Mounting Stress for Seniors
by Edona Hasanaj and Rodolfo Rodriguez
A Calc quiz, the upcoming big show, the pandemic, an AP project: Everyone has experienced some factor that contributes to personal stress levels. Mental and emotional pressure along with feelings of being overwhelmed have all contributed to catalyze stress in individuals.
Often enough, stress is overlooked when it comes to teenagers, but recently a multitude of students nationwide have exhibited escalating levels of stress.
In a 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center it was concluded that 70 percent of the surveyed teens believed that stress was a significant issue for them, a percentage that has only risen since 2019, due to the pandemic.
High school students can all agree that stress is a prevalent problem in their life. Although stress is a commonality among students, the causes, effects, and the manner by which it is dealt with differentiate. At Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), a random group of seniors were questioned to acquire insight on the source, consequence, and remedy for their stress.
As an FSSA senior dance major, Imani Ramsundar has had to juggle school work, college applications, and performances such as the Dance Cabaret and the Winter Show. Imani, like many of her fellow dance majors, has felt the turmoil and impact of balancing all her responsibilities.
When asked to indicate her level of stress out of ten, Imani emphasized her stress level at a 10 or 12, but adds that after the second semester it’ll go down. She believes that the majority of her stress comes from feeling overwhelmed by the first semester.
This semester marks the return to in-person school, after a year and a half of being in remote and blended learning. It is a transition period for many and is a shift into a new sense of normality.
This transition has not come easy for many seniors because of the college process and all the pressure that comes with it. While still adjusting from moving to in person school this year after so much time away during the earlier period of the pandemic, she must also prepare to leave high school and enter the next phase of her life.
The consequence has left Imani feeling the pressure to figure out what to do next. Regardless, she is optimistic that next semester will alleviate her from feeling as stressed out because she will have less responsibilities on her plate. Mainly, next semester she won’t have to worry about completing college applications which will free up her schedule and ease her stress.
To cope and deal with the overall stress she attributes stress relief to friends and finding time to hang out. She believes it to be a brief period away from all the chaos of life and allows her to forget about the chaos for a while. Imani recommends hanging out with friends as a good coping mechanism against stress. Not only does it serve as a good distraction, but hanging out with friends also stimulates the mind, increasing productivity. There is a change in mood exerted when being around friends that provides a mental agility necessary for problem solving.
The life of a senior is difficult. Netza Jimenez, a senior vocal major at FSSA, is one of the many who are adjusting back to school life. He says that throughout quarantine the workload seemed much more manageable with all the free time everyone had. Going back in-person to school, along with a completely different schedule has added to the stress of Netza’s senior year.
“The longer [class] periods just pile on and make my day a lot longer, a lot more tiring, and a lot more stressed,” he said.
Although he finds that the adjustment is difficult, he finds it easier compared to not returning at all.
Netza is not the type of individual to shy away from responsibilities and workload. Besides juggling his schoolwork and college applications he is also a member of FSSA’s Musical, RENT, adding an additional responsibility to the workload he already has. Due to his responsibilities, he ranks his stress at an eight out of ten.
“This time of year there are a lot of college applications along with balancing classes and sometimes it’s a lot of work,” he said. The first semester of senior year seems like a commonality among many seniors as a major factor that induces stress.
College applications have played a major role as to why the first semester is stressful. The fall/winter season is around the same time that students have to file Fafsa, submit college applications, and apply for scholarships, all which can be difficult balancing with other responsibilities. In order to balance his workload Netza has shifted his mindset.
“My mindset has been that college is a little bit more important than my schoolwork,” he said.
With all the things going on in his life Netza has chosen to prioritize and tend to what’s more important. He is grateful for the precedent teachers have set in Sinatra. “Most teachers have been understanding and understanding college is more important,” he added.
He credits prioritizing as a good method to avoid/reduce stress.
“I certainly recommend setting things aside and delegating personal deadlines,” he said. Taking a step back and breaking apart what seems like a busy schedule can help to make it much more manageable. Although sometimes there is the urge to do everything at once, sometimes the best move is to figure out what’s more important and prioritize.
Coming back to school as a senior drama major, Nora Delehanty has experienced similar struggles when it comes to her stress levels as a student at FSSA. Although she is joyful to be back in the building, like many other students, juggling her academic life and multiple other responsibilities has definitely been a challenge. Whether it’s babysitting on the weekends, applying to college during the night, and trying to stay on top of her course workload this year, she’s had her hands full, trying to prioritize one thing at a time.
“Adjusting back to five days a week, getting into a regular schedule. It definitely had an effect on my time managing skills,” she said. She isn’t alone. Just like her, multiple seniors have described this big adjustment back to school, not only from remote learning, but to an unfamiliar and longer bell schedule.
On a scale of 1-10 Nora had described her stress to be at an 8.
“It’s because of my lack of time management. Sometimes I just overwhelm myself but just need to remember to take things one at a time and take things in small increments,” she said.
Whether it’s cutting down on free time, focusing on college stuff one day, and then catching up on schoolwork the next, seniors like Nora can’t seem to catch a break. The endless cycle of work is overwhelming and it’s difficult to de-stress when there’s a constant pressure to get so much done.
“I’ve had to narrow down some of my activities because of the college process. I hope I can add things to my schedule so that I can enjoy things besides school,” she said.
Nora recommends talking about how you feel as a good coping mechanism for managing built up stress and anxiety.
“Talking really helps because when you talk to a friend, parent, or guidance counselor, it relieves a certain stress. We’re all in the same boat, we aren’t alone. I like to take time to myself and try to stay off my phone. That can be like watching a movie or just going for a walk, or taking a long shower and listening to music,” she added.
Brandon Bosch is a senior vocal major who, just like his peers, was determined to come back to school with the expectation that the first semester of his senior year would be challenging. However, he couldn’t have anticipated how stressful it has been so far.
When asked to rate his stress level this year from a scale of 1-10 Brandon’s response was.
“A 10. I’m taking 4 AP courses and they are not considering my applying to college, personal life, and the bell schedule…I have to do college work and it’s a lot of pressure,” he said. The struggle to attain academic achievements whilst simultaneously applying to college is a lot on a student’s plate, and Brandon and other seniors feel this constant pressure to do so even when it becomes overbearing.
Not only is the adjustment back to school academically challenging, but coming back from a learning environment that consisted of talking to people through a screen was hard too.
“It was quite different considering we haven’t seen each other in a long time and our perspectives on everyone has changed, has changed the school environment,” he said.
He further summarizes that seeing people’s true opinions being made public during remote learning on important political topics has opened his eyes to certain individuals’ true colors.
Coming back to FSSA for seniors has been a roller coaster of emotions. Although all seniors have expressed a shared excitement to see their friends again on a daily basis, and be back in the building they missed so much, these students are more stressed out than ever. Trying to cope with adjusting from a year and a half of remote learning and the academic pressure they’re getting from their teachers and families, has been challenging.
On top of that, seniors have struggled to balance out their college applications with their workload deadlines, constantly falling behind on either one or the other, while attempting to also enjoy what little free time they have left. It’s important that they are given the support and understanding from their teacher’s during this extremely stressful time. This shared anxiety should not be ignored and the seniors of FSSA need to be accommodated for. As the stress for seniors piles up, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to accomplish their most important tasks; applying to colleges, maintaining good grades, and finding time to enjoy themselves.