GYM VLOG #14
Author: Julia Dulgerova
School can be extremely stressful and for reasons many people wouldn’t assume. The first thing that comes to mind if someone is overwhelmed with school is that they must have lots of homework, a schedule full of tests, or an unwelcoming teacher. But the truth is, my biggest stress in school and that of many others, was social situations.
When I was in 5th grade my family moved 30 minutes away from where we used to live, which meant me, and my brothers went to new schools.
The thing that bothered me in the beginning, which seemed like nothing but at the time was a big deal, was that all of the friends that I left behind would be going to middle school the next year. But, for my district, 6th grade was still in elementary school. This made me feel left behind and even more separated from the friends I had to leave behind in my old school. Then, not knowing anyone at my new school made things difficult because I was extremely shy and by 5th grade it seemed like everyone already had their cliques and friend groups. It was things like this that made me feel left out and stressed, not the schoolwork.
Social situations in school lead to lots of anxiety and social stress especially when summer is over, and you haven’t yet gotten into the routine of school.
Finding a teacher that you can trust and talk to can be extremely helpful. I had a teacher who was extremely kind and even when I no longer had her class, I still would go and talk to her when something was bothering me. But, if you have teachers who you don’t feel comfortable around or don’t understand their style of learning, it’s best to talk to your counselor and switch classes as soon as possible.
Some of you may feel that your favorite part about school is your friends, but this isn’t always the case. Friends can be a source of stress when you’re concerned about not having enough friends, not being in the same classes as friends, not being able to keep up with your friends in different aspects, peer pressure and more.
Especially due to covid and quarantine, teens are at much higher risk of things like social anxiety. Staying home and losing that time of socializing in real life with people really did a number on society. 43 percent of teens in 2020 said their stress levels went up, and 45 percent said they had a hard time concentrating on schoolwork and staying motivated. And even though school has gone back to normal for the most part, you can undo the mental changes we all had to go through.
When you acknowledge the fact that teens are going through hormonal changes, physical changes, and mental changes, plus adding on social stress and schoolwork. It’s a recipe for even more stress and worry.
A big factor of social stress for me when I was in middle school was that I felt like I had to always be around a friend. And God forbid i had a class with no friends or i had to go to a part of the school where I didn’t have a friend, I would get sooo extremely nervous. There were times where I missed events and trips in school just because I was so worried, I would be by myself, and it would give me great anxiety. It wasn’t until high school that I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being by yourself. Afterall, much of the things we have to do in our adult lives are done by us. It’s ok to go grocery shopping by yourself, it’s ok to eat by yourself, and it’s ok to take a walk by yourself. As soon as you become comfortable with being by yourself, you will be able to build true and good relationships with people because you aren’t forcing connections out of fear of being alone. It’s ok to be alone.
“Alone is the absence of people. Lonely is the absence of purpose.”
It’s ok to be alone, so don’t worry about not having a million friends, eating by yourself at lunch, or not having a friend in every class.
So, what can you do to manage all of this social and school stress?
Keep a Journal and Try Meditation
Simply spilling your thoughts out onto paper can help you figure out what’s going on in your brain. Journaling can support you as well as help you cope with the stresses of school while reducing the impact. It can provide some clarity and serve as an emotional release of negativity or even act as an escape. Writing your thoughts down can give you a different perspective on your situation and help you problem solve. In the same vein, meditation puts you into a deep state of relaxation and can also act as an escape. It helps you focus your attention onto your body and your breath which eliminates all of the thoughts going through your mind that are crowding your brain and causing stress.
Eat Nourishing Meals and Exercise
Good food has the ability to heal our gut wall and support our immune system while repairing damaged cells. This all leads to hormone regulation, which is important because a disbalance of hormones in the body causes stress, as well as increasing serotonin and dopamine. This decreases the risk of depression and makes you calmer. People who are feeling stressed may feel like they don’t want to eat well balanced meals and can get into a routine of binge eating and excessive junk food. But continuing this pattern will only make things worse. Eating your food with mindfulness and intention allows you to make thoughtful food choices and focus your attention on your meal. This improves digestion and also helps you to enjoy the meal on another level. Eating mindfully can also help you understand when you are eating because you are actually physically hungry versus when you need a distraction. Incorporating good meals as well as regular exercise is the secret recipe to less stress. Physical activity significantly lowers blood pressure and hormone levels. Increasing your breathing and heart rate with exercise like walking or dancing allows more oxygen to reach your cells throughout your body which releases the tension from muscles including the heart.
Get Good Sleep
Not getting enough sleep prevents your body from being able to repair and grow tissue and support a healthy immune system. It’s important to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep and it’s crucial to put all screens away 30 minutes or more before bed. Social media is a huge factor of social stress so avoiding that before bed (or best to avoid it all the time) is very important.
Stress isn’t assigned to a certain age group and throughout time, it’s more and more common for younger people to experience the stress of school, social situations, and more. Thankfully there are ways to deal with this and reduce the impact it has on our bodies.