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    • George Kosinski '19

Stressed to Impress: The Most Demanding Time of Year

Zander Blitzer '18, Features Editor
As Hopkins students and faculty return from March Break rested and refreshed, the crunch period before vacation may seem like a distant memory.
When does the work become overwhelming, and how to Hilltoppers deal with lack of sleep and deteriorating mental health? One Features reporter endeavored to get to the bottom of these questions.

Many Hilltoppers agreed that the weeks before Thanksgiving break are the most stressful time of the year. According to Emilia Cottignoli ’18, this is because “I’m losing the steam summer gives me and there are always a ton of assignments and tests. I think lots of Hopkins teachers try to alleviate crunch time the week before break by all assigning stuff due two weeks before break, so ultimately this relocation of assignments is unhelpful because we still do the same amount of work.” In terms of strategies she employs to combat stress, Cottignoli said, “I always try to work ahead so I’m never behind. Also exercise really helps to destress... I’m tired and sad and unmotivated unless I go to the gym!”

Josh Goldstein ’18 also felt as though the pre-Thanksgiving weeks are the most stressful. “I certainly think my mental health is negatively impacted by that period of time because I feel a pressure to ft 30 hours worth of obligations into a 24-hour day. It creates a disconnection from reality.” Goldstein also discussed working out as a strategy “to stay sane.” He said, “Focusing on reps or strides simplifes my mindset.”

Kieran Anderson ’18 similarly noted that “Whenever there is a break coming up, teachers all instinctively time their units to line up with the end of school, which creates a massive backup for students. Oftentimes, many tests and quizzes end up landing on the same day, creating conficts and stress for students who are at the same time exasperated by the work due to the impending vacation. Although the workload increases directly before vacations, I have always been able to get through it by reminding myself of the reward that is just around the corner.” To combat stress, Anderson said, “I intersperse doing work with little rewards like thirty minutes of Netfix or ten minutes with Dragonvale. The more work I have, the more helpful I find it to break up the work with small, rewarding breaks.”

The weeks leading up to breaks or exams are also the most stressful for Naomi Roberts ’18, who noted “It can be really hard to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep or eating right or taking time for yourself when you’re so freaked out about all of your other obligations.” To get through these stressful periods, Roberts said, “I like to watch one of my favorite movies or play outside with my dogs for a bit or do something mundane but enjoyable, just to remind myself that there is life outside of the whirlwind of academic life.”

Eleanor Doolittle ’20 had a very specifc source of stress before March break: the term paper. “March is defnitely the most stressful time of year since term papers are due and you still have that on top of all you other classes. My mental health is defnitely negatively impacted because I don’t get enough sleep and I am constantly in a state of stress worrying about tests or grades.” Despite these academic stressors, Doolittle said, “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s important to do well in school, but you should not have to sacrifce your mental health to do so.”

Even something as mundane as the weather can impact student attitudes and make a crunch time even more stress- ful. Elizabeth Roy ’20 said, “I think the stretch of February into the weeks before March Break is the most stressful time of the year. My mental health is most defnitely affected during this time of year. I fnd it harder to enjoy the things I like about Hopkins and the cold greyness of the weather tends to add to the general melancholy.” When asked what advice she would offer other students, Roy said, “I’d remind everyone that we’re all feeling the pressure right now so it’s more important than ever to take the time to be patient and kind to one another. It’ll be easier to get through crunch time if we help each other.”

Deepak Gupta ’18 noted a snowball effect that often occurs before vacations. He said, “In December, when so many things are happening, I lose out in caring for myself and my stability, both mentally and physically. And even worse, when one assignment comes back and I don’t do as well as I’d hoped, it affects my abilities going into the next assignment.” Gupta’s solution to stress is simple: “I just talk to people. In a way, talking is therapeutic because it allows people to release the valve of emotions that becomes so pent up during such a stressful time.”

As a senior, Karyn Bartosic ’18 has had plenty of time to refine her strategies for coping with crunch times. For Bartosic, the most stressful times of the year are “normally the end of each quarter, when a lot of work tends to stack up and there are a lot of major assignments due at the same time.” She advises other students to “take it one step at a time; manage your time well but also don’t forget to take a break from school work, even for 20 minutes, and detox from the stress in some way. Personally, having my varsity sports helps a lot so I can relieve pent up energy, and it gives me something to put my mind to other than academics. My commute to school is also relaxing because I can just listen to the radio and my brain can’t tell me I’m procrastinating because driving to and from school is necessary.”

Emily Ruan ’18 similarly offered a plethora of knowledge and strategies tested by six years on The Hill. “The most stressful time is when everything seems to pile together. I think the negative impact on my mental health is the fact that students are just expected to know how to handle all the stress. I’ve had a lot of help from my friends and my older sister on putting things into perspective and trying to stay afoat. However, I do think that this stress is necessary for us to learn and become better members of society. If we’re never trying to battle this stress, we’ll never be able to handle what’s to come.” During stressful periods, Ruan encouraged, “Don’t let yourself let go. You’re so close. Reach out to your senior mentor, advisor, teachers, and friends for help on organizing your time and keeping yourself accountable.”

As a coping mechanism to crunch time stress, many Hilltoppers enthusiastically encouraged the introduction of therapy dogs before exam week. Jason Alfandre ’18 suggested “a designated nap area.”

Deepak Gupta said: “ I think that Hopkins should promote more spaces where there’s no work, just talk.” Regardless of coping strategy, Alfandre reminded his fellow students, “Don’t sweat the little stuff. One bad test won’t kill your grade. You got into Hopkins for a reason: you’re smart. We put all this pressure to get an A on everything but if you’re breaking down because you’re so stressed, that’s a sign to ease off and relax. Just remember it’ll all turn out fine in the long run.”
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