Academic anxiety

Smith finds trouble in staying focused and sane when it comes to the pressures of high school


Photo by Paige Huddleston

Junior Logan Smith feels the world revolving, spinning out of control as she bares the stress of school and grades.

The clock reads 1:43 a.m. as she flips yet another history page, trying to finish the chapter in time to begin another English paper and maybe get an early start on her physics homework that never ceases to confuse her.

Her chest tightens as she realizes there is no way she is getting any sleep tonight, and the inescapable fear that none of her work will be good enough overwhelms her.

Panic attacks constantly enrapture junior Logan Smith. These episodes have been coming on fairly strong for the last three years, specifically the day she entered her freshman year. There are many stressors in her life, such as juggling extracurricular activities and a social life, but the most prominent cause of the attacks is the academic stress.

“I typically have mental breakdowns that last about half an hour where I can’t study, can’t process anything I’m reading,” Smith said.

This kind of behavior has become almost normal for her. Actually, she can assume that she will have at least one of these incidents each time she works on her overwhelming homework. Sometimes this stress consumes her.

“I just don’t know what to do,” Smith said. “It may sound stupid, but I begin to question my existence.”

Sure there are a lot of things that are on her teenage brain. Boys? likely. Her next audition for a play? Of course. Wondering whether or not she should exist? That should never cross her mind.

After having more than one attack, she has finally found ways to calm herself down.

“By putting away whatever I’m doing, take a break from it and do something I actually enjoy doing before going back to studying,” Smith said.

While this is a great trick, Smith said that sometimes even those methods do not always succeed in easing her anxiety.

This anxiety is  just as difficult to envision as it is to deal with. Imagine a black cloud stalking someone everyday. It looms, breathing heavily behind them, and they desperately fight to make it go away, or at least reduce the pressure it has so heavily placed upon them, yet the more they try to make it go away, the faster the cloud closes in.

Not only does one have to deal with the anxiety in this case, there’s always the indescribable inadequacy one feels when dealing with this type of anxiety.

“What if it’s not good enough?”

“How will this ever get me a passing grade?”

“How will my parents look me in the eye after this?”

These questions all swirl in a confusing mass in Smith’s brain as she tries to make sense of the worksheet in front of her, but it seems the equations are dancing away off the page to the music of her misery.

Smith tries to prioritize as much as she can, so she has set a personal goal.

“[I try] to keep my grades up and not fail,” Smith said.

This, simple as it sounds, is proving to be one of the most difficult tasks she has ever faced. Not only does she have to face her teachers for eight or more hours a day, depending on whether she needs to stay after school to finish up an assignment, when she gets home, she has her parents to confront.

“My parents are really strict and are always pushing me to do my absolute best,” Smith said.

Academic anxiety is a serious issue that is commonly referred to as an over reaction, or something that you just swallow a pill to get rid of, and of course all of these ideas are formed by people who have never experienced an anxiety attack. Smith has bravely fought this type of anxiety for a long time, and even when her anxiety seems too much to bear, she pushes through and has formed her own methods to get through the days with all passing grades.

“I’ve just decided that some people have to deal with this,” Smith said, “and if they can get through it so can I.”