The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

The voice of the student body

The Dial

Creative Coping

How Different Students Cope With the Struggles of High School
Credit: Lucia Butterfield
A drawing created by junior Lucia Butterfield using graphite pencils. Lucia was inspired to draw this piece when she was feeling overwhelmed with her academic work.

Your grades are slipping, your dreams of attending a top school are becoming more distant, that one friend is acting distant, but you have no clue why, and everything that could go wrong seems like it is. You wonder, does anyone else feel the same way?

The answer is yes, but people have different ways of coping and expressing it.

It is no secret that high school is a stressful, dramatic, and overall chaotic time. Oftentimes, students may face social pressures in addition to academic pressure. Academic pressure and stress are typically heightened in an environment like Hackley, where expectations are extremely high. Academic pressures aren’t restricted to getting “good grades” but also the pressure of standardized tests and the pressure of getting into a prestigious college. Adding social pressures to the mix further increases the chaos. The most prevalent social pressures in adolescents have been identified to be: body image issues, family and friend conflicts, peer pressure, trauma, as well as life changes.

Balancing academic pressures and social pressures can be challenging as it is a fine line to walk, but some students have found creative ways to express their anxieties in a creative and uplifting way.

Junior Lucia Butterfield uses art to express her anxieties and feelings of pressure, both academic and social. Like many other students, Lucia finds herself getting caught up in grades and trying to meet the standards of “academic success”. To ground herself during times like these, she says that she takes a minute to “step back” and draws or paints to remind her what is truly important to her. In addition to expressing feelings of academic pressures in the form of art, she also expresses her feelings of social pressures or conflicts in her art.

“Any emotions that I have, I can easily channel those feelings into my artwork and draw about it, which is super freeing,” she said.

Senior Eliza Podvalny found a creative way to manage her stress and express the feelings of pressure that many high school students experience: through her blog, PositivU.  Instead of using social media as a negative outlet, which can result in even more stress and negative comparisons, Eliza uses it as a positive outlet where she shares her experiences, both positive and negative. The use of social media (something that can be manipulated into an extremely negative outlet) as something uplifting and overall positive is a very unique and creative way to deal with the feelings or stresses associated with the high school experience.

Eliza started off using her notes app to journal her feelings and visualize her thoughts rather than internalizing them. This worked for her for a while, but at some point during junior year, she had a major event that put her in a bad place mentally. Her mantra was “I feel so alone, no one understands me!” which she now knows is far from the truth. She wanted a space where she could discuss her feelings so she decided to create a blog.

That same day, Eliza received a comment from a 17-year-old in Montana who felt similarly, then a message from a 15-year-old from Florida, as well as from a mother who was feeling similar stress. The biggest takeaway from her blog was that people don’t need advice, they need a friend, someone who has faced similar situations. Eliza was very apprehensive about sharing such a vulnerable secret with her friends, but after she got over the initial worry, she felt uplifted. She says, “It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.”

In addition to making herself feel better by sharing the blog with her friends, Eliza strengthened her relationship and connection with some of her friends. Eliza’s friend, senior Sabrina Reyes, found the blog to be incredibly helpful.

“Eliza’s blog is relatable and refreshing and seeing her openness to talk about difficult topics is inspiring,” said Sabrina.

Students are not alone in their various stresses. No one should feel ashamed about speaking up and expressing their emotions as it is normal to experience stress and feel overwhelmed, Every adolescent has a different way of managing their stress with creative outlets. Finding the outlet that works best for each individual can be difficult, but it is important to understand that it is a process of trial and error.

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