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The Student Newspaper of Hopkins School

A Constant Competition Over Stress

Zander Blitzer '18, Features Editor
Are you stressed?
If you’re a Hopkins student, the answer may be yes. As a rigorous prep school, Hopkins asks its students to excel academically, athletically, and extracurricularly, all while maintaining healthy friendships and sleep patterns. Some students may feel overwhelmed from the competing interests. Although Hopkins has changed the homework policy this year to 45 minutes of work per class meeting, many students still have plenty to worry about.

However, “stress” has become a buzzword, blamed for all of our problems indiscriminately. Even more troubling, many Hopkins students participate in creating a “stress culture,” an environment in which students compete, usually by talking or complaining amongst themselves, to ascertain who is the most pressured. One might even call it the “Stress Olympics!”

The negatives of participating in the stress culture are relatively easy to spot. Jack Batchelor ’18 said, “Stress
culture is terrible. Nobody benefits from bragging about how much they have to do. It’s a game of ‘I suffered the most’ and a call for help.” Jacob Wolfe ’18 added, “I think it [stress culture] stupidly increases the amount of stress we have over things we are already stressing about.” Deepak Gupta ’18 pointed out, “It becomes so easy to have your life revolve around your assignments to the point where it seems like that’s the only thing you can think or talk about it anymore. It adds an element of unnecessary but inevitable toxicity.”

Other students suggested the competition among students was the most 
pressing aspect of stress culture. Hudson Berk ’21 said, “People want to one-up as many people as they can, so they can feel like they are working harder than their peers. If somebody said ‘Ugh I have like 3 tests tomorrow,’ it is a Hopkins natural instinct to one-up them and say ‘Yeah well I have practice today so I’m going to get home at 8:00 and I still have more than you!’ It makes people feel better about the fact that they have to stay awake and do so much work, that at least they are doing more work than their friend.”

College is yet another topic in which Hopkins students voice their stresses and concerns. Andrew Roberge ’18 said, “I think engaging in the stress culture is super apparent for juniors and seniors. Anybody who isn’t applying to some top tier school is asked “Why would you do that?” If there is the college for you out there, it’s uncanny and people shouldn’t be so critical. Elitism with colleges is just irrelevant.”
Participating in the stress culture has even been discussed as a potential damaging force to Hopkins unity. Lionel Louis ’18 said, “The way I see it, stress culture creates an environment of perpetual unhappiness and foolish competition. With everyone constantly trying to show how they are going through the greatest struggle, the bond and unity we should have as Hopkins students is damaged.”

This competition does not go unnoticed by adults at Hopkins. School Psychologist Dr. Joshua Brant said, “[The participation in stress culture] is something that most kids experience. However, The Social Norms theory says that we sometimes make the false assumption that our peers are experiencing things the same as we are, and therefore everyone is when in fact that’s not always the case. Just because we think everyone else is stressed out, we make the assumption that they in fact are. It’s also the ‘misery likes company’ kind of thing where you feel better knowing that everyone else is suffering as much as you think you are.”

Students pointed out positive aspects of stress itself, without the interpersonal competition. Roberge ’18 said, “Stress caused by workload has actually motivated me so much, and that’s why I chose Hopkins. I’ve done some of my best work when I was stressed. It helped me and pushed me to really buckle down junior year.”

Brant likewise saw an upside to stress in general at Hopkins. He said, “I would love for us to get away from the word ‘stress’ because there are forms of stress that are good. If we are going to be an academically rigorous school, we want to push ourselves to our limits. We don’t want to push ourselves beyond what we’re capable to the point of being dysfunctional, but I think pushing ourselves to the point of stress is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s good, healthy stress and in the spirit of improvement, instead of stress for the sake of stress.”

In terms of solutions to help alleviate participation in the stress culture, some students were despondent. Batchelor ‘18 said, “It’s a societal thing. I see my parents take the work home with them and talk about the late nights they work. Kids learn it from adults. It’s very hard to combat the
participating in the stress culture when it’s not just limited to students.” Wolfe ’18 added, “We just attract kids who create the stress culture” but suggested as a solution to “raise awareness over how many people really dislike the culture of competing about stress.”

Brant had a few solutions of his own. He recommended: “Balance is key. Not pushing
yourself beyond your means, finding your limit of what you’re capable of and maybe pushing yourself just a little bit. And not giving in to the competitiveness over colleges and grades and clubs.” 
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