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Why is School so Stressful? Exploring Causes and Solutions

Studies have shed light on the detrimental effects of academic pressure.

Written by Sarah Hill
August 24th, 2023

As students strive for academic excellence, the demands of school life significantly affect their overall well-being. From peer pressure to schoolwork overload, it’s only when we understand the underlying causes and effects of student stress and anxiety that we can alleviate them.

 

Student Anxiety: How Does School Affect Mental Health? 

Student anxiety encompasses a range of emotional responses and physiological reactions triggered by the pressures and demands students face during their educational journey.

 

This stress manifests in various ways, impacting students both mentally and physically. Common manifestations include:

 

• Persistent worry and fear about academic performance

• Heightened anxiety, especially during tests

• Difficulty concentrating 

• Overwhelming or racing thoughts

 

From a neurological standpoint, excess academic stress sends the brain’s beta brainwaves into overdrive, causing the heightened “fight or flight” state. This heightened state leads to difficulties in focusing, decreased cognitive performance, and an overall sense of restlessness.

 

Numerous studies and research have shed additional light on the detrimental effects of academic pressure on students’ mental health, especially as it relates to feeling depressed or overwhelmed. 

 

According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), during the school year, teenagers reported stress levels went well beyond what is deemed healthy, even surpassing the average reported stress levels of adults. 

 

Additionally, 31 percent of teenagers disclosed feeling overwhelmed, while 30 percent admitted experiencing feelings of depression or sadness due to stress. An alarming 36 percent of teens reported feeling tired and nearly a quarter of them (23 percent) revealed that they had skipped meals as a consequence of stress.

 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s data appears to validate those figures, with 80% of U.S. students report feeling stressed sometimes or often, while 34% felt depression.

 

The Main Factors That Make School so Stressful

 

1. Immense academic pressure placed upon students to excel in their studies. The pursuit of high grades and the fear of failure can create a formidable burden on young minds, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

 

2. The workload imposed on students can be overwhelming, leaving them juggling multiple assignments, projects, and extracurricular activities. This constant sense of urgency to manage competing responsibilities elevates stress levels.

 

3. High expectations from parents, teachers, and peers further intensifies student anxiety. The desire to meet others’ standards and fear of disappointing loved ones creates a significant source of stress and pressure.

 

4. Social factors within the school environment can also contribute to student anxiety. Issues like peer competition, bullying, social isolation, and the fear of not fitting in can significantly impact students’ emotional well-being.

 

Navigating Academic Pressure: The Burden on Modern Day Students

Students face intense pressure from a number of sources that creates a sense of mounting stress, damaging students’ mental well-being and overall educational experience.

 

• Competitive Nature of Modern Education: Modern education systems have become highly competitive, fostering a culture of comparison and rivalry among students. This competitive atmosphere creates feelings of inadequacy and intensifies the pressure to outperform peers.

 

• Implications of Grades and Academic Achievements: Grades and academic achievements hold significant weight in shaping students’ future opportunities. Colleges, universities, and employers often use academic records as a primary metric for evaluation. Consequently, students face tremendous pressure to maintain exceptional grades, fearing that a single setback could jeopardize their desired academic or professional paths.

 

A Look at High Homework Workload

Homework is undoubtedly a significant source of stress for students, particularly when the workload becomes overwhelming and time-consuming. 

 

Homework and workload related stressors were among the most frequent responses from students when asked about their stress levels, according to statistics presented on Research.com. Finals and midterms was the top response from 31% of U.S. students, followed closely by class workload and homework. 

 

We’ve written more extensively on this subject in our blog “Does Homework Cause Stress? Exploring the Impact on Students’ Mental Health”.

 

While acknowledging the potential stress caused by homework, it’s essential to recognize its positive effects when managed appropriately. Homework can reinforce learning, promote self-discipline, and help students develop essential time management skills.

 

High Expectations from Parents and Teachers

The desire for students to meet these expectations often becomes a driving force in their academic pursuits, but it can also lead to adverse effects on their mental well-being.

 

Parents play a vital role in shaping their child’s academic journey, and their expectations for their children’s success can be well-intentioned but also overwhelming. The desire to see their children excel academically and secure a prosperous future can inadvertently add stress to their lives. Students may feel the weight of living up to their parents’ expectations, and the fear of disappointing them can create significant emotional strain.

 

Teachers, too, have expectations for their students’ performance and progress. While striving to challenge and motivate their students, teachers may inadvertently contribute to academic pressure. The sheer volume of assignments and assessments, coupled with high expectations for success, can be daunting for students and lead to stress, especially if the pace of learning does not match individual abilities.

 

Social Factors within the School Environment

Students navigate a complex web of interactions, and these social dynamics can play a pivotal role in contributing to their anxiety levels. 

 

Peer competition, often fueled by academic pressures and extracurricular achievements, can create a constant sense of comparison and inadequacy. Moreover, the prevalence of bullying and the fear of not fitting in can lead to emotional distress, affecting students’ overall well-being. Social isolation can be a silent yet significant stressor as well, as it leaves students feeling disconnected and unsupported. 

 

The rapid growth of social media and technology has introduced new dimensions to the social landscape within schools. Online platforms can intensify social pressures, exposing students to curated images of seemingly perfect lives, further fueling feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The fear of missing out and the pressure to maintain a constant online presence can be overwhelming, hindering students from focusing on their studies and personal well-being. 

 

How to Handle Stress from School: Coping Strategies and Support 

 

When it comes to managing academic stress and reducing student anxiety, a proactive approach can make all the difference. Here are some tips to help students cope with the pressures of school life:

 

• Learn Stress-Relief Techniques: Breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness practices can calm the mind and promote relaxation. 

 

• Time Management: Create a structured schedule that allocates time for studying, relaxation, and extracurricular activities. This helps prevent last-minute cramming and reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed.

 

• Seek Support from Teachers and Counselors: You don’t have to navigate stress alone. Reach out to teachers and school counselors for academic and emotional support.

 

• Connect with Friends and Family: Strong social support systems act as buffers against stress. 

 

• Avoid Overcommitment: Strike a balance between school, extracurriculars, and personal time. Learning to say no when feeling overwhelmed is crucial.

 

• Practice Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations. This fosters a healthy mindset and boosts confidence.

 

• Know When to Seek Professional Help: If stress becomes unmanageable and starts to interfere with daily life, seek guidance from mental health professionals.

 

Alleviating Academic Stress: How Healium Provides Solutions

 

 

Healium is a mental fitness tool that combines VR guided meditation experiences with data-driven biofeedback equipping students with essential tools to self-regulate their stress, anxiety, and mental well-being. 

 

Our hope is that Healium paves the way for a more focused and productive learning experience, especially for students experiencing severe academic stress. As stress dissipates, students can engage more actively in class discussions and participate confidently in academic endeavors.

 

Healium’s has already proven to be a game-changer for students, especially those with attention-related challenges. By promoting a state of calm and enhancing focus, the VR experiences help students maintain better concentration during lectures, study sessions, and examinations, which ultimately leads to improved academic outcomes.

 

By empowering students with emotional resilience and providing a platform for inner peace, Healium not only enables them to overcome academic stress but also equips them with invaluable life skills. 

 

To learn more about how to use Healium, watch our video below!

 

About the Author

Sarah Hill, a former interactive TV news journalist at NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates in Missouri, gained recognition for pioneering interactive news broadcasting using Google Hangouts. She is now the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically powered VR/AR channel, helping those with stress, anxiety, insomnia, and other struggles through biofeedback storytelling. With patents, clinical validation, and over seven million views, she has reshaped the landscape of immersive media.

Written by Sarah Hill
August 24th, 2023
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