It’s no secret that students today are under more pressure than ever before. From grades to relationships to getting into college, high school students face more issues than they ever were challenged with before. The issues that girls are confronted with are especially prevalent.
For one, there’s the pressure to look good. All around us, on magazine covers, in music videos, and in movies, images of the ideal woman are shown. But the “ideal woman” doesn’t really exist—instead she is created by an image that is taken, then photoshopped, and as for those who look like her, the “ideal” body type of possessed by only five percent of American females. Many girls face pressure to look like these thin, tall, retouched models, who are stripped of their natural flaws in the editing room. Because of this, some girls even go so far as to develop eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia in order to attain this “perfect body”. Those who are anorexic are so concerned about their body image that they limit their calorie intake so much that they essentially starve themselves. Bulimic people will eat large amounts of food, and then “purge” that food through means such as vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxatives. According to the website for Futures of Palm Beach, a residency which helps people overcome addictions and co-occurring disorders, eighty-five to ninety percent of people who suffer from anorexia are females, and anorexia is the most common cause of death for females ages fifteen to twenty-four, being twelve times higher than the mortality rate of all other causes of death in that age group. Data on mirror-mirror.org, a website dedicated to educating people about eating disorders and helping those with them cope, tells us that at least ninety-five percent of bulimics are female. Without treatment, up to twenty percent of people with serious eating disorders will die. Though most girls do not suffer from eating disorders, they are a significant problem that may be worsened by the media’s portrayal of women.
Second, there is social pressure. Many high school girls feel the need to be popular among their peers and please others. This may lead them to do things that will get them attention–but not in a positive way, such as abusing drugs and smoking. A study in the United Kingdom from last year showed that teenagers who act older than their age and perceive being popular as more important than the average student may be more prone to having drug and relationship problems later in life. The students in the study were also at an increased risk of committing criminal activity as adults. For many girls, self-esteem is an issue, and they may feel that they need to act older than their age to be “popular” or “cool”, or hang out with the “in crowd”. However, being popular for the wrong reasons may benefit you in the short-term, but it will most likely hurt you later on in life.
Third, there is bullying. One in five girls reports being regularly bullied, while thirty-eight percent report being cyberbullied. In addition, girls are more likely to be the victims of verbal bullying, rumor-spreading, and exclusion, whereas boys are only more likely to experience physical bullying. Although bullying is more common in middle school than in high school, it is still a major issue. As reported by stopbullying.gov, children who are the victims of bullying are more likely than the general population to develop problems including depression, anxiety, psychosomatic problems (meaning headaches and stomachaches, for example), and problems with alcohol and drugs. Girls are arguably more at risk for bullying, because they are targeted by both genders, while boys are mainly bullied by other boys.
Fourth, there is the pressure to do well in school. Especially in high school, where college admissions are looming, many girls are stressed out. It can be difficult to maintain academic standards, extracurricular activities, and a social life as a high-schooler, and it’s stressful.. Specific factors for school stress include homework, tests, college admissions, extracurricular activities, and maintaining grades. Perhaps the biggest stressor of these, in senior year at least, is college admissions. It can be difficult to choose a college, as not all seniors are sure what they want to go to college for, and it can be heartbreaking if one does not get admitted into the college they had their heart set on. Although nearly all high-school students are stressed, girls are generally more stressed, and this trend continues into adulthood.
Many girls in high school feel overwhelmed sometimes, and that’s natural, with all of the issues facing them: the pressure to look good, be well-liked, do well in school, and bullying or discrimination that they may face. If you’re feeling stressed from all these pressures, there are many ways to manage it, such as eating healthy foods, exercising, sleeping, and listening to music. According to healthywomen.org, consuming foods and drinks with caffeine can increase certain stress hormones. On the other hand, vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber foods provide nutrients that help protect against immune damage from stress, and consuming complex carbohydrates causes the brain to release serotonin, a chemical that enhances mood. Science has also proven that exercising releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals that can leave you with a euphoric feeling after a workout. In addition, taking short naps can increase productivity and leave you feeling refreshed, and listening to music is both fun and relaxing. And don’t forget to laugh. Laughing increases oxygen and blood flow, which is an automatic stress-reducer.
But some problems may need professional help. If you encounter a problem that you can’t solve on your own, remember that there is always help out there for you. Tell a trusted adult if you are having a serious issue.
Although we all have our worries and fears, remember this quote from writer Elbert Hubbard: “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.”