Mehr un nissa
We have been taught since we were little that the Earth is always moving. It never slows down or takes a moment to catch its breath. It is an undeniable fact that if the Earth stops spinning, our life as we know it would be over. Maybe this is the reason why we tend to live fast-paced lives. We’re always on the go, one step after the other; we never stop to reflect or check up on ourselves because we are scared of the destruction it would cause. That is also the reason why acute stress is prevalent in all stages of our life. From the day we enter school to the whole of our adult life, stress is our body’s reaction to the challenges we face during this period.
As a student, I have become familiar with the feeling of stress and it is the reason behind my growing anxiety. The pressure of having to perform better than the average student becomes unbearable after a few years and it all starts when you first step into school; when the word ‘competition’ changes into ‘unhealthy competition’; when you’re constantly compared to your peers. For students like me, academic stress adds on to family and social stress and makes something even bigger, something that is hard to cope with.
In school and at home, I was often told that education and good grades are everything. ‘If you don’t get good grades, you won’t be able to succeed in life’ or ‘If you don’t study, you won’t have a stable future’. I grew up listening to these phrases and hence, it instilled a fear that if I don’t perform well on exam day, I would be a failure. And so the grind would start as soon as I received my time table, spending hours cooped up in my room, learning everything from A to Z. I would think about the exam and my heart would beat rapidly, my palms filled with sweat and my head hurting periodically. Just the mere thought of an exam would give me a panic attack. And on the day of the exam, I would feel nauseous and lightheaded walking into the examination hall. It is much later that I realised my reaction towards stress is due to repeatedly being told that my whole life depended on just one exam. One day that I don’t perform well could cost me my entire life. And it is this concept that instils anger and confusion in me. As someone who does not perform well under pressure, the examination environment was always a challenge for me. Due to this stress, I endured changes in my appetite, from eating nothing a whole day to eating 5 meals a day. It was hard to fall asleep as I would spend my nights thinking about how much work I had to do the next day.
Another cause of my stress was the ignorance of teachers regarding students’ mental health. The pressure teachers put on students using inflexible deadlines and heavy workload leads students to be buried by stress. I always encountered a ‘no excuse’ policy when I confronted my teachers for not completing my assigned work on time and this drove me to work excessively, simultaneously dealing with tense situations at home. Taking a day off due to physical illness was considered unacceptable and hence, taking a day due to mental illness was completely out of the question. Furthermore, my teachers encouraged the imbalance of leisure time and school, claiming that activities are not as important as studies are. The constant struggle of
meeting academic standards and worries about my grades made it impossible to spend my time doing anything other than studying.
The pressure provided by my parents only added to the stress: constantly being reminded of how privileged I am to be studying in a private school and how my parents struggled to send me there, only added to my worries about my academic life. Hence, I tried my best to reach my parents’ high expectations, even if it came with the burden of being stressed. It was an internal drive to make parents proud, to show them they are not wasting their money. Besides, balancing one’s social life and academic life is extremely stressful as there seems to be a shortage of time for everything. Going out with my friends would provide me with a few hours of relief, but that would be short-lived as the stress returned as soon as I did. Just the thought of having so much to do in a day can make students feel overwhelmed and fatigued which is why it is important to take one thing at a time.
Finally, I have reached a point in my life where I know that being stressed is normal for students. However, there should be healthy ways to deal with it so that it does not develop into more serious mental illnesses. Whether that be going on a walk alone or with one of your friends, watching movies or even listening to your favourite song, these little moments of peace- away from the hustle and bustle of life- can help you feel so much better.