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Students say grades, college prep the main causes of stress

Holly Viers • Dec 28, 2019 at 1:00 PM

From grade school to college, most students will inevitably experience stress from time to time.

While some students have their stress under control, others struggle to catch a break, leading them to experience emotional and physical symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, procrastination and problems concentrating, among others.

To get a better understanding of this issue, the Times News asked local teens how often they experience stress and what causes it.

Is stress a big issue for students?

Across the board, students said stress is a prevalent issue, both on a personal level and for their classmates. A 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association found that many teenagers experience what they think are unhealthy levels of stress, especially during the school year.

Some students described themselves as naturally high-strung, including Addie Collier, a sophomore at East Tennessee State University and Hawkins County native. Others, like Micah Turner, a freshman at Sullivan Central High School, said stress isn’t a frequent burden, but that it still occurs in certain situations.

What causes stress among students?

Grades topped the list of causes for stress among local students, especially older ones. Even so, some students have come to realize that one bad grade isn’t the end of the world.

“Grades are seen as like an end all, be all thing, like if you don’t get an A-plus in every class, you’re a failure. And I think that over the past couple months, I’ve taken a step back and have said, ‘Well, is doing that extra math problem at 12 o’clock at night really worth the 30 minutes of extra sleep?’ ” said Kristin Thorneloe, a senior at Dobyns-Bennett High School. “So I’ve really considered everything instead of just sacrificing everything just to make sure you have a perfect grade.”

College preparation also ranked high on the list for older high school students. Jasmine Schmidt, a senior at Dobyns-Bennett, said she stresses mainly about “big tests, ACT scores and getting into college.”

Schmidt added that social situations used to be a cause for stress as a younger student.

Tiara Hughes, an eighth-grader at John Sevier Middle School, is all too familiar with social stress.

“In sixth grade, drama was big, but now that I’m in eighth grade, it’s cooled down a little bit, but random people will drag me into drama,” Hughes said. “So I’m usually out of drama, but people just like to bring me into it. … I feel like once I get in high school, I feel like tests are going to be what I’m going to be stressing about and not drama.”

What do your classmates stress about?

While some students said their peers stress about the same things they do, others said their stress is totally different from the stress their classmates experience. An anonymous senior from Daniel Boone High School said he primarily stresses about college preparation, while his classmates tend to stress about “how others think of them.”

In some cases, students said their peers stress mainly about their extracurricular activities.

“My two closest friends, I think their stresses are different (from mine), because my friend dances a lot, so I think she stresses about dance the most,” Hughes said. “My other friend, she doesn’t really stress about a lot of things except for like school work.”

Does stress change as you get older?

Most students said their stress has changed as they’ve gotten older, with many saying it’s gotten worse.

“The older I have gotten, the more OCD and particular I have gotten with my studies,” Collier said. “I have always been a 4.0 student, but as the classes have gotten harder, it stresses me out.”

Other students said their stress has improved in certain areas and worsened in others. For Schmidt, the social stress she used to experience has now taken a backseat to her academic stress.

“I don’t really worry about who my friends are,” Schmidt said. “I don’t worry about having a big friend group. I just stick with people I know that are my true friends.”

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