Phillipian Commentary: A Worrisome Stigma

Andover can be a hotbed of stress, and as students, we have several sources of worry in our lives. Although each individual student has a unique set of troubles, the entire student population experiences some mutual overlap in feeling stressed about grades, social image, self image, extracurricular activities, and the future. The advice I, and most other stressed-out teenagers, most frequently receive to counter this stress and worry is short, sweet, and understated: “Stop worrying so much.” However, being stressed has become our status quo; it is unlikely that we will always be able to remain truly calm in the face of any adversity or stress. As such, our worry should, at the very least, be addressed as something of equal importance to sadness, anger, and other natural negative emotions.

It is rather insensitive to tell a distressed person to just “stop crying” or “stop being so sad,” but the phrase “stop worrying” has taken on a sort of nonchalance. The same harshness is not associated with it—it is believed that it is only right to stop worrying. We worry because it is simply a natural emotional reaction. Yet even when we gather enough courage to tell someone that we are actually feeling quite worried, we are forced into a position where we must stuff our worries deep into ourselves and put up a stress-free front for others. It is important to keep in mind that discouraging the repression of worry is not the same thing as encouraging people to worry. After all, worry is still a negative emotion—encouraging it would be like encouraging the student population to feel sad for the sake of feeling sad. The ways of acknowledging and dealing with these emotions need to be contextualized. Nowadays, we are often reminded that talking through our sadness and perhaps even crying it out is a much healthier solution than bottling everything up. The same applies to anger: venting out one’s troubles is healthier than trying to contain them until a breaking point hits.

Worry and stress should be managed in the same way. Whether a person’s reasons for worrying sound valid or not, those reasons feel perfectly valid to that person. However, many of us can affirm from personal experience that simply speaking out these reasons to others does a lot to relieve some of the worry. Sometimes, it is because we are finally able to voice our concerns to another person, and we no longer feel isolated by the fact that we are the only person who knows our respective situations. Other times, it is because saying worries aloud can show that they are far more trivial than we originally imagined.

Regardless of the result that may be achieved, it is crucial to give more attention to worried individuals. Rather than shrugging off worry with an “it is what it is” attitude, any and all worry should be accounted for and counseled through, whether by a trusted friend, family member, or available counselor. This way, we can take steps towards loosening the potential stigma that is being associated with worry, and we can work towards advocating for the fact that worry is a perfectly valid emotion that deserves to be treated as such.

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