Dr. Haight discusses effects of stress on adolescent development

by isabelle ouyang

Stress, more than ever, is becoming a major problem. Characterized by lack of sleep, high levels of anxiety and frequent mental breakdowns, this common affliction is not unusual among high school students.

Dr. Robin Haight is a psychologist who frequently works with stressed students.

“Your generation has to deal with things people in my generation never had to deal with so early in life,” Haight said, who attributes some of the stress to the “constant impact of social media.”

Social media is a strong force in the lives of recent generations.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites ultimately makes personal information, opinions and essentially reputations objects of public speculation.

It also provides an eyehole into the experiences of family, peers and strangers around the world.
Merely being exposed to seemingly impossible achievements is an opportunity that can be both inspiring and detrimental to self -esteem.

“There’s a natural tendency to compare yourself to others, mostly negatively,” said Haight.
Besides the pressure of social media, students are also expected to perform better than ever.

Pure academic proficiency doesn’t cut it anymore. Colleges are looking for “balance.” Not only do students have to worry about homework, tests and group projects, but they are also expected to be creative, active and involved, all while being good samaritans.

Programs like the IB  diploma list hours of community involvement as an academic requirement.

Academics should be balanced by community involvement, but the inclusion of extracurricular activities is gradually becoming part of the academic condition.

“I think the emphasis is correct,” Haight said on the heightened standards of well-roundedness.
“It’s important to take care of your body, participate in your community and have an outlet for creativity,” she added.

In Haight’s opinion, the high-pressure surroundings cause the definition of “high-achieving” to narrow.
“A lot of students get caught up in being pressured to take the full [IB] curriculum,” Haight said. “[There’s] a lot of pressure in our community, especially Northern Virginia, to have high-achieving students.”

While taking IB classes is certainly a gaugeable and considerable achievement, it is not a one-size-fits-all.

“Achievement can be defined in lots of ways, and that’s not the right definition for all people,” Haight said.
According to Haight, stress should be brought to attention if it has continuously affected your life for more than a few weeks.

Haight recommends exercise, sleep and good nutrition as powerful components in stress management. She also  suggests talking to an adult, friend or professional after feeling the effects of stress for more than a few weeks.