By. Jaclyn Lupo
School, in general, is stress-provoking. Working towards that diploma is no easy task! From studying countless hours for exams to staying up late to finish a project, classes demand a lot of effort to succeed.
Beyond that, every student has experienced that 9 pm panic when an essay is due at 11:59 and the uproar of anger when a test grade is lower than expected. Sure, the solution to a bad grade is to study more, and you can avoid that due-date crunching stress with better time management. However, no matter how much advice is given, we all have imperfect habits and the United States' school system barely leaves room for any kind of mistake. Whatever the reason - from misunderstanding an assignment to sleeping past your alarm - there’s very little forgiveness given in the grade book, which is undeniably linked to the pressure to be perfect.
No student should be expected to be perfect, yet that’s what we’re all encouraged to be.
The reality is that the school system is outdated. It worked for the past few generations, but with these ongoing technological advancements, educational structures need to be changed. It’s an intrinsic problem; these educational establishments must realize the unrealistic expectations upon students to excel in all subjects despite individual strengths and weaknesses. Instead, students are punished for their “weakness” and told they need to try harder. What if we normalized simply trying our best, asking for help, and taking time out for ourselves?
It’s no coincidence that depression and anxiety rates are on the rise, especially amongst college students.
Let’s put this in context. We are in the middle of a pandemic as civil unrest continues to stir and the climate crisis heightens. The stress of the outside world tugs on everyone, even if it may not seem obvious. I’m appalled that students’ mental health is still not the top priority with the current chaos striking our world. Counseling resources are provided, however, more often than not, students don’t even realize they need help.
Schools should be ashamed of how they treated their students, especially last semester. With classes being taught in online platforms like Zoom, staring tirelessly at a screen is physically and mentally draining. Of course, many schools were more flexible with grading by offering pass or fail options. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s sugarcoating the problem instead of truly solving it. Grades in any form induce a significant amount of stress. They reduce a student to the weight of a number, and if that value is not “good,” they’re automatically cast as unintelligent. We need to reevaluate the way we track a student’s progress and retention of material. We need to give students room for error and a space where mistakes are encouraged to foster greater learning. Our society is so hyper-focused on success that any tiny non-victory seems like the end of the world. Is a student truly successful if their 4.0 GPA forced them to sacrifice their mental health?
Here’s my story. When I was a sophomore in high school, I spiraled down into a deep period of depression. I could barely find the motivation to get out of bed, nevermind complete my schoolwork well. It was a dark time where I hated the sun, but as I went on a journey to re-find myself, I discovered the necessity of slowing down and implementing relaxation into my daily routine. While I struggled with balancing my mental health, I was taking an array of hard honors and AP classes, none of which correlated with my true passion. Studying replaced sleeping, and sleeping replaced doing what brought me joy. I put school above myself because I had the idea of success all wrong. Success is a holistic achievement, not just an A in Calculus.
When I was at my lowest, someone advised me to take up yoga. Just as my life seemed too messy to clean up, I caught a glimpse of peace when I treated myself to a 10 minute YouTube yoga session. Those few minutes on the mat reminded me of what it meant to feel alive. After hours of practice and a few long months healing through therapy, it became clear that I would need to put myself above my classes. If an essay was not polished to perfection, I needed to accept it as it was.. I needed to recognize that the expectations I had previously established for myself were impossible to maintain because they would cost me my health.
I encourage you to change the narrative and to be strong enough to accept your perfect imperfection, even if it goes against the intrinsic values of your school.. We don’t have to let the system win and eat away our happiness. Let’s normalize asking for help. Let’s normalize making self-care our top priority.
My favorite ways to practice self-care:
It’s as simple as searching “yoga class” on YouTube, putting on some comfy clothes, and just letting yourself follow along, posture after posture.
Taking 10 minutes to rejuvenate your skin is a wonderful use of time!
A Warm Cup of Tea
Brew yourself some lovely tea in your favorite mug. Close your eyes, turn off any screens, and let yourself enjoy the cozy feeling.
Choose a book that resonates with you. Let yourself get consumed in a story. If the weather permits, try reading outside to completely disconnect.
Jaclyn Lupo is an editorial writer passionate about fashion, sustainability and culture.