Stress, Through the Eyes of a Student

STRESS is part of life. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that. The greater wisdom is recognizing that it’s there and learning how to manage it. The Nanyang Chronicle captures the stress phenomenon in Singapore with an infographic that points to schoolwork as the number one culprit behind jangled nerves. The number is not pretty. At 88 percent, schoolwork far outstrips the rest: extracurricular (5 percent), peer pressure (5 percent), relationships (2 percent).

The Nanyang Chronicle hits the mark with the schoolwork observation. It is, indeed, the ultimate demon, the stress-inducer, the mother of all anxieties. However, they seemed to have missed the whole stress puzzle. If only they had interviewed me and some of my friends, they might have tweaked their survey questionnaire to capture a fuller, better picture of the whole stress phenomenon.

First, there are two other elements they appear to have omitted—parental pressure and self-imposed expectations. Second, that 88-percent figure feels somewhat exaggerated. As a student myself, I would put it at 30 percent.

In fact, if I were to present my own take on stress, it would look like this:

・Schoolwork 30%

・Peer Pressure 20%

・Parental Pressure 20%

・Self-Imposed Expectations 20%

・Extracurricular 10%

It’s true that as students, our sole priority is academic excellence, even though, more and more, with schools advocating a holistic education, the extracurricular piece is of equal importance. Everyone is expected to perform well in their chosen co-curricular activities (CCAs). The better you perform, the chances of landing leadership positions are higher. And the more leadership positions you have, the better it looks on your portfolio. Almost everyone in school is hungry for this. That’s why 10 percent for extracurricular activities makes more sense than 5 percent.

Still, it can’t beat peer pressure. Competition is keen, and no one wants to be left behind, not least bullied. Then, there’s the whole popularity game. We don’t want just to excel, we want to be recognized and to be liked. There’s the whole psychology of wielding that secret power, holding the key to one’s field of excellence, riding the wave of being up there, and teetering skillfully at the whole balancing act. It’s tough work, and that’s all pretty stressful.

Connected with this is that other monster—parental pressure, which is inextricably linked to self-imposed expectations. Parents expect this and the other, and so, naturally, you would set the bar there too—wherever their “this and the other” is pointing to. Sometimes, it’s sky-high, and then you struggle, you cry, you wish, you hope, and if you cry too much, you come to breaking point. And then it dawns on you that what was at first parental pressure is now pressure you put on yourself.

So, dear folks at The Nanyang Chronicle, given that this is a somewhat dated 2013 infographic, we could put together one to capture the beat of the times. There’s much more to stress and anxiety than the four basic elements you’ve presented. In any case, it’s not just the picture of stress, it’s a portrait of life.

(557 words)

Lim Zhi Yi, Secondary Three
May 2016

For more essays by Zhi Yi, visit Zhi Yi Writes.

This essay was written in response to a stimulus-styled question from a Secondary Three mid-year exam paper. Adapted from a 2013 infographic featured in The Nanyang Chronicle illustrating the stress phenomenon in schools, the question was originally crafted to challenge students to “identify an issue presented by the data” and to “write an expository essay to explain the issue.”

In this essay, Zhi Yi has taken a broader, more freewheeling spin on the whole stress phenomenon—one that rings truer and more honest in her mind. 

Here’s the infographic:

60 percent of students experience high level of stress in schools. Here’s why:

  • 88% school work
  • 5% extracurricular
  • 5% peer pressure
  • 2% relationships

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