Asking for a Friend: Help! I’m a good student, so my friends and family don’t take my stress seriously

  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources you can turn to
  • This week, we help a student who is feeling worried about school, but is constantly dismissed by people because of their grades
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Your stress is just as valid as everyone else’s. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us.

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google form. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

I’m genuinely grateful for everything I have achieved, but being a good student in a prestigious secondary school has turned into a massive mental burden. I’m under so much pressure with my school work, but no one seems to really understand. When I open up to my friends, they dismiss my worries by saying “Oh it’s just a test, you’ve always been a straight A student,” but this just adds to the pressure and makes me feel more misunderstood. I feel isolated from my peers, and they see me as an enemy to watch out for.

I try to talk to my parents, but they say, “Don’t feel pressured. At the end of the day, your happiness is what matters most.” I love that they are open-minded, but it’s easier said than done to just stop worrying. They get frustrated when I complain about the stress and tell me to be mentally stronger. Opening up doesn’t seem like a wise choice, but the pressure of being one of the top kids is so heavy. I have to get through school, do my never-ending tests, and deal with everyone’s expectations. What do I do?

Signed, Pressured

My friend gets better grades than me, but she doesn’t work as hard. What do I do?

Dear Pressured,

Being understood is a basic human need, and it is frustrating to keep dealing with these misconceptions from your friends and family. Students are under a lot of pressure – including students who are academically gifted – and it is perfectly reasonable for you to feel stressed out, and you shouldn’t feel bad or guilty about it. It is unfair that your parents say you should just be mentally stronger, and that your friends look at you as someone to compete against, and we’re sorry you need to deal with that. Here are a few tips we hope can help:

Don’t be afraid to take some time to relax; it’s better for you in the long run. Photo: Shutterstock

Treat yourself well

Get some rest. Take a walk. Have some fun. Doing simple things like this is a good start for taking care of yourself and relaxing. Anxiety can push people to keep running faster and faster, ignoring the basic things you need to do to take care of your body and mind. Sometimes the best thing is to slow down so that you can refresh.

Take your time and count your strengths

Academic achievement appears to be one of your most important goals right now – which is true for most students. Make a list of your strengths – both school and non-school related. Keep it somewhere easy to access. Maybe you can even tape it to a mirror in your bedroom so you can see it every day! This is a good way to remind yourself about all the things you’re good at.

I love the sport I play, but I feel bad because my friend is better than me

Explore and enjoy

Explore and enjoy some healthy hobbies, genuine friendships, or anything else that interests you that has nothing to do with academics. Look for satisfaction and self-worth from multiple sources, not just school. People with balanced lives and positive interpersonal relationships are happier and more resilient.

It’s admirable that you were able to talk to us about your stress and frustration, and being able to do that is really important! If your family and friends continue to dismiss your feelings, please reach out to organisations like 6PM Cyber Youth Support Team or Open Up.

You’ve got this, Friend of a Friend

This was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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