a frazzled student sits as a desk

Photo by Timmy Harris

Stress is present in our everyday lives, whether it be with school, work or other commitments. We either thrive or sink with being busy, so stress plays a vital role to keep us in check. We do have to consider, though, are we romanticizing having a fully packed day where we get little to no sleep and no food breaks? Too much stress is known to cause a variety of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and anxiety to name a few (National Institute of Mental Health). It is important to understand your own limitations, especially when it comes to your own life schedule.

A story from Fullerton’s YOU website mentions Lucy Barnum, a college student, with her experience dealing with comparing her stress to her peers and how it affected her. She mentions, “the more stressed you are somehow proves you are more successful in school.” This thought process not only creates a large amount of pressure on students, but also contributes to the never-ending cycle of comparisons. When a student is proud to mention that they are getting three hours of sleep, it’s an indicator of an overwhelming amount of stress that is beginning to inhibit sleep and other daily activities. A balance is needed when it comes to school and our personal lives so that we don’t experience burnout.

The American Psychological Association reports that in 2017, 61% of students who seek counseling reported anxiety as their reason for the visit along with depression at 49% and stress at 45%. These high percentages amongst college students underscore the pressure of doing well in school along with all the other commitments we have daily. Most students either work full or part time to support their families, which adds to the list of responsibilities.

Knowing the high percentage of stressed out students and the potential health effects, what can we do to stop romanticizing stress? The simple answer is that it is up to you. No one can change what society believes all at once, so if you take the initiative to break the cycle of overfilling your to-do list, that is already a step in the right direction.

It is extremely important to assess your responsibilities and find where you feel the most overwhelmed. When you find the activity or commitment that makes you the most stressed, examine how that affects you physically. Whether it is a lack of sleep when you complete that task or heightened anxiety, this will provide insight on where you are spreading yourself too thin. In turn, a better understanding the effects of your routine and habits may encourage you to de-romanticize the stress comparison since you will have more awareness of how it is impacting you physically.

At the same time, surrounding yourself with individuals that value balance over burnout is a good way to encourage good stress habits. When you are in a group that is going all the time with no breaks, little sleep and no set meal times, you will inevitably be influenced to do the same. With friends who encourage taking study breaks, going out for lunch sometimes and have good time management, the need to constantly be stressed out will be partially eliminated since there will be no one to compare the high level of stress to.

Overall, romanticizing stress is a detriment to mental health and has long-lasting effects on the body. When taking a look at school, work and other commitments, it should not take up all 24 hours of the day. You should have time for eating, sleeping, breaks, and even just a few minutes for self-care. Life is about balance and less about who is doing more. After all, success is attainable with a balanced schedule, not just by being busy all the time.