Art by Shirleen Kwong
No one is perfect, yet students are expected to be.
Having extracurricular hobbies, ample amounts of free time and achieving good grades while still pushing yourself towards success and preparation should be every student’s goal. Nowadays, more often than not, students who choose this method often fail.
In the modern era, students have an ever-growing pile of problems; from homework to extracurriculars to college prep, every student has work to do. Somehow, schools expect students to be able to find and maintain the delicate balance necessary to meet the institution’s high expectations needed to succeed in their academics.
In reality, the psychological pressure on students to push themselves past their limits can overwhelm them and have dangerous effects on mental health. Overexerting students has disastrous impacts on students’ mentality towards their work, school, grades, and enjoyment in life.
These idealistic goals prove to be incredibly difficult for hardworking students who are pushed farther and farther down the rabbit hole of long, arduous study sessions and late-night work frenzies. Simply finding the time to balance the workload can be a challenge, demanding very precise time management skills and focus. This also does not include other personal responsibilities like family matters or interests. What happens when they have practice for sports, schoolwork and personal obligations all in a short timeframe?
In a study done by Stanford Graduate School of Education, 4,317 students from high performing high schools were asked to describe their homework and home life situations. Unsurprisingly, lack of sleep and time were two of the most prominent theme.
In essence, an inability to handle constant floods of new work leaves students constantly stressed, anxious and tired. This makes working on schoolwork harder, as students lose the motivation to continue, initiating a cycle of nonproductivity that can lead to sub-par academic performances in classes, degradation of students’ mental states and add more pressure and expectations on students’ shoulders.
Not only does overloading students with work have negative effects on their mental states, but it also has serious implications on physical health as well.
For example, the brain processes and stores information; this skill can be affected by both the quantity and quality of a person’s sleep. Sleep provides a necessary break between long periods of concentration and focus, which can be hard to do when the hours a person sleeps decreases, whether it be from additional schoolwork or extracurriculars using up valuable work time.
According to a 2006 poll done by the National Sleep Foundation, about 70% of teens reported receiving an inadequate amount of rest. Sleep deprivation is very common due to an accumulation of lost hours and bad sleep habits, such as staying up late in order to do assignments during the week and attempting to account for that by sleeping in on the weekends.
As a result, even minimal sleep loss can take a substantial toll on student’s mood, energy, cognitive function and ability to handle stress. Over the long-term, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on mental and physical health. This simply feeds back into the worsening, cycle of mental and physical exhaustion.
Ultimately, schools and institutions have high expectations and demands of students; yet, they utilize methods that end up being detrimental to both students’ physical and mental health.