Since when did being stressed become a competition?

Tell me more about how much coffee you drink

Last week, a fellow Tab writer called students out for pretending to be stupid. Rightfully so. But this isn’t the only aspect of obsessive work culture at university, which sees students constantly valuing their academic worth by comparing themselves to others.

Though there are many cases of the “I legit did no work” guy scoring high Firsts, too many students are equally proud of the opposite: being stressed. Stress is to a university student what irrelevance is to the NUS, or disillusionment to a millennial: exhausting and inevitable.

To live up to the stereotype of University rigour – if you’re at a Russell Group that is – students are determined to prove that they are the most stressed. It’s pathetically self-destructive. Tell me more about how you haven’t slept properly since last term, or how you need three coffees to function before midday, or how inescapably screwed you are for your seminar, or how your work is just so intense that study drugs are anything other than cringeworthy calls for attention.

Tab Editors spotted reading books titled ‘Nothing’ and ‘Chaos’. I enjoy symbolism.

“I have two hours left for this essay.” “Well I have one hour left with no reading.” “Well I have two essays due tonight.” “Well I have to chaperone all the von Trapp kids, write three novels, set up a charity in Africa and buy milk at Sainsbury’s before my 12 seminars tomorrow morning.” Yes, it’s late, and my mind may or may not be wandering around the hills like Julie Andrews. And yes, I forgot to get milk. But you get the gist.

A personal favourite of mine is social media proof of your stress! If there’s not a gloomy picture of your walk back from the library then did it even happen? Or how about a black and white shot of a huge stack of notes and books strewn everywhere? That’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Considering how genuinely stressed and busy you all claim to be, you sure do have a lot of time to compose the perfect shot of which cafe you’re pretending to work in, or which pretentious book shelf you’ve picked out at random to prove that you really are living #degreelife.

It’s all become too much

Whoever these students think they’re impressing is beyond me. I’m sure as hell happy to bask in the abyss of tears and despair with you, but if you’re looking for consolation, then, well, erm, I’m too stressed and busy…

As is the constant academic dick-measuring between students, where one-up-manship combined with a cynical social media presence is a self-seeking source of validation, students thrive off self-destructive stress, working to last minute deadlines, and making it clear that “no, but actually, I’m *so* busy”.

It does alarm (and amuse) me when other students use their “woe-is-me” monologues as if I’ve been swanning around at a polytechnic this whole time. I think it’s fair to say that the sheer majority of university students know what it’s like to feel stress, but, even so, we’re still not all equally busy.

Stressed, depressed, but still dressed to impress.

As an English student I’m well-versed in self-awareness, so I’m more than willing to accept that a Scientist’s or Medic’s average day will be more demanding than mine. That’s not to say they can string a coherent sentence together, but perhaps that’s a debate for another time. And what of the people who play sports, edit papers, run committees, organise balls, or produce shows? I’m convinced that the super-students who walk among us are getting time-turners from somewhere.

So if these students can keep quiet about stress, then the rest of you have no excuse. That said, the busier you are, the better you manage your time, so if all you do is cycle tirelessly between your library, room and back again, then it’s no surprise that all you have left to talk about is your work.

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