For how to survive school, it is important to investigate what teenagers and students worry about.

I know what I worry about of course, but this is not about me. I reviewed 20 online research papers. Here is is my conclusion of the key worries in order of decreasing priority, and some specific observations about the list:

  1. Schoolwork and exams
  2. Friends & Fitting in
  3. Parents & Family
  4. Appearance and body image
  5. Romance
  6. Stress, happiness & health
  7. My future – colleges and careers
  8. Alcohol, smoking and drugs
  9. Lack of time
  10. Sex
  11. Cyber addiction
  12. Depression
  13. Money and debt
  14. Bullying
  15. Crime
  16. Future of the world
  17. Hobbies
  18. Spiritual/Religion
  19. Politics
  20. Other

My observations are as follows:

  • Schoolwork appears in the top 3 of all survey, and top in most. I guess that makes sense when you ask students and teenagers. It will be one of the key focus areas for how to survive school blog.
  • Parent/Family, Friends & Fitting In are the other topics which are nearly always in the top 3 of concerns.
  • Body Image & appearance gets a regular mention, but still only 50% of the time which is strange. Spots/Acne gets only a couple of mentions, but for some kids this is clearly a source of anxiety.
  • Romance/Love & My future are mentioned far less than I would have expected but still about 40% of the time. For some of my friends, I think it would rank top…
  • Stress in general is a frequent topic. of course it is related to every other topic on this list, but I decided to keep it separate and deal with the topic separately. Same with happiness as a concept…
  • Genuine health topics rarely get a mention at all. As we get older it will rank top of every survey… so we better enjoy the good times as long as they last. But for those who have health issues, it ranks top and it is important not to take it for granted.
  • Lack of time and Overscheduling is mid-survey in most cases, but I think it applies to most kids?
  • Drugs/Smoking/Alcohol & Crime either get mentioned as a major issue or does not get mentioned at all. I guess this is related to who was asked or how the question was phrased.
  • Cyber or Phone Addiction is a rare but heartfelt topic and one that I can relate to. Apparently 50% of us think we spend too much time online
  • Sexual Activity does not gets mentioned much though it rates higher in anonymous surveys
  • Depression is not mentioned much but depression surveys say that about 7% of kids suffer from depression. This means you either are depressed, or some of your friends may be… so it clearly should be on the list think it should be on this list
  • Similarly, bullying does not get much of a mention, but nearly everyone has had experience with bullying so I will include it on that basis
  • Remarkably, money rarely gets a serious mention. For most of us, it seems not a concern. But for older teenagers it becomes a bigger issue
  • Spiritual/Religion gets 1 mention in 20 surveys, but that feels under-represented if I think of my friends
  • The Future of the World and Politics are minor worries, but not off the radar altogether

Bottom-line of course is that everyone has a different set of worries and each situation is different. If Crime is a big issue at your school or neighbourhood, it is likely to be a bigger issue for you. On top of that, it can change day to day…

As a final thought based on reviewing the surveys, I thought I should address how to handle anxiety.

What to do in case of severe stress or anxiety?

Share your stress.

There are parents, older siblings, guidance counsellors, teachers, etc to speak to. Most of the time they are ready to support you and you should not be shy to reach out to them

Talk to friends.

We naturally worry about coming across or awkward but the best thing to do is to relax and just talk. And be kind to others…

Stay healthy.

Sleep is underrated and a little exercise will help as well. Just walking the dog is a good way to process the daily worries

Keep some worries in perspective.

We tend to be oversensitive to the importance of appearance. Being comfortable being yourself is far more important.

Here is an article I wrote about it

I will be addressing each of the topic on How to Survive school, but most of all I would really welcome your thoughts on what you worry about and what support you found!

Luca