As a teen, where do you spend most of your waking hours? Aside from a few blissful weeks of summer vacation, chances are that the majority of your time is spent at school or doing school related activities.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health, the average teen spends a whopping 6.8 hours of education every weekday, greatly overshadowing time with media and communication, leisure time, and eating, none of which exceeds 2.3 hours.
School and school-related issues are some of the most influential experiences of your life. What goes on in and around school plays a major role in how you develop during some of your most formative years. It’s important to know how to handle the different and difficult facets of your school years.
Whether you’re a straight-A student or barely scraping by, schoolwork is bound to cause you stress from time to time. According to one Stanford study, more than half of students surveyed agreed that homework was a major source of their stress.
If schoolwork has you overwhelmed, you’re certainly not alone. There could be a number of reasons for this.
Some of us may feel stressed by homework simply due to the way it consumes your time. If you’re a student with a number of extracurricular activities, that participation may eat into your time to complete work at home. When you don’t get home from a soccer tournament until 8 PM and you try to squeeze in a family dinner, rehearsing lines for the school play, and cleaning your bedroom, it can be difficult to make the decision between getting to bed at a reasonable hour and finishing those calculus problems and AP history notes.
This kind of stress can be disorienting, and the overwhelming realization of all the work you have to complete can leave you paralyzed in the face of your mountain of work. When it seems impossible to get everything done, sometimes our reaction is to get nothing done.
Schoolwork may also cause stress and anxiety simply because it is difficult. Whether you’re taking a challenging set of classes, you have a learning disability, or school is just something that you struggle with as a whole, school can be a source of stress if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
Difficulties with schoolwork can do a real number on your self-esteem. If we’re honest with ourselves, none of us likes to feel dumb. Struggling to learn material that everyone else seems to understand can bruise the ego. When schoolwork leaves us demoralized, the temptation can be to avoid it altogether.
Another reason that schoolwork may make us feel pressured might be of our own doing. When we brush work under the rug because we’d rather be doing something else, it can turn into this mountain of stress that we continually avoid. When that avoided work starts to show up as zeros on the report card, it can be demoralizing.
In each of these circumstances, it’s important to allow yourself a bit of grace. Know yourself and know your capabilities. If you’re doing your best, feel confident that your accomplishments are enough, even if they don’t meet the impossible expectations we often set for ourselves.
At the same time, it’s important to set ourselves up for success. We live in a world that is much more reactive than proactive. We don’t usually remember to do things until we get a notification that tells us to do so.
Right now is the perfect time to begin creating habits that will point you toward success. You’re much better off taking a little bit of time every day managing your schoolwork than constantly avoiding it and feeling horrible about yourself because it was left unaccomplished. Learn those positive proactive habits now to begin a life of self-discipline and success.
If the actual work of school doesn’t give you much trouble, chances are that the social element will prove difficult at some point. And this may be more true than it ever has in history.
With the advent of social media, the opportunities for bullying and rampant feelings of loneliness have increased in spite of the ways technology claims to bring people together. According to Psychology Today, people who spend more time on social media report more feelings of loneliness than those who use social platforms less. Especially at a time when phones and Instagram are commonplace for school-aged people, the social anxiety and stress caused by social media use can be extremely detrimental to teens’ mental health.
When making friends online is a simple as a few clicks, it can be disheartening to go to school and find that making real flesh-and-blood friendships is more difficult.
This isn’t to say that online support networks are evil or serve no purpose. The data simply shows that they can be a hindrance to mental health and social flourishing. It is vital to have a support network that you can meet IRL.
Be sure that you have the type of friends who you can talk with face-to-face – the kind who can hold your hand through tough times and give you a hug when you need it. Flesh and blood friendships aren’t as easy as online ones, but they are infinitely more fulfilling and a necessary part of being human.
Beyond anything else, you may feel school pressures because you’re trying to figure out who you are in what feels like an extremely short window of time. In about four years, it’s expected that you’ll know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Trying to figure out you place in the world is a tremendously difficult part of your school years. Your friend group from last year may not be right anymore and it may leave you scrambling to figure out where you should be.
When dealing with these challenges, remember that the best thing you can do is be yourself (as obscure and cliche as that advice may seem).
Beginning any sort of relationship, even friendships, means taking a risk. But those who accept you for who you really are, not how you present yourself online or how you pretend to be around them, are the type of people who can become a vital source of support.