It was Black Friday, and with dozens of tabs open on my overheating laptop, I scoured my favorite online shops for the best deals.
In my hunt for savings, I noticed a troubling trend—more troubling than what I perceived to be this season’s lack of good discounts.
Shirts touted phrases like “sleep-deprived,” “anxious” or even “depressed.” I was shocked to realize that the fashion industry was not just making light of these serious and important issues, but also using them to make stylistic statements.
Completely snapped out of my sale-induced hypnosis, I started to think more about my problem with the shirts. I realized that the belittlement of mental health issues and stress is pervasive even outside of the web stores I was shopping on.
Oftentimes, students compete on the basis of who slept the least, who consumed the most coffee or even who experienced the most mental breakdowns.
Stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation have become terms that students use as social currency to prove they are working hard when in reality, they should not be valorized.
Exhaustion from school and stress have become strictly performative. Without a doubt, students are overwhelmed with college applications, looming tests and upcoming report cards.
In response to this stress, students should rest and surround themselves with supportive people, but due to social pressure, students often validate their overwhelmed feelings tangibly by bragging about all-nighters, coffees or mental breakdowns.
Students are constantly reminded to take care of themselves, yet somehow still face a ubiquitous culture that pushes them to prove their work ethics by boasting unhealthy practices.
Broadcasting extreme fatigue and wearing eye bags like badges of honor can endanger students. According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term activation of the stress-response system can cause weight gain, heart diseases, headaches, digestive problems and a slew of other health issues.
Similarly, according to the Medical News Today Knowledge Center, sleep deprivation can lead to forgetfulness, lack of motivation, increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, moodiness and inability to concentrate.
Using comedy to poke fun at feeling overwhelmed can also be used as a crutch for students who are trying to find ways to cope with the tumult of high school.
While they may seem funny in the moment, these jokes reinforce a dangerous and unhealthy culture in which students believe that extreme exhaustion or emotional turmoil are comedic and laudable, resulting in the normalization of excessive and damaging stress.
While it is impossible to alleviate all the stresses of being a student, we should work toward establishing a culture that appreciates and recognizes positive habits instead of perpetuating one that incentivizes students to push themselves as hard as possible.
We should commend people for relaxing more, not less, and make it clear to those who brag about their stress levels that unhealthy habits are not cool and can in fact be dangerous to the student body’s well-being.
Only once our school community recognizes the importance of taking self-care seriously can we take the steps necessary to truly address the stress students face.
To lighten our burdens, we must stop glamorizing the sleep-deprived, caffeine-addicted student and understand that these habits can be incredibly harmful.
Ultimately, it is time for students, the fashion industry and society at large to recognize that bragging about stress is not in style.