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Newly formed expectations increase student stress throughout the years

Expectation: a belief that someone will or should achieve something. Over the years, expectations have only grown bigger and bigger, placing students in a world where rest is minimal and stress is prevalent, but has it always been this way?

Whenever I talk to my father about school stress and schedules, he is always surprised at how demanding it is. He said that it was never like that when he went to school and that I should try to decrease my workload a bit. This had me thinking, how has school and life transformed into such an extensive obstacle course for students? If students in the mid to late 1900s could go through their lives without vast expectations just fine, why should we not do so now?

Additional differences and challenges we face today include high SAT and ACT scores, anxiety over school safety and smaller college acceptance rates. Levels of disappointment from parents, teachers and friends also contribute weight to students’ lives.

Sports, part time jobs, friendships, church, clubs and family, along with regular high school and college classes, stretch students to their limits. Unlike past generations that were more carefree, we often find ourselves pressured to participate in as many extracurricular activities as are offered, even if we cannot handle it.

Grades are another hurdle to jump. Elementary and middle school classes are obviously easier than high school and college level courses, but we are still expected to maintain the same high A’s despite the difference in difficulty. Of course, the classes are harder because we are not children anymore and we should be able to handle the more demanding ones now, but countless other activities and obligations stand in the way. Just because we are older does not mean we can normalize weekly mental breakdowns, unhealthy bedtimes and depression. Expectations have grown to an excessive amount.

Over the years, depression, anxiety, self-depricating thoughts and suicide have increased greatly in teenagers and young adults. Suicide rates have risen 60 percent from 2007 to 2018 according to a CDC report. In 2017, a study by Pew Research Center reported that 3.2 million teenagers have experienced at least one depressive episode, and it has only expanded since.

Large expectations in place have played a huge role in these statistics. With mental illnesses increasing, so should treatment rates. According to Pew Research Center, less than half of all teenagers and young adults receive help for their depression. Parts of society see receiving treatment as being weak because we are supposed to be able to handle the immense pressure we are under on our own.

Some see us as a lost generation, believing that most of us do not know what we want to achieve or cannot get our lives together. I believe this is far from the truth. We are actually one of the strongest and most adaptable generations. While we deal with societal changes, unrealistic expectations, inferior opinions and stronger political differences, we still make it to the finish line.


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