Increase In Teen Stress Levels

Feelings Heighten, Dealing With the Repercussions


Kaleigh Zollman

Finding time for themselves in a busy schedule can cause stress and even mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of teens are overwhelmed and 30 percent have developed stress and anxiety as a direct result.

High school students are expected to maintain their GPA, participate in extracurricular activities, hold a job, spend time with their family and friends, all while trying to get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep a night. These are unrealistic expectations for anyone, let alone a teenager.
“On average, I probably have about five assignments to do through the week and spend about 30 minutes a day doing my homework,” junior Gabby Hytrek said. “I work every day after school at Kids Connection and then I have a weekend job. It’s difficult during the week because I go to school and then work. It’s hard to find the motivation to do my homework.”
Finding time for themselves in a busy schedule can cause stress and even mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of teens are overwhelmed and 30 percent have developed stress and anxiety as a direct result.
“It’s hard to just pick one stressor because every person is different,” school psychologist Ms. Stephanie Hengen said. “At Gretna High School, specifically, because we are such a high achieving district, I think a lot of it comes down to homework and academic pressures of making sure everything is done and completed and turned in on time.”
A main source of stress is school itself. Studying for hours in a night for tests the next day and trying to keep up with the workload and their grades is a priority for students. On top of their grades, there are students who are involved in numerous extracurricular activities.
“I usually have multiple tests on the same day of the week,” junior Jamie Vaughn said. “I don’t do as well as I could do, but all things considered it’s not the worst. I don’t have enough time to prepare for those tests. I think it would be a lot easier if teachers communicated when they were having big tests. If I only had one test a day, I would be more relaxed and my grades would be better.”
Stress in teens can cause physical and mental effects from low energy to low-level depression. The response differs from person to person.
“Physically, students can have somatic responses meaning some people get sweaty, or their heart races,” Ms. Hengen said. “It’s different for everybody. Mentally, some people have a hard time concentrating or they avoid their homework because it’s too much.”
Another big stressor for some students is social media. Scrolling through a timeline, students see people who appear to have more money, better looks and overall better life than them. While these standards are unrealistic, students feel like they have to live up to them.
“I don’t follow celebrities on social media,” Hytrek said. “Following people that you idolize can hurt your mental health because you want to be like them but in every aspect of your life you can’t be like them. It doesn’t affect my mental health, but it is a problem with kids my age.”
One of the biggest stressors this year has been COVID-19, a virus that has sickened 10.9 million Americans alone. Certain students worry about getting sick themselves or potentially infecting a loved one who is at higher-risk than them.
“I had COVID-19,” Hytrek said. “I was so stressed during that time. Since I tested positive, there was an isolation period for me. The only time I was allowed to leave my room was to open my door to get the food that my mom would leave me and to walk to my bathroom.”
Despite having to manage everything in life, there are healthy ways to cope and accomplish everything that needs to be done.
“I hang out with my friends or go drive in my car and scream songs,” junior Makenna Dziuraweic said.”I think it helps but sometimes when I’m with my friends I feel like I can’t relax because there’s so much going on.”
Schools have implemented “stress-free zones” in order to help their students relieve some of their worries. These stress-free zones consist of anything from bringing in therapy dogs to having a dedicated quiet zone where students can relax.
“Having a stress free zone in the school would be an awesome idea. It would greatly benefit a lot of our students,” Ms. Hengen said.”I would love it if it were something classroom-sized that had calming music, dimmed lights, different calm down and fidget tools. That would be really cool to have something like that in the building.”
Whether it is school or social media, stress is present in everyday life, but there are ways to deal with it. This year more than ever, it is important to remember to tend to one’s self-care.