Stress & High School Students

Waukee students attentively working on projects. 
Photo Credit: Vivian Le

Waukee students attentively working on projects. Photo Credit: Vivian Le

According to surveys conducted by The American Psychological Association, high school students have more stress than the average adult. Several students at Waukee High School have claimed that academic pressure takes a toll on their mental health and other aspects of their lives.

Last fall, junior Grace McKeon suffered a traumatic experience as a result of academic stress. As a member of the swim team, marching band, and several Waukee choirs; McKeon had a lot on her plate along with honors schoolwork.

Junior Grace McKeon opens up about her struggles with stress and anxiety.
Vivian Le
Junior Grace McKeon opens up about her struggles with stress and anxiety.

“I got so stressed out. I had a migraine that lasted about two weeks. It ended up with me having to be hospitalized multiple times,” stated McKeon. McKeon’s high stress levels induced chronic migraines that she still suffers with today.

Having to miss multiple days of school because of her hospitalization, McKeon fell further behind on her schoolwork. “When I came back to school it was hard for me to catch up. Two of my teachers literally told me to just drop their class,” prompted McKeon.

Just like Grace McKeon, many Waukee students participate in several extra circulars at a time, and often struggle to find a balance between their academics and activities.

Junior Maddie Darveau shared that she spends an average of six hours on homework every night. Darveau also claimed to have an average of 5-6 hours of sleep every night, but wakes up at 4 AM to finish up homework.

The National Foundation of Sleep stated, “Teens need about 9.5 hours of sleep each night to function best.” Lack of sleep can cause irritation and limit a student’s abilities to perform tasks such as concentrating in class or executing exams. In a study conducted by the same organization, only 15% of students reported getting 8.5+ hours of sleep every night.

Kids Health reported that an average of 25% of students fall asleep in class.

These difficulties can afflict damage on students’ grades — adding to the never-ending cycle of stress, which leads to affliction on other aspects of students’ lives.

The effects caused by stress can range from minor to severe. The following statistics come from surveys conducted by USA Today: 40% of students have reported feeling angry or irritable; 30% of students have reported feeling depressed, which can lead to an entirely different list of effects; and 21% of stressed students have skipped meals or developed eating disorders. “Because of stress it’s caused me to lose interest in friendships and a social life,” shared Darvaeu.

Some Waukee students shared their ideas on how to alleviate the workload. “I think everyone should have tailored homework to their proficiency. If a teacher recognizes that a student is ahead, that student should be given less homework,” suggested Junior Brady Denton.

“Teachers may have to abide to a strict curriculum, but there are other efficient teaching techniques and homework they can give to students that don’t require a solid four hours on one assignment every night,” McKeon addressed.

The concern on mental health seems to be growing. It’s no longer unusual for people to be seeing councilors or therapists. Speaking with someone about stress management can provide catharsis for high school students. If you are struggling with schoolwork or managing your activities, don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers or parents about it. The importance of mental health exceeds the importance of good grades.