Ten Worst Habits of Highly Stressed Out Students


Nina Lamarre

Sometimes the only place to catch up on some Z’s is in public in bright daylight.

It’s no secret that the American public school system is not the most stress-free environment. Day in and day out, high school students work tirelessly towards GPA goals and college admissions, which takes a serious toll on their physical, emotional, and social health. 49% of high school students report feeling “a great deal of stress” every day, according to a 2015 NYU study, with 26% of those students exhibiting signs of depression. Life as a high schooler is far from easy in any regard, and excessive stress manifests in some pretty unproductive (and in some cases harmful) habits. So if feverishly doing homework in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn sounds familiar to you, read on for some of the worst habits stressed out students have adopted.

1. Sleep deprivation
Does the National Sleep Foundation recommend that teenagers get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night? Yes. Does anyone actually care about that? Of course not. If this sounds detrimental health-wise, you’d be correct. But most nights, there’s so much to be done – projects, studying, evaluating life choices – that sleep has to take a backseat. At DHS, it’s not uncommon among AP students to stay up until 1, 2, or 3 am scribbling out Psychology flashcards or calculating oxidation numbers – in fact, if you don’t stay up that late, you might be the weird one.

2. Drinking too much coffee and not enough water
No one really knows how much water you’re supposed to drink per day. Is it your body weight in ounces? Is it 6-8 glasses? Is it whenever you feel thirsty? The jury’s still out, but students have found a better way of keeping your body running smoothly (or maybe just running, period): caffeine. It’s the perfect cure to exhaustion, providing both an energy boost and several important nutrients. One DHS favorite are the caffeine-and-liquefied-sugar cocktails known as Mirasol’s Chippies, which are sucked down like they’re the elixir to life. (They sort of are, honestly.)

3. Biting nails until they bleed
We’ve all got our nervous tics. For a lot of people, it’s gnawing at their fingertips until they’re raw, anytime they find themselves in a high-pressure situation. It’s painful, definitely, and the sight of ragged fingernails might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it sure feels satisfying in the moment. It’s almost worth the embarrassment of having to continually ask Mrs. True for a Band-Aid, because you keep bleeding on your notes.

4. Complaining
If there’s one thing students love more than overworking themselves, it’s complaining about how overworked they are. It’s really a “my horse is bigger than your horse” kind of deal. It’s almost like if you prove that you’re the most stressed person in the room, then your stress must be the most valid. (Which is not true, by the way, but stress does some funky things to your brain.)

5. Pivoting between existentialism and nihilism, usually in the shower
The mental shift from the frightened “does anything in life matter?” to the cheerful yet morose “nothing in life matters!” is a fun road to walk down. Knowing that no matter what you do, you might not be good enough is not the easiest pill to swallow, and it probably leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But as time goes on, you may realize that acknowledging the fruitlessness of our labors takes the pressure off a little.

6. Binge watching John Mulaney
John Mulaney has three comedy specials on Netflix, all of which average about an hour, which is perfectly digestible when you’re up at 3 am, pretending that you know what’s going on in calculus. Mulaney’s humor is just the right blend of nihilist and self-deprecation that it soothes any worries you might have, because chances are, worse things have happened to him. Listening to him joke sardonically about Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and horses in hospitals is truly more entertaining than most things on this mortal plane.

7. Getting sucked into a black hole of BuzzFeed Tasty videos
The hypnotic magic of culinary videos is a mystery to scientists everywhere. (There’s just something so relaxing about people stirring melted cheese.) When you’re on the cusp of a stress-induced mental breakdown, sometimes the only thing that will help is a thirty-second tutorial on how to make lava cake. (It’s the little things.)

8. Crying
If you thought there was going to be a funny spin on this one, you were wrong. Students cry. A lot. It’s pretty much a fact at this point.

9. Spending too much time on Web MD’s symptom checker
Because if this minor pain in your neck is a herniated disk and not a muscle cramp from hunching over your computer, at least you’ll get excused absences from school. It’s unclear if self-diagnosis eases stress or enables it, but either way, it’s pretty darn addictive. What’s that? Your head hurts from reading this article? Are you sure it’s not actually a brain hemorrhage?

10. Scrolling through countless inspirational Instagram accounts
When you’ve had the worst day and your obligations outnumber the hours you’ve slept, it’s refreshing to see a quick “you got this!” on your feed. Even one tiny reminder that you’re capable, deserving, and resilient can diffuse the weight that rests on your shoulders. Because, believe it or not, everything really (probably) will be okay.