The pressure to be perfect: How anxiety is impacting local teens

A documentary called "Angst" is about how anxiety is impacting teens.

It’s being shown at high schools across the country, including Chicagoland, and it's asking the question why is the pressure to be perfect higher than ever before?

“I wake up usually around 6:15,” said Batavia High School senior Chris Theros.

“My day typically starts at 5:30 am,” said Batavia High School senior Crystal Monarrez.

“I usually have a meeting before or after school,” Chris said.

“After that it's study, clean, workout, instrument, family dinner, and then it just repeats. Same thing over and over again,” Crystal said.

The following is what many parents don’t hear from their teenager.

“I don't have free time,” Crystal said.

“If I want to do something, I'll give up sleep for that. And I'll go to bed later,” Chris said.

Chris and Crystal are seniors at Batavia High School. They have friends, get good grades, and are preparing for college. Sounds like a perfect plan. But for today’s teenager, it’s not so simple.

There’s a darker side, where many ask “will I ever be good enough?”

“We're probably putting too much on our plate for what's considered a healthy lifestyle. But the standards aren't dropping, they're raising. You just gotta keep going and going and going,” Chris said.

“There's a lot of stress and a lot of things that, a lot of things to keep up with,” Crystal said.

This is teenage life in 2019, with many swimming in a pool of anxiety and possibly the biggest factor is social media.

“It's just a way to escape where you are. Like oh my gosh I'm getting stressed, I have so much homework, I'm just going to go on Snapchat, or go on Instagram,” Crystal said.

But that escape can actually lead kids down a path of self-doubt and insecurity.

“Oh my gosh, their Snapchats are so pretty, I need to take prettier Snapchats,” Crystal said.

“There's that pressure to keep up with the other kids. They add the filters to their pictures, they only post what's going on in their life that's great,” said Batavia High School counselor Erin Hack.

Erin and Corey Bernard are counselors at Batavia. They say “old school” counseling won’t work for today’s teen. The strategy needs to change.

“The amount of students needing social emotional support has increased greatly,” Corey said.

“Rather than trying to get all that anxiety away from a kid, I say, let's help get you through this. Let's keep you some coping strategies,” Erin said. “Mindfulness, grounding techniques, we oftentimes will do motivational interviewing as well as some calming techniques.”

The pursuit of perfection. The perfect SAT score. The perfect college. It’s become an obsession for many teenagers. They say it’s not about me, it’s about where I rank.

“It's constantly being classified as a number. And you want to be the best number that you can,” Chris said. “With the college process, it's definitely a whole new level of stress and worrying about things.”

“I have a fear that I won't make my parents happy, I have a fear that I'll choose the wrong career,” Crystal said.

So, what can a parent do? The best advice is: listen, and keep your expectations in check.

“We are very quick to say - hey, this is a lot. It's okay to back up and not take three AP classes in a semester,” Corey said. “They can get help and it's okay to ask for that help.”

Everyone is invited to watch "Angst" next Wednesday, January 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Batavia Fine Arts Center.