Senior Canon Lynch tries to keep stress low while studying for math.
Photo: Sydnie Jiang

Most upper school students have come to the conclusion that “death week” occurs every two or three weeks. Death week is packed full with tests, quizzes and essays all due at nearly the same time across multiple classes. Stress levels tend to spike during this kind of week while sleep decreases, making students increasingly anxious.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States. That being said, the American College Health Association found a 62% increase in feelings of “overwhelming anxiety” amongst students in 2016. Even with this significant increase, anxiety is commonly overlooked and often seen as less serious.

With so many cases of anxiety in the United States, University of California, Los Angeles researchers have traced the source of college students’ anxiety back to their junior and senior years of high school. This significant increase in anxiety can be attributed to high school students’ fear of failure as well as the desire to get into a good university. “I’m constantly thinking about college now,” said senior Ethan Much. “I get anxious thinking about whether or not I’ll get in.”

Students at a prestigious institution such as Pace commonly place pressure on themselves to excel not only in their academics, but also in their extracurricular activities. High school nowadays is about getting into college, and according to The Atlantic, college is harder to get into than ever before. “I’m not too nervous about college yet,” said sophomore Claire Wierman. “I’m mostly anxious about getting into the schools I want to get into for lacrosse.” 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is a reaction to stress. Seniors especially experience bouts of anxiety due to college applications while trying to keep up their grade point averages. “I’ve been pretty stressed out so far this year,” said Much. “I have to keep up with studying while making college deadlines, and the whole thing is just kind of stressful.”

Upper school counselor Amelia Tuttle, Mrs. Eden’s long-term substitute, said that anxiety is the most common reason students come to her office in the Academic Resource Center. “Students tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves,” said Ms. Tuttle. “They pressure themselves to succeed, and sometimes, that pressure comes from their peers or their families.” Anxiety does not just originate from the pressure of academics. Some students are anxious about their friendships and their relationships, adding to the stress of keeping up a social life while also succeeding in school.

So what’s the solution to deal with all of this anxiety? Ms. Tuttle recommends identifying coping skills and the source of anxiety. “It’s important to realize when you are feeling anxious,” said Ms. Tuttle. “It can be sweaty hands or a tight chest, and you just have to take deep breaths or maybe even remove yourself from the situation.” Solutions to alleviate anxiety are different for everyone, but Pace students have a number of resources to figure out what that solution is.