School, Sports, and Stress

By Meilan Solly
LEESBURG, VA- Rachel wakes up at 6:30 a.m. She walks her dog, gets ready for school, and then is driven to school by her mother for a French Club meeting. After her meeting, Rachel rushes to her first block class, AP Biology. By the end of the day, Rachel has over 3 hours worth of homework, including outlining 12 pages for history, doing 25 math problems, and completing a packet for French. She worries that she won’t have enough time to finish her homework because today is Wednesday and she has a cross country meet for 4 hours. When Rachel gets home from her meet, it’s 8:00 p.m. Rachel eats dinner, showers, and finally starts her homework. She ends up going to bed at 1:00 a.m., only to have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. the next day.
Although Rachel isn’t a real person, there are countless students not just at Tuscarora, but all over the country, who live her life. Expectations for high school students are high, since to get into a good college people must show that they participate in sports, volunteer in the community, get superior grades, are involved in clubs at school, and have experience with a job. In a National Health Interview Survey, it was reported that 75% of the general population feels stressed at least once during a two week period. In 2009, 45% of teens said they were more stressed than they had been in previous years, and 68% of teens said schoolwork was their leading cause of stress.
Sara Kidane, junior, does cross country and has a job. Cross country takes up over 2 hours every day and 4 hours on meet days. Kidane works 6 to 7 hours on the weekend. She is able to do all her homework by “managing time wisely.” When there’s an important assignment due, Kidane gives it priority. She does admit, however, that “sometimes it gets to the point where you feel you can’t wrap your brain around everything.”
In order to manage his workload and busy life, Neeraj Dalvi has a set study schedule. He participates in basketball, tennis, Spanish Club, Lansdowne Teen Coalition, and is a SCA advisory representative. During sports seasons, Dalvi has practice from 4 to 7 p.m. As soon as he gets home he eats and then does homework from 8 to 10. Dalvi says that he “need[s] 8 hours of sleep,” so he goes to bed by 11 p.m. When he has a lot of homework, Dalvi adjusts his schedule accordingly.
Another contributing factor to stress is pressure. Many parents expect their children to excel in academics, sports, and everything else. Kidane says, “[Parents] expect a lot and don’t always understand what [their children] do to please them.” As teenagers get closer to college, their stress level tends to go up. There are college applications to complete, harder courses, and more homework than ever before. Seniors also need to adjust to the idea of living without parents to take care of them.
Since it’s not likely that society is going to totally change its expectations of perfection, it’s important to learn ways to manage stress. Sometimes it feels like life is never going to get better. There are school problems, drama with friends, family issues, and everything else that goes on in teenagers’ lives. By managing worries effectively, however, it may be easier to overcome feelings of stress and depression. When Sara Kidane is feeling stressed, she takes deep breaths and tries to concentrate on one thing. As for Neeraj Dalvi, he says, “I focus on what I have to do, and I limit [time] on Facebook and going out with friends.”
The first step in becoming stress free is identifying what makes you stressed. Once you know what your problem is, you can work to overcome it. Try writing in a journal, taking a walk, reading a good book, or calling a friend when stress just really gets to you. Sleep at least 8 hours a night, cut down on your junk food intake, and exercise a lot so you can get some healthy endorphins.
No one ever claimed that growing up was easy, because, in a nutshell, it’s not. Social problems, school issues, and family tension all add to teens’ stress levels. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect.  By learning to manage stress, however, it’s possible that more people can stop suffering through lives like Rachel’s and simply start living.