The Stress of Success: How School Affects Students’ Health

“Right now, I realize that school dominates most of my time. Most people would say school, but I don’t want that to be my most important thing. I want to focus more on my spiritual side, because I feel like I’ve been putting that on the back burner because of school, so I want my most important thing to be God and I’m working towards that,” Jada Jones said. Jones, 17, wants the most important aspect of her life to be her connection with religion and not school.

Photo Credit to Jada Jones

“Right now, I realize that school dominates most of my time. Most people would say school, but I don’t want that to be my most important thing. I want to focus more on my spiritual side, because I feel like I’ve been putting that on the back burner because of school, so I want my most important thing to be God and I’m working towards that,” Jada Jones said. Jones, 17, wants the most important aspect of her life to be her connection with religion and not school.

Mylynn Hopper, Staff Writer

Imagine having to study for an important test for math. The grade from this test could greatly impact the overall grade in the class. However, a paper must also be written for English, due in the near future. Along with this, time must also be set aside for a science project. On top of this, consider needing to go in and work a shift at work, practicing with a school sports team, or volunteering at an organization after school. With these kinds of factors playing a role in their everyday lives, it’s easy for most students to feel overwhelmed. 

 

Having good grades in school and maintaining an active social life can be challenging and stressful, taking a toll on students’ mental and physical health. Students are encouraged to challenge themselves and succeed in school, but are also reminded to be active citizens in their community, along with finding time for themselves. With the constant pressure of maintaining the three without letting one or the other get out of hand, it can be easy for students to lose track of their own wellbeing.

 

Many students fall victim to their busy schedules, such as Faith Coley, a sophomore taking advanced classes like AP European History, Honors Geometry, and Honors English. She has also been involved in marching band and is currently involved in jazz band. Coley says that she is satisfied with her grades and that she maintains them by ”doing a lot of homework and studying, doing extra credit, taking a lot of notes in class, and paying very good attention.” However, Coley also finds herself stressed and frequently upset over school. 

 

“There’s been some points where I’ve gotten so stressed out over my schoolwork that it has led me to having, like, a mental type breakdown, and I’ve been so stressed that I can’t think and process. There’s been sometimes, I know in the past, school’s affected my physical health where, like, I wouldn’t eat because I was so focused on doing my schoolwork,” Coley explained.

Photo via Faith Coley.
“I would just tell someone just to take a breather. Calm down and just tell yourself ‘you’ve got this, you’re gonna do fine, and that you can handle it’ because if you couldn’t handle it, you wouldn’t have done both. Just be mindful of your mental health while doing big things and just know that you’ve got this,” Faith Coley, 15, advises other students on how they can maintain their mental health.

Coley also feels that the amount of sleep she gets in a night affects her performance in school. 

 

“I wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and then by 6:50, I’m leaving to go to school. And then, usually, I’m at school. When I have… extracurriculars, I usually leave either between 3:30 or 6 o’clock, depending on what I have that day. And then, when I get home, I usually eat, and then around, I would say, 6 or 7, I do homework, and then, between 11 and 1 in the morning, I’m in bed.”

 

Coley isn’t the only student who feels overwhelmed by school and all her obligations. Jada Jones, who is a junior, can also relate to the stress of school and extracurricular activities. 

 

Jones has an impressive resume, being enrolled in five Dual Enrollment classes and two AP classes. She is also involved in an abundance of clubs and activities such as National Honor Society, National Business Honor Society, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, and much more. 

 

However, being involved in so many things has taken a toll on Jones.

 

“I feel like I’m just now getting better [at] controlling my stress and stuff because… if I get a bad grade, I know I’ll freak out and stuff like that and my mind constantly just thinks about school. I get anxious about school and stuff.”

 

Jones has had two stress-induced seizures because of school. 

 

 “I had six tests during a week and I had, just, a seizure,” she said. “Right now, I am trying to calm down and, you know, level out that stress.”

 

Another sophomore, Chavito Allen, also feels the pressure of having a hectic schedule. Allen takes classes such as Applied Calculus, AP European History, and more. He is also involved in the EBA, FBLA, DECA, and theater, while also being the community service leader of the SCA and running for Vice President for the junior class, along with other activities.

 

While handling such a busy schedule, Allen’s wellbeing has also suffered.

 

“Earlier this year in the second quarter, when things were starting to amp up, in the week of opening night, there were a lot of times where I’d only gotten four to five hours of sleep a night because there were just certain assignments that I had to do or they were going to be counted as invalid and I was going to get zeros,” Allen said. “But then I had to then do work, extra work for these activities. Actually, last Friday, I collapsed from exhaustion on Friday morning because I’d stayed up most of the [previous] night because there was just so much to do.” 

 

With everything he’s involved in, Allen acknowledges the positive aspects of being involved in these activities, such as Debate helping him communicate his ideas and theater helping him with reading comprehension and interpretation of text, therefore improving his performance in English. However, he also realizes some of the negative aspects of his involvement in the various activities.  

 

From sacrificing time to stressing out, it’s clear that as students become more engaged in eventful schedules, they tend to suffer the consequences of constantly working. However, with students being too busy to look after their own health, how often is it that anyone stops to consider how many students are affected by these types of lifestyles? 

 

 For this reason senior Cade Black has decided to make his AP Research capstone about a topic that interests him: how

“A lot of people don’t realize first of all what mental health is, how important it can be, and a lot of people don’t realize what they’re doing can affect it. A lot of people are so worried about school and other stuff that they forget about taking care of themselves,” senior Cade Black said, hoping to bring attention to mental health and its importance, especially among students.

school and other responsibilities impact the mental health of students. 

 

“I’m researching the mental health of students at Kempsville High School and how different commitments influence them,” Black said.

 

“I specifically ask students stuff like: ‘How involved are you in school? Are you in regular courses or more rigorous, like AP and honor stuff? Are you in clubs? Do you have a job? Do you have other commitments unrelated like community service?’ And [other] stuff like that. Then, at the end, I ask if they think that all their commitments influence their mental health… to see if it relates.”

 

Black collected his data through a survey, because he wanted a method that would allow him to get a large amount of representative data, but also wanted it to be anonymous so that students were more comfortable answering. 

 

Black picked various English courses (all students have English), such as Honors, AP, Dual Enrollment, and standard courses randomly by a generator. He then emailed the teachers of the selected classes and asked to survey the class, having the teacher explain the purpose of the survey and that taking it is optional. 

 

Once he is done with this research, Black hopes to find balance in the midst of his data.

 

“I kind of expect for it to be a mix of both where it’s about balance. Like, people who are under-involved might have poor mental health but people who are over-involved in everything could also be overwhelmed, so I kinda feel like if it’s people who have a couple involvements or things that they really enjoy, they have a good balance there.”

 

Although Black hasn’t fully completed analyzing his data, he still has noticed an interesting correlation: about 70% percent of people said that they feel the activities that they are involved in influence their mental health.  

 

With many students admitting the stress school, activities, and other obligations creates for them, it poses a question: why are students subjecting themselves to such rigorous and demanding lifestyles?  

 

There are many reasons why students work so hard, one of the most common reasons being to secure a good future. 

 

Sophomore Kalysa Blunt is in AP European History, AP Psychology, Pre-Calculus, EBA Honors English, and IncubatorEDU. As for activities, she’s a part of DECA, the track team, and was in basketball last season. Blunt maintains her grades by reviewing notes and staying up until 1 a.m., when she then sleeps. With everything she does, Blunt hopes her current lifestyle will help her get into a good college in the future. 

 

With many students admitting the stress school, activities, and other obligations creates for them, it poses a question: why are students subjecting themselves to such rigorous and demanding lifestyles?”

“[I’m] trying to find a way to get scholarships and make sure that I have everything that I need to get into the college that I want, because at the end of the day I have to pay for myself to go,” Blunt details, explaining why she does what she does. 

 

Other students could also agree that they partake in such strenuous lifestyles in order to prepare for the future. 

 

“I want it to definitely benefit me when I graduate and when I’m applying for colleges. Of course, to gain scholarships so college isn’t as expensive, and then, also to be able to get into the good colleges and to just get into the good programs with the colleges,” said Coley.

 

 For this reason, Coley cites keeping up with her grades and GPA as an important aspect of her life right now. 

 

“Right now, I hope to go to a good college. I’m not really sure what for, I’m really interested in Psychology, Art. Chemistry is kinda interesting now to me, so it’s a lot to think about on my own,” Blunt said. 

 

“I hope to gain experience,” Jones said. “I want to network myself, networking’s a really big part of being a business owner, [and] that’s what I want to be when I get older. Taking these classes, I wanted to get a head start. I want to go to college. I want to go to college as [cost-efficiently] as possible, so that’s why I’m…taking all these classes and stuff. I just wanna find out my niche, where I belong in society and what is my calling, so that’s why I want to try all this stuff,” Jones said. 

 

“It’s not as much as preparing for college (though that is a factor) as it is my determination to make this world a better place. It’s not hard to see where our society is broken, heck, there’s people in my classroom that I don’t even know their names and we’ve been in the same class for 2 years now. It’s beyond that unfortunately, the disconnection is apparent internationally. People die every day to the injustices done to them. I work hard now so I am readily equipped for the skills that I may need later on in life. I’m not busy because I want to fill out all  the slots I can on a university application, I want what we call basic ‘living’ to be transformed into a real life that we can all enjoy, whether that be through community projects, arts, or even the next medical breakthrough,” Allen said. 

Photo via Paxton Coley
“Grades don’t mean anything, if you go home and you cry yourself to sleep. Grades don’t mean anything if you’re going home and you feel empty or you feel like you have no purpose in your life. Grades don’t mean everything. Extracurriculars don’t mean everything, that college application does not mean everything. It’s not the end of the world. Your wellbeing is way more important than any grade could be put on paper. It doesn’t matter,” Chavito Allen, 16, said.
Allen expressed to students that grades aren’t as important as their wellbeing.
importance, especially among students.

 

With the amount of responsibilities they carry, these students wish there were things people took into consideration when it came to students and their wellbeing. 

 

“I wish more people knew how much it affects them. How students are so easy to let their mental health go on the way-side and how they can just let the easiest things stress them out and just completely, to the point where it gives them a mental breakdown. Mental health in students does matter,” Coley shared.

 

“You never know what’s going on in someone’s life or in their mind state and stuff like that, so I want people to take more heed. You never know what people are going through, because, I don’t know, it might lead someone to depression, you could be that person’s lighthouse and you never know,” Jones said. 

 

She feels that it is important to be cautious of others as more teens seem to suffer from depression, and asks for parents to understand as well, as school can be competitive and stressful.

 

“I wish they didn’t assume things. Like, a lot of people misuse certain terms. Like you can be anxious, but you don’t necessarily have extreme anxiety or you don’t have depression, you can have a depressive episode,” Blunt explains as she wishes students wouldn’t use mental health terms lightly and would be educated on the matter, as the misuse of the terms could be triggering for others.

 

“People have the same struggles every single day. They’re battling things that people couldn’t possibly understand and it’s common, unfortunately, it’s common.” Allen said.

 

  Through this research, Black also hopes that he can spread awareness about the importance of mental health, reminding busy students to take care of themselves. 

 

With students working so diligently in their own lives, it is important to remind them and others to be aware of mental health and the role it plays in students’ lives, as it can greatly influence students’ wellbeing. 

 

 

EDIT 3/31/2020 at 12:38 to remove a line labeling Jones as epileptic.