pressured to please my parents, and as a result, end up blaming them when I get overwhelmed. While parents often say,  “do the best you can,” we, as students, know that sometimes our best is a B-. Whether they want us to attend their prestigious alma mater or become the next Einstein, their high expectations pile onto the already accumulating pile of stress. The most challenging part of attempting to fulfill a parent’s sometimes unreachable expectations is the possibility of disappointing them. While sometimes it can be overwhelming, pressure is necessary to succeed; without it, we would have no motivation to better ourselves.

        Despite external sources of pressure, many students put the most pressure on themselves and blame it on teachers and parents. While they do have certain expectations, our teachers and parents are not the root of our stress. We as students want to succeed, so, as a result, we set unreachable expectations for ourselves. For example, I recently signed up to teach cheer and lacrosse lessons on the same day, despite the fact that I have a 2 hour practice and homework. Neither my parents nor my teachers asked me to do that. We have a tendency to pile our schedules high with unmanageable extracurriculars in order to check off boxes for college applications. Instead of going through the motions to bulk up our resumés, we should indulge in worthwhile activities that truly interest us.

        While we cannot change the college application process, we can choose to end the constant comparison to each other. By immersing yourself in your passions, you can actually enjoy your high school experience rather than thinking of it as just another step before college. The diverse student body is one of the many gifts attending Westminster has to offer; however, we cannot fully benefit from this gift when all we only compare grades on the last history quiz. When we delve into what matters most to us, we are too busy to compare ourselves to our peers, and we can have substantial conversations with them that do not pertain to grades or homework assignments. While, for some reason we have a tendency to stretch ourselves too thin, no one student can compete in three sports, start multiple clubs, get a full eight hours of sleep, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and star in the school play. Rather than dabbling in 20 activities, we need to only focus on the ones that bring us joy – that is not to say that we will never have to complete tasks that we do not like, but we can try to minimize them to make room for the activities we do like.

        Granted, I am probably one of the worst offenders of overwhelming myself with my commitments. I have a tendency to say yes to everything, even if I know I will be overwhelmed later, I convince myself that it will all work itself out. And yes, it does work itself out, but sometimes it works itself out at 1:00 AM. Usually, I will think I have it under control – until I don’t, and then I will have a slight breakdown, regather myself, and commit to more unmanageable activities. While this pattern seems overwhelming, it actually can be enjoyable if you commit to tasks that bring you joy. While at times it seems as though our plates are overflowing with unmanageable tasks to complete, learning to prioritize what matters most to you is the key to actually enjoying your four years in high school.