Avoid stressing over stress

Jessica Spitz

I started my junior year with the same questions and anxieties that I’m sure many of my classmates also had: is it really as bad as they say? How will I deal with the workload? Will I sleep? Will I have a social life? Will I even make it to June?

I could think of only one upside to embarking on the infamous journey of junior year, which was that no one could tell me to stop complaining about how stressed I was because junior year is widely accepted as the worst.

Seniors were quick to inform me that I was sorely mistaken. I learned that not only is first semester senior year just as challenging as junior year, but, in addition to the usual workload, seniors are also working on college applications.

When I initially considered this, I thought that it was completely fair to say that the beginning of senior year is harder than junior year. But then why had I been hearing about the stress of 11th grade since I came to Harvard-Westlake as a seventh grader? And why, every year, am I told that my workload is nothing compared to that of the year above me?

It all boils down to the fact that Harvard-Westlake students can be a bit self-centered.  As 10th graders, weren’t most of us terrified at the prospect of our first in-class essay for English, or our first upper school history test?

In the moment, when you are staying up until the early hours of the morning to study for a test or finish a project, no year at Harvard-Westlake seems effortless.  It is much easier to say that you had no trouble at all in hindsight and that the work you are doing now is significantly harder.

I realized that I am completely guilty of this behavior myself. My younger sister is in eighth grade at Harvard-Westlake, and my younger brother is in sixth grade at Curtis School. It is incredibly difficult not to roll my eyes when my sister (who is not a whiner) occasionally mentions the Algebra I test she has coming up or my brother talks about studying his ISEE vocabulary.

Instead of brushing off younger students’ complaints about their workload, I suggest that we offer support and sympathy. All that people want to hear about their concerns is that they are valid, not that they are unfounded.

As frustrating as it may be to listen to issues that seem less pressing than your own, try to see the situation from someone else’s perspective.

Everyone handles stress differently, some much worse than others. We go to a school that, along with all of its incredible benefits and opportunities, has a reputation for stress. Maybe if we extend helping hands rather than act in a condescending manner, we can ease some of that stress.

So the next time my sister vents her problems to me, I will not snap and tell her that she should just wait until she’s a junior, or ignore her entirely. Instead, I will take a deep breath, force a smile on my face and ask how I can help.