Summative slaughterhouse

Divya Venkat Sridhar, Writer

Everybody knows that academic achievement takes hard work. Setting goals is about sacrifice, and if you want the perfect transcript, you have to accept that you’ll deal with a ton of stress. Sometimes it means you’re sweating buckets when it’s 2 A.M. and your finals start tomorrow. Sometimes you’ll miss out on the fun stuff to get the 6 or 7 on that project. And sometimes, stress feels like future success. Perform well, or enjoy school- nobody says it out loud, but we all know that’s the deal. Right?

Chronic stress is not a natural part of studying- on the contrary, it means your studying isn’t going well. In no other area of life do we find nail-biting, hair-pulling stress to be a measure of success. You don’t want the hairdresser who’s trimming your hair to look tense and overwhelmed. You don’t want the pilot on the plane you’re boarding to seem nervous. If the surgeon who’s about to operate on you is sweating and gritting their teeth, your first thought isn’t that they’re truly trying hard. It’s that you need to find someone else to remove your appendix, and fast.

The prevailing view is that if you aren’t stressed out over school, then you’re not trying hard enough. This harmful mindset, as a result, plunges the majority of students into cycles of intense chronic stress. A survey by the Stanford affiliate Challenge Success between January 2019 and February 2020 found that over 70% of high school students in the US are “often or always worried” about taking assessments, college admissions, and schoolwork.

Although some level of stress can, of course, be motivating, chronic stress like what these students describe is very damaging to their body and mind. It results in symptoms of anxiety, depression, increased substance use, and ironically, lower academic performance. 

This is not to deny that stress can genuinely arise and interfere with our lives. Sometimes schoolwork does pile up to the point where you lose hours of sleep, and remaining perfectly stress-free when stuck on revision doesn’t seem achievable. Sometimes it isn’t. Stress is often packaged as something that’s completely in our control, which is often not the case. Being faced with assessments, exams and homework is undoubtedly challenging, but what remains important in this situation is to try to understand it.

The solution to chronic stress does not come in one form, but as small changes with a transformative effect on your mental health. Change your study environment or organise a more efficient plan. If required, take your mind off of academics from time to time to prioritise sleep or physical activity. Surround yourself with resources from mental health Instagram accounts to homework planners that alleviate your stress in a positive way. But first, recognize that you do not need to be in a constant state of stress in order to achieve what you want. You are the one who knows your limits.