An Inconvenient Constant: Stress

Mariel Rossi deVries, Lifestyle Editor

Stress is the buzzword used to describe Campolindo’s student body on any given school day. There’s always the heap of schoolwork and extracurricular activities geared to keep students busy and looking good for their top colleges. Students often fall into avoidance and procrastination or simply put their heads down until the work is done.

Pressuring the school to lessen the work load is hardly the correct solution, and students would be advised to learn that stress is an inconvenient constant in life.

The constant pressure to reduce student stress is puzzling for a number of reasons. 1st, parents push their children to be as active as possible and students willingly take on more work than they are comfortable with so that they can look impressive on applications. 2nd, stress doesn’t end with graduation.

The American Psychological Association notes that “some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like exams or work deadlines.” However, chronic stress has a laundry list of negative effects on health, including decreased ability to fight sickness, muscle pain, high blood pressure, obesity, and depression. This information has been used countless times by students and parents clamoring for reduced homework and testing. Campolindo accommodated students by partnering with Stanford, introducing yoga and even changing to block schedule.

Considering the responsibility for stress is really with the students and parents, asking schools to lower their academic standards is ludicrous.

I am not arguing that chronic stress is healthy. There is evidence that student stress is a serious problem in the Acalanes school district. What students need to learn to do is manage their stress by evaluating all of their activities, not just academics, and stop placing the blame on their teachers, their school or the district.

When families move to the area, many do so precisely because Campolindo is ranked the 25th best high school in California by US News and because the district has a reputation for helping students get into top colleges. Parents want their children to take advantage of sports, internships, after school clubs, volunteer work, ACT prep, etc. Yet, simply doing normal homework takes an average 3 hours a night according to a homework study by Statistic Brain.

But the school experience has become much more than taking general classes and completing homework.

Students need to exercise more control over their activities outside of school, be proactive in developing plans for tackling work, and realistic about the workload they are capable of maintaining.  All of this will be beneficial in their future careers. You can’t ask your boss to change the hours of operation because you were too busy or tired to meet the deadlines.

It is better to do a few extracurricular activities with enthusiasm while budgeting time for things you enjoy every day. Schools should not have to lower academic standards for students who don’t have enough time to do their work because they are overbooked with accelerated courses or outside commitments. Contrary to the commonly held belief that colleges require a broad range of extra curriculars, prioritizing activities for which you have a true interest and from which you derive satisfaction and growth is best.

Students often feel that they are stuck in a quandary, having to fulfill a dozen commitments to boost resumes, keep up with schoolwork, play sports or perform in plays while also being a good friend. Parental pressure to be “accomplished” and on an “upward trajectory” are unnecessary contributors to stress.

As an adult, people are faced with challenging dilemmas: paying bills, managing a budget, paying off student loans. If you hope to someday be successful enough to raise a family in the cozy suburbs of Moraga or Lafayette, you will need to earn a household income of around $131,000-198,000 per year, according to Unless you plan to live in Utah or Georgia where the cost of living is substantially lower, you will need to learn how to manage time, focus and, yes, handle stress.

Learning to manage, not avoid, outside pressure is a challenging task because it means putting in effort to maintain a routine and remain on task. Forbes’s article on How Successful People Handle Stress does not involve changing the world around us but reorienting yourself to give your optimal performance when facing life. The article continues by giving tips on how to stop the “voice of despair, anxiety, and passive inaction,” shaking negative labels from past poor performance and creating a game plan for the future. The same solutions can be used by high school students today.

Stress may be external but individuals can cope with it in a non destructive way that leads to what psychology terms “optimal arousal.” At this constant level of stress, people are at their most productive and still have enthusiasm for what they are doing. Stress is a balancing act that only becomes easier through experience managing it.

Stress is a lifestyle because each of us decides how much to take on in obligations, and how much pressure to put themselves under in order to obtain our goals. As an aspiring nurse, I understand that my workload will steadily increase and therefore I create a schedule to reduce stress and procrastination.

Most students at Campolindo hope to have successful, fulfilling careers. In order to do so, learn to take control of daily obligations and align your values with what you do. Otherwise, you will carry the same stress promoting habits into later life.