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To Stress or Not to Stress

To stress or not to stress… I recently read one of those daily fun facts on Instagram, the one about how modern high schoolers have the same amount of stress as members of insane asylums did in the 1920s, or something like that. The gist of it was that modern high schoolers have a rather large amount of stress. Now, I am sure whoever is reading this would probably agree with the previous statement, due to the probable experience of stress right before a first date, unit test, or championship game. This stress would be noticed in the form of sweat, increased breath, and heart rate, and some sensations that are similar to anxiety. These symptoms are probably not what are desired before these big challenges, especially the first date. However, these all make it seem that stress is a bad thing.

Stress, as defined by Google, is the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. This formal definition can probably be understood by any high schooler, but it does not really explain the emotional strain. This is where psychology comes in.

The truth is that there are two types of stress. There is eustress, which is positive stress that can be most commonly felt during gambling, and distress, which is negative stress, most commonly felt whenever one thinks he or she is stressed. Now, the logical place to go from here would be to explain how to turn distress into eustress. There are many ways on how to cope with distress, such as humor, though in reality, the methods of actually turning distress into eustress are obscure and ineffective.

Instead, I would like to draw attention to a different study. This study, taken from Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, took a different approach to stress. It was not about how much stress that one had; it was about how one viewed stress. It turns out that a negative view of stress is the actual cause of all the problems that arise from stress. All of the illnesses, all of the fatigue, all of the frustration, and all of the pain are just symptoms of a bad attitude. In fact, many of the subjects of this study who had a positive view of stress remained healthier than those who had very low amounts of stress. So, to relate this to the average student of Shaker High School, a positive outlook on stress itself will may maintain the student’s health, and may even maximize a student’s capabilities, since the student won’t be discouraged by stress.

Viewing stress as a positive thing may seem a little vague. The trick is to convince oneself that all of the physical responses occur in order to increase one’s physical and mental abilities. The increased breath rate and heart rate bring more oxygen to the organs, and actually help the body function better. The tight, acidic sensations in the chest or gut should be seen as shots of adrenaline that energize one for an upcoming challenge. The idea: wipe the sweat off, get immersed in the depths of stress, and move ahead to take the challenge head on.

There is one other aspect of stress. Stress makes people social. This seems to contradict most student views, since teenagers stress over keeping up a social life. Everybody has to make sure that they are maintaining themselves in front of their friends and strangers who judge them, or so everybody thinks. The truth is, stress does make people social. Stressed people will tend to reach out to friends and family to share the burden of stress. The problem with teenagers is that some may not exactly admit to being stressed, due to different appearances that have to be maintained. But that is a whole other generational issue.