It’s not a competition: Stop stress speech

| Senior Forum Editor

As I’ve stated frequently in the past – and as the majority of those already affiliated with the university are aware of – Washington University has the tendency to create a stress-inducing environment. It’s a rigorous university; academic stress is simply one of the things that comes along with that. However, as a student body, there are things that we can change to reduce this stress. On an individual scale, we can advocate for ourselves and our mental health and promote self-care, but collectively, we can do more, starting with a change in our words.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, in some capacity or another. Be it through eavesdropping on a nearby conversation or speaking with a friend. You may have even been the one to say such things. “You got six hours of sleep? Crazy, I only got four.” “Oh yeah, I forgot to eat today.” “I’m too busy to relax, I seriously don’t have the time.” As students, we’ve turned being busy into a sort of competition, perpetuating a mentality of “if you’re not suffering, you’re doing it wrong.” We don’t realize how detrimental this to our overall wellbeing.

At any given moment on any given day, these phrases are thrown about this campus, and what’s the response? Nothing. We almost never question it. People rarely respond with an “are you okay” or a “you should really try to get more sleep”. If anything, we let out a laugh or a joke to signify standing in solidarity with our fellow classmates, because, after all, we consider this to be normal college behavior. Stress is a commonality that we all share, and for some reason, when it manifests itself into these words, we don’t bat an eye in response.

As a student body, we have grown so accustomed to the presence of these misguided statements that when we come across them we treat it as nothing more than another simple sentence in the slew of thoughts that exit our mouths in a day’s time. In normalizing this stress, and upselling it as a sport, it leads us to believe that stress to the point of ignoring our own needs is just normal college behavior, and we shouldn’t be complacent in the continuation of this cycle.

According to ABC News, a recent study published in the medical journal “Depression and Anxiety” found that “…mounting expectations, an evolving sense of self-identity, and the typical shock of leaving home for a new place are making college students more vulnerable to mental health risks…” Wash. U. is not exempt from these truths. These are sentiments that are familiar to a lot of us on this campus, challenges that we face every day. The stress-speech only adds fuel to the fire. We have so much stress as it is; the stress-speech and normalization of it only diminish our chances of seeking help or recognizing when enough is really enough.

Even if we think it doesn’t impact us, for a lot of us, it does. Sometimes you really do forget to eat, or you really needed to pull an all-nighter one night to prepare for a test. Sometimes these things happen. But when we consistently boast about these things, we continue to normalize them, and they become habitual. That one all-nighter turns into a sleepless week. That one skipped meal transforms into a diet of coffee and muffins, and with no one there to say it’s wrong, how can the cycle end?

Stress is something that inherently comes with growth and education, but it’s time we stop treating it as the socially acceptable norm. It’s okay not to be stressed and to be happy about that. It’s also okay to be stressed and to be open about it. But regardless, we should be speaking to our peers about their health, encouraging them to eat, sleep and do all of the other activities that are needed to function but somehow get swept under the rug of “busy”. We need to advocate for each other’s health, not joke about the lack of it.

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