Anxiety has always been present inside the classroom. Only in today’s world, we’ve finally turned what is considered to be a personal battle, into a widely popularized and normalized topic of discussion; which makes it seem like these occurrences have increased tremendously in the past few years.
With these types of conversations, it’s no longer difficult to pinpoint what exactly is attributed to these overwhelming feelings of stress. And because I am a part of the large group that struggles with these emotions, I feel as though I can easily separate why it’s caused into five categories: social media, lack of interest, fear, career pressure and other outside factors.
We are unfortunately in the generation where social media consumes our everyday life, so much so that I’m sure most of our screen time documentation is an embarrassing number to admit out loud. One app in particular, however, is a source of endless content that has grown incredibly toxic: TikTok.
When I first downloaded the app in the summer of 2019, it was for pure entertainment–something to pass the time. I scrolled for a few minutes, chuckled, saved a few baking recipes that I saw or songs that I liked and exited the app without a problem. Almost three years later, I find myself instinctively reaching for my phone after doing five minutes of homework just because my brain would rather mindlessly scroll than focus on a page for an extended period of time. It’s embarrassing.
This awful habit is not only prolonging the work I have to get done and causing intense stress due to my procrastination, but the videos themselves also cause extreme thoughts of self-doubt. A common trend on TikTok are short, one-minute videos called “A Day in my Life” where people show how productive they are and what they get done within a span of 24 hours. You find yourself in immediate comparison to another person you don’t even know who is attending an Ivy League school or works as a certificated surgeon that makes you think “wow they are so much better than me.” Maybe one would think these clips may come off as inspiring or invoke some sort of motivation into having a busy day like these influencers, but it just makes you feel inferior, pushing you into a further state of wanting to do nothing.
But in reality, we must remind ourselves that these people are strangers and are posting content that they have chosen to reveal in order to make themselves look good. We have no idea what actual battles they are struggling with internally and externally or if it’s all just for show. Although, it is easier said than done.
If it’s not social media, another source that causes anxiety is definitely trying to find the motivation to work hard in the classes you have no interest in. I can’t express how many times I felt helpless trying to desperately understand my notes for a Biological Anthropology exam or write my Asian Religions final when I’m an English major and these courses don’t actually matter for what I want to do in the future. While the usual college student balances five classes, just imagine how much harder it is to juggle when the subject is something you’re unknowledgeable about and have to seek further research on. It’s ridiculous.
Additionally, when you feel behind in these courses, it takes so much courage to raise your hand and confess that you are confused. Not only do you risk looking like you aren’t paying attention or receiving a condescending response from the professor, but you fear the repercussions of what your classmates will think of you. One of my close friends admitted to me that she participates in her Nursing courses multiple times each class, but in her core classes, she never asks a single question due to the panic of being judged by the teacher and students.
By not having the opportunity to address the subjects you’re having trouble understanding, you tend to fall behind on the material and do poorly on assignments – obvious reasoning for added anxiety since courses that don’t apply to your major are now decreasing your overall GPA.
Something that additionally haunts me every day is the possibility of not attaining a job in my preferred career path. This recurring pressure inflicts a constant voice in my head saying that I need to do more, be better and work harder because if not, everyone else going for the same job I will, is going to beat me. This is an awful mindset to push on yourself because it only makes you feel more overwhelmed with something you’re not in control of, yet so many people think this way.
First-years and sophomores are racing to land internships when in earlier years that type of work was reserved for junior and senior college students. But because the working field competition is insane, we’re forced to start building our resumes at an even younger age. What if we don’t even know what we want to do full time yet? Time doesn’t seem to be on our side anymore.
Lastly, there are so many other outside factors that play a role in added anxiety in the academic world. You will always have family situations, friend drama, health problems or financial issues that make it hard to focus in the classroom or on your homework. And even though every single person suffers from these instances, there’s often no leeway or accommodations to make it easier to balance with school.
Overall, we’re all so incredibly overworked and fearful of how we are presented to others that our mental health is drastically plummeting. We live each week counting the days until the next weekend or school break, instead of enjoying the present day that life has to offer all because of the anxieties the classroom brings to us. It’s devastating.
Maybe one day we can reach an understanding as a community to lower the pressure on every one since these mentalities don’t seem to end after college.
I just want everyone to acknowledge that we’re all desperately trying our best to be our best selves, and that’s all that matters.