The first time I sang a song with "stress" in the title was in high school. The song was called, lovingly, "Le Stress." We sang it to the tune of Chic's "Le Freak" . Only instead of "Ah, Freak Out!" my girlfriends and I would sing "Ah, Stress Out!" It was cute and light-hearted--there were even some moves to accompany the lyrics. But here's the thing--we'd often sing it prompted by one friend in particular who seemed to feel stress especially acutely as it related to school, money, boys, family, friendsandohmygodthefutureandeverything! We'd poke fun when she'd start to verbally flip through her stresses, making intricate plans and contingencies. But when I think back on it, her stress was no joke.
Many high school students experience prolonged periods of unresolved stress due to the high pressure demands of academic life. The pressure to achieve and to compete for college admission has students sleeping less than ever, and administrators looking for new ways to alleviate student anxiety. Of course when I think back on it now, I wish we'd all spent a lot less time worrying and a lot more time just being a kids. But that's how stress is. It's this nebulous thing, impossible to define, as real for a little girl worrying about the first day of school as it is for her mother worrying how she can possibly afford the school supplies her daughter will need, or the teacher losing sleep about school funding and the achievement gap.
In the few short minutes between sitting down in a New Haven coffee shop to type down these thoughts and this very moment at 7:06 pm, I've overheard two different women talking about how stressed they are. The first woman looked like a mom, or maybe it was something she said--she had multiple shopping bags. She uttered to her friend that "There's just so much to do....I don't know how it's going to happen." And now, not five minutes later, the Yale student to my right just said to her friend that she didn't sleep last night because she's "just so stressed out." I'll stop spying now--we'll pick this up tomorrow on the show where we'll be talking about stress. Call in and let us know what gets you all tied up in knots. Or, if you're one of the lucky ones who has mastered deep breathing ---send along some advice. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.