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  • Lara Inderst

Gen Z is stressed

Being anxious is a common human experience. It appears as a confusing network of feelings, ideas, and physical reactions that can overwhelm people. Anxiety frequently starts as nothing but a quiet worry that gradually grows into an overwhelming feeling. It generates a recurrent sense of fear and tension. It even has the power to paralyse people, preventing them from participating fully in life, making simple chores seem impossible.

The effects of anxiety can extend beyond the mind, causing physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and shaking. Anxiety means that the body reacts to worries by activating the fight or flight response. Even though they are not life-threatening, these physical experiences might feel overwhelming.

Personal relationships and social interactions can also be affected by anxiety. People withdraw into themselves because they are afraid of criticism or rejection. Social situations then become stressful and uncomfortable. To avoid this, people choose isolation as a coping mechanism.

Anxiety can have a wide range of effects on many other areas of everyday life as well. It can cause a reduction in concentration and attention span which leads to productivity at work or school worsening. Sleep patterns can also be affected, making people tired and agitated. As anxiety drains people's self-esteem and belief in themselves, the motivation to work hard to achieve certain goals may dissipate.

I personally have experience with this. I wouldn't self-diagnose but I have been struggling with most of the symptoms listed above and frequent panic attacks. I put this down to two things in particular: school and social media.

We go to School for roughly 8 hours a day and do homework for another 6. We need at least 9 hours of sleep at night for our brains to function and develop properly. This leaves approximately 1 hour a day for other activities such as eating, showering, exercising, socializing (which is extremely important for emotional, mental, and physical health, as well as the development of vital skills for a future career), religious activities, hobbies, extracurricular activities, medical care, chores, relaxation, and family time. I think it is evident that this is a very long to-do list to be assigned to merely one hour a day.

Some may argue that we have holidays and weekends to recuperate. Not really. We have all been tasked to read, annotate, and analyse hundreds of pages of various books during the holidays. It is surprisingly difficult to find time for anything other than work.

My experience with this has been very draining, and - simply put - I have had enough.

I went to visit my grandparents in half term and my suitcase was packed with textbooks and homework. I spent most of my time doing schoolwork, which left little time to do much with my family. Life is short and I don’t know how much time I have left with my grandparents so I want to spend every minute I can with them. Instead, I have to analyse poems. My grandpa even came up to me saying that when he was in boarding school, they weren’t even allowed to bring one book with them on holiday. Not one single book. We, on the other hand, bring a suitcase full. Some claim that “teenagers have no reason to be stressed”, but studies in the US have shown that teenagers belong to the most stressed cohort in the entire country.

Social media adds even more pressure. It trains teenagers and young adults to compare themselves to one another, instead of appreciating who they are.

No wonder most people in school want to leave as soon as they arrive. No wonder 1 in 6 people in the UK have depression. No wonder anxiety is so hard to treat.

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