The Perse School

Coping with teenage stress – and stressed teenagers

Bella Forster-Lewis and Christian Martin-Redman (current heads of school)
12 Nov 2015

This blog is adapted from a speech given by Bella and Christian at Speech Day

Stress is a subject close to our hearts.

But why would we feel it more than others? Well science. Our bodies are changing; we are seeing and dealing with the world in a new way. On top of that we had the dreaded AS level exams last year, the most critical and defining event which has taken place in our lives thus far. We won’t forget them anytime soon.

Nowadays teenagers have 24 hour media coverage. From Snapchat to Facebook, there’s a pressure to look fantastic and be fantastic; to show that we are fun, friendly and fashionable in one post. Being socially ostracised is more dreaded than a Saturday detention, and that is saying something.

We have all heard our parents and teachers lecture us on turning screens off before bed – and we could all benefit, even some parents, from doing a bit of ‘de-screening’, (however addictive the latest episode of Game of Thrones is). However, this really is good advice: experiences such as Perse Exploration Society expeditions to Sweden and Ladakh provide the opportunity to de-stress away from modern technology – and as much as we hate to admit it, you will feel better for it. Whatsapp isn’t everything.

The “academic bubble” that we live in throughout the day, where WWI debates are common and friends often converse in a range of languages, creates a demanding atmosphere in which to live and work. Our stress derives from the fact that we know, (we hope…), that we can do well. Our educational careers have been so finely tuned that coming here is considered a recipe for success.

To others in younger years we offer this advice: follow the guidelines and stick to the rules and you will do just fine. Just remember the classic phrase “you got into the Perse for a reason”; you are good enough.

Stress is everywhere, no matter where you go in society. The work place, the classroom, at home.  It’s how we deal with it that matters. Maybe this is why The Perse has been so successful in sport; we take out any pent up anger, anxiety and stress on the pitch rather than at home (we hope).

However, we also ask parents to help us deal with this angst. The school provides excellent pastoral support and stress busting tips. But for most stress isn’t just within the school day and the hours of 9 to 5. We take it home (in case you hadn’t noticed!). We are teenagers who are “apparently” grumpy, selfish, untidy, argumentative, or so we are told…repeatedly.

But please bear with us. Turn a blind eye to our mess and bad temper, just for a bit. Trust The Perse’s ability to do the best for its students and remember we put much more pressure on ourselves than you possibly can. Please – all we need is your love and support.

If we had any piece of advice to give you, our peers, it would be; yes school is stressful, and yes at times it can also be tiring, boring, exhausting, emotional and so on. But you learn to cope and take it in your stride. Don’t get too hung up on perhaps not getting that coveted 100% on your end of topic test or gold in the Maths Olympiad, but celebrate the other things that also matter – whether it is a try in a match or getting a merit. These are what you will remember about your time here.

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