Students struggle balancing anxiety and activities


Emma Peterson

One of Emma Peterson’s IB Art projects over the archaic smile. Symbolizing hiding pain and putting a smile on when having anxiety.

     With a tightness in your chest and this unsettling feeling in your stomach, you say to yourself, “Just breathe.”

     Anxiety plays a huge role in the activities students participate in, whether that be sports or other extracurricular clubs. Although there is this unlying feeling of anxiety, students continue to do what they love even though it might harm them mentally.

   Junior Kate Weisbrod has been swimming for nine years and continues to swim through the stress and pressures. 

     “There is obviously pressure from coaches and family, but I find that I struggle more with the pressure that I put on myself,” Weisbrod said. “I think pressure can help some kids, but for me when it gets to the point where it makes you physically sick, which I have experienced multiple times throughout seasons, I don’t think it’s helpful.”

     For Weisbrod the anxiety of the sport is never-ending, whether that be after a race or even once the season is finally over.

     “I mean it’s over once it’s over, but it just starts right up again. Even now that swim is over, I’m worried about what comes next in swim and summer training, instead of actually looking forward to it,” Weisbrod said. “It’s like trekking through one thing at a time very slowly and I think I’m coping with that better this year than I have previously.”

     In a specific instance when the swim team went to Wooster High School to compete in the NEAC Championships, Weisbrod was having a fight with the anxiety and pressure that it entailed. 

     “It was overall just a rough time for me and swimming at that point really just didn’t help. It was more of like an adding factor with all of the other stressors in my life and it was to the point that I was considering quitting or taking a big break,” Weisbrod said. “It was definitely a point where the sport and the anxiety of it was just too much because every race I was going to be physically sick, but I’ve realized that the pressure comes from myself and I put this on myself, so in theory I can take it away as well or at least try to.”

     Over the years Weisbrod has struggled with this overwhelming feeling that swim possesses, which makes her feel abhorrent about swim. Although, now Weisbrod does it more for the environment and team aspect of the sport. 

     “I don’t enjoy all of the work that I have to put into what I do and I don’t love competition, so there are little elements of swim that I still like,” Weisbrod said. “But, I have learned to have more fun with it and I hope to carry that into next season.”

     Some people question Weisbrod about continuing to swim when anxiety follows her continuously in and out of season, along with the fact that she does not like the sport as much as she use to.

     “I guess for me the reason I keep doing it is because it’s something I use to love as a younger child, and it’s always been a constant in my life so it feels like a part of me would be missing if I just left it all behind,” Weisbrod said. “I’m still involved with other things, but the sport makes me feel connected to something and I don’t think I would feel the same or feel as whole without it.”

     While Weisbrod feels the pressure of the sport she once loved, anxiety can be a common feeling in other activities and not just sports. Freshman Claire Caldwell feels anxious while competing for the speech and debate team. 

     “As it gets closer to competition I’m usually on edge and especially for all of districts I was because I wasn’t expected to make it out. But in the end, I was one of the three or four freshman state qualifiers which kind of made states more nerve wracking,” Caldwell said.

     In speech and debate, the contestants are in a pool of people that they can get into a round with. In one round there are six people who are going to speak.

     “Once the round starts going, it can be stressful because you start to see who’s good and who’s not, so you also start to overthink your speech a lot more than you did before,” Caldwell said.

     To cope with this anxiety, Caldwell believes that being younger in this case helps.

     “I like to think that the nerves not only come from the expectations that you have for yourself but also the expectations that everyone else has for you. In this case being a freshman kind of helps, because there aren’t really any expectations since it’s my first year,” Caldwell said. “Obviously I’m going to do my best, but I kind of use that to reassure myself.”

     While Caldwell thinks there is no true expectation for her, she also believes some pressure helps her perform better, unlike Weisbrod.   

     “All I could think about specifically during districts was how this was going to be my last time doing my speech for this year if I didn’t qualify, so there was a lot of adrenaline coursing through me, which was most likely just anxiety,” Caldwell said. “I think it helped me do better because it pushed me to do my absolute best and if I didn’t then it was over. I believe that being nervous just means we care, and if we didn’t care then there is no point to do what we do.”

I believe that being nervous just means we care, and if we didn’t care then there is no point to do what we do.

— Claire Caldwell

     The stress and anxiety can be overbearing for students who are in sports and other extracurriculars, but it can also be seen in students who are taking higher level classes. For senior Emma Peterson, anxiety follows her around as she is in her second year of IB Art.

     “It can be very stressful and overwhelming because not only are you responsible for your actual artwork, but you have to have a study to inform to, a presentation, and an essay,” Peterson said. 

     By keeping organized Peterson finds it easier to keep track of her deadlines, but sometimes it is not enough to keep that anxious feeling away.

     “IB Art is probably my most stressful class right now and when there are big deadlines and specific requirements, it kind of makes it not as enjoyable,” Peterson said. “I often end up rushing my pieces of using media that I don’t prefer to use which can affect me mentally and make art not as fun, even though I love it.”

     Anxiety can overall take the activities students love and turn them into times of agony for them. Despite trying to find ways to cope with this apprehensive feeling, while it does occur differently for students depending on what they are involved in, they continue to do what they love regardless of the greater damage it causes in the end.