Glorification of stress at Uni

There’s no doubt in my mind that the majority of Uni students are diligent, ambitious students. Thus, they take opportunities that make them extraordinarily busy. While taking these opportunities in the forms of internships, volunteering, athletics, music, and more is ultimately a positive, it is vital that Uni students prioritize their mental and physical health. 


As a senior, I have had many interactions with students centering around the amount of stress we feel, and how we’re struggling to handle it. I have definitely done my fair share of venting about the buildup of schoolwork around a certain day or parental pressure around college, and I truly value listening to my peers share their unique struggles as well. To be clear, I think these kinds of conversations – where students look to each other for support during stressful times – are completely helpful and positive. If anything, we should be encouraging more conversations like this so that people know they are not the only ones feeling pressured by academics or anything else. These conversations only turn sour when students try to make their stress a competition and show off that they are working harder than everyone else. 


The way I have seen this phenomenon of “competition stress” is mostly through Uni students flaunting physical stress as a result of academic/emotional stress. Once again, though, if you hear a peer discussing how they keep losing sleep due to academics and are searching for help, it is vital that you stay supportive and help them get what they need – whether it is through the SSO, asking for help from a parent, etc. What I’ve specifically seen throughout my time at Uni is a scenario that usually goes like this: 


Bob: “Hey, I haven’t seen you all day! How are you?” 


Steve: “I’m doing okay – I’m just really hungry. I had to skip breakfast today because I was working on this really important project.” 


Bob: “That sucks. If you want, I have some snacks in my backpack you could eat.”


Steve: “No, thanks.” 


Bob: “Ok, no worries. But overall, I think you should really try to prioritize eating breakfast in the morning even if you have work. I’ve been trying to implement that recently and it has really made me feel better.”


Steve: “Yeah, I guess I’ll try. But I guess I just don’t have as much free time as you to do that.


In this situation, I want to make clear that it is completely fine if a friend refuses snacks – you shouldn’t assume that it’s because they want attention since it could be because of another reason. The main problem here is the last line of the scenario, where Steve essentially tries to shame Bob for prioritizing food over work. Steve is implying that Bob would be able to get more work done and ultimately be more successful if they too prioritize work overeating. Thus, Steve is basically trying to assert that he’s better than Bob. 


These situations can be extremely harmful to the physical health of students. In this scenario specifically, it can be very dangerous to glorify skipping meals, as that can lead to serious eating disorders. Any form of glorifying physically draining things like lack of sleep or skipping meals, is ultimately pushing this narrative that it must be painful to be successful. 


To my delight, I have heard comments like these that glorify lack of sleep/eating decrease tremendously over my five years. I’m not sure if that change is due to maturity or a general cultural shift, but either way I think this is great. It would be interesting to study other classes and see if these comments persist or not. Either way, I thought it would be important to make sure people know about the effects of these comments so that they are ultimately not made anymore.