Overworked and Overstressed: Past the Breaking Point


Wilde Lake junior, Sydney Lowry, stresses while reading a book written entirely in French. Photo by Preeta Singh.

A few weeks ago, Wilde Lake sophomore Rachel Beall’s math teacher wasn’t in class for a few days, and, when he returned, there was a huge test. “I was so scared,” she said, “because not only did I not know the topic, but I had no time to study with him after-school to try to understand. I remember being on my couch, breaking down. Crying like crazy, having trouble breathing, the whole nine yards.”

She was terrified. Even when she tried to learn the math, nothing was clicking, and she went to bed still not knowing what she was doing. “Of course I failed the test,” she continued, “and I went under some of the worst stress I’ve ever had. I found myself for days afterwards spiraling about how, ‘Oh, if I fail this test, I’ll fail the class, I won’t get into a good college, I won’t be able to handle college work, and I will fail in life.’ I think that was part of the overwhelming stress I felt too, and it all sucked. I felt so hopeless, and thought that if I couldn’t handle 10th grade math, I couldn’t handle anything.”

Like Rachel, many students feel the intense stress of high school, suffer from a severe lack of sleep, and have little time for almost anything besides school work. Trying to meet high expectations, students often push themselves past the breaking point, overworking their minds and bodies. The result is hallways filled with zombies, stumbling mindlessly through their day. What is the cost of this pressure? And, is it worth it?

“There was a time when I had found out on Monday that I’d have four tests in one week, on top of a written essay,” said one student anonymously, “By the end of the week I’d only gotten three hours of sleep per night.”

Maddy Feldwick, a Wilde Lake sophomore, is always loo

king to help others, and has dealt with anxiety since seventh grade. She pushes herself to do the best she can so she doesn’t disappoint her parents – or herself. Knowing she can do well, Maddy takes the hardest classes possible, even though the immense workload keeps her up late every night. “The amount o

f work given in classes combined with the short amount of time for doing it made it so difficult to keep up, and made it almost impossible for me to try and get better at time management.”

With dogs on her TOMS and a spring in her step, Howard High School junior Sarah Chaney also experiences the extreme stresses of school. Though her amiable personality and caring nature carries her far, it does little to alleviate the pressures she feels each day. “I was in a show, and the rehearsals were getting really constant, which didn’t give me a lot of time to focus on my school work,” she said. “I had a lot of things going on and not enough time to complete them effectively, which resulted in a lot of stress and emotional outbursts.”

Though his four AP tests from the year are through, Atholton High School junior Cameron Goodwin-Schoen still feels the worries that the school environment brings. Always making sure his friends are doing well, Cameron checks up on others whenever he can, and offers to help in any way possible. However, sometimes he has to put himself first. He said, “My English teacher set the due date for an entire 6-8 page research essay right before all of my AP exams.”

Wilde Lake sophomore Veronica Stevenson said, “There was a time at the end of the quarter where every teacher was giving tests and projects to finalize our grades. I probably cried at least five times.”

Each of these students is dedicated to their education, and all wish to do well and go far. Still, those who are successful prioritize well being.

“It’s important to work hard,” said Wilde Lake English teacher Mr. Townsend. “You should try to do your best, and you should reach for high goals, but you should never do it at the expense of your own happiness. Sometimes, you might have to let things slide.”

As Rachel moves into her junior year, she reflects on what school means. “Make sure you prioritize your mental health over anything else, because you can’t function without feeling healthy emotionally, and think about your future in a way that keeps you motivated and excited to work, cause it’s setting you up for your dream life.”