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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Stress is inevitable, whining is not”

My parents taught me how to do my own laundry when I was 12. I can’t cook anything fancy, but I know how to avoid starvation if dinner’s not already prepared. And hey, I can also tie my own shoes and am fully potty-trained, just like a big kid.

According to a study at UCLA of 200,000 freshmen at 300 colleges, freshmen are reporting record stress levels. The study, which spans over the course of 25 years, found more students than ever rank their own mental health as “”below average.”” Researchers weren’t able to pinpoint exact reasons for why freshmen stress levels are on the rise, but say it’s likely related to the economy and a pressure to succeed.

That’s fair. Money is tight. The study found paternal unemployment was also at its highest since the study began measuring, and more of its participants took out loans. The economy sucks, and all of us are feeling it. The pressure to succeed is fair, too. Students have their futures in mind. We should be glad that they’re so goal-oriented and driven to achieve. There’s nothing to criticize there.

The problem is that, despite apparently being so conscientious about money and accomplishment, freshmen do not come to college prepared for real life. They have their extra-long sheets and their microwaves, their bulletin boards and shiny new Macbook Pros. But they don’t know what to do when the window won’t open, or the toilet won’t flush or their roommate is a jerk. They’ve never had to solve their own problems.

Too many teens arrive at school without any idea of how to take care of themselves. Suddenly, dinner’s not just on the table and clothes aren’t magically hung in the closet. There’s reading to do, an essay to write and a new episode of “”Glee”” on TV. The next thing you know, you’ve busted through your CatCard meal plan and you’re wearing your shirts inside out. The book’s not open and the essay’s still a blank Word document. But you did finish watching “”Glee.””

Desperation sets in. You call Mom, who sends you some money for food, talks your resident assistant into teaching you how to separate the whites from the darks and asks your professor for an extension. And it’s all crap, because all you learned from the experience were the words to an ‘80s hit song by Journey.

Stress isn’t a bad thing if you learn how to cope with it. Parents who coddle their children up until the first day of the semester are just sentencing their kids to a rude awakening, in which their children rank their own mental health as “”below average”” because life just got hard. Sometimes you only learn how to deal with stress if you dye your socks pink first, or you fail an exam or write a bad paper. You will make mistakes, and these mistakes will feel awful. But they are not the end of the world, as record stress levels would suggest.

Shit happens. Stress happens. But you keep your big kid pants on, and you try to take care of it yourself before you go running to your parents. Don’t stop believing, kiddo.

— Kristina Bui is the opinions editor at the Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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