In Fall 2021, the Jewish Teen Initiative (JTI) at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and BaMidbar launched a nine-month Mental Health and Wellness Track of the JTI Peer Leadership Fellowship. The teen fellowship cohort focused on peer engagement through a mental health and wellness lens, culminating in community projects. Throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, stay tuned to BaMidbar and JTI as we share their projects related to mental health awareness and stigma reduction.
By Phoebe Mabuchi
We need to talk about how school work is affecting us.
Ever since middle school, I had it drilled in my head that junior year of high school was going to be the hardest academic year. As a junior, I can confirm that this is true. I have witnessed a lot of my classmates complain about the workload and get stressed over projects and tests. This seems to be an everyday occurrence in high school. However, students seldom talk about breaking points, overwhelming anxiety, and the loneliness that is a part of the high school experience. Conversations about the ways the amount of work affects us individually are not happening as often as they should.
When my work gets to a point where my to-do list is overwhelmingly full of unchecked boxes, it feels impossible to think that I will ever get through it. It’s easy to think that you are the only one who feels this way. Or that no one else cries at night because of the enormous workload. Many people I know struggling through these moments think that it is something that only they are feeling. In reality, there are so many other people feeling the same way.
I know there is no quick fix in situations where you feel overwhelmed by schoolwork, but it always helps to know that I am not the only one feeling this way. I try to talk openly about how school affects my mental health in front of my friends, in hopes that I can set an example. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Sometimes though, when I initiate conversations with friends about stress, I can tell that they aren’t ready for that type of conversation. I can tell if we are going to have a productive and easy-flowing conversation really early on in our talk. I have to remember to respect my friends’ boundaries and not force anyone to have a conversation about something that they don’t feel comfortable talking about.
This is how I tell if someone is willing to have a conversation with me about feeling stressed. If they show me any of the red flags, I usually change the subject and note that this friend doesn’t feel comfortable having a conversation about their mental health.
They are keeping eye contact with me, they are adding to the conversation (it is not just me talking), and they express their own feelings or ask questions about my feelings.
They look uncomfortable, they are avoiding eye contact, it doesn’t seem like they understand what I am talking about or they don’t relate to it, they don’t add much to the conversation.
Below is a list of tools I use to organize my school work and manage my stress.
- At the start of every week, I create a to-do list for every day. If I have an essay due on Friday, instead of just writing “write essay” on my to-do list, I split up the tasks among the days of the week. So, on Monday I would write “write thesis,” on Tuesday I would write “collect evidence,” on Wednesday I would write “add context,” and so on. This makes the task of writing an essay seem less daunting
- On Sunday evening before the week ahead, I make sure to clean my backpack, clean my room and plan my schedule for the week ahead. Because of this, I can wake up Monday morning and feel at ease.
Phoebe Mabuchi is a junior at Gann Academy, where she is involved in Body Positivity Club and writes for the school newspaper. Phoebe enjoys playing volleyball, spending time with her friends and reading. She is a Gateways volunteer and loves to spend time with her dog.