The United States of Anxiety – No Homework, More Weed
America is no stranger to anxiety, stress, and depression, but recent shifts in societal thinking are looking at new avenues to reduce stress and anxiety. In so many words, America is overwhelmed with anxiety, stress, maybe depression and there is no end in sight. Which begs the question, why? Where does all this anxiety, stress, and depression start, and why is it overwhelming all age-groups, especially those under 30, now, in 2020? Is it really social media and the pressures to look great all time? Does living a life based on little hearts and “likes” make us mask our real lives, pains, and struggles. Maybe, and maybe not.
As the Wall Street Journal recently noted in an article about Gen Z and social media called “Being ‘Real’ Carries Hazards”:
It seems like lately everyone on Instagram, and YouTube is felling anxious, stressed and depressed. Images of amazing vacations, flawless bodies and beautiful homes that once dominated social-media feeds are being replaced with snapshots of real life, with all it laundry piles and stretch marks…Influencers have used the word “anxiety” three times as often so far this year than they did in all of 2016, and more than six million posts on Instagram reference #mentalhealthawaremess according to Capitv8 Inc., an influencer marketing firm.
While traditional methods include pharma drugs and therapy, new progressive thinking is looking at different ways to tackle the anxiety giant that is taking over America.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, and now other new services are following, there is a growing trend in America for schools to be cutting back on homework. Cynics will claim it is a way for teachers not to have to do schoolwork at night, but the main reasons cited why some schools are going to a reduced homework or no homework schedule revolve around kids reporting record high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. More and more youths are reporting they feel anxious, stressed, depressed, and even thoughts of their own deaths and suicidal thoughts. The response from schools has been to eliminate homework, with the theory being, kids do better based on studies from some European countries, with no homework, more playtime and more family time. Studies from smaller countries show kids have better brain development and mental health if they are just allowed to be kids. Free play, no homework, and pushing creative play events show kids are happier and healthier.
Is it Smart? (No pun intended)
While the kids will certainly enjoy the no homework rules, what about adults? Are adults clamoring for “more family time at night Monday through Friday”? What happens to home prices in schools districts that adopt this policy over 5 years if standardized test scores go down 15% since kids are not learning anything after school, or doing any homework? I live in very good school district that is doing a trial called “No Homework November”. They are testing a program where kids get no assigned homework for a month, but they are encouraged to have more family time, do 30 minutes of fun reading each night, and try to do creative playthings. Will kids’ anxiety go down? Will stress and depression levels drop if kids don’t have homework? The great experiment will most likely end in a big thud as other countries move further ahead of the US in elementary education levels.
One of the more surprising effects from this trial has been the parents. Many parents are relieved and psyched to not have to fight with their kids to do homework for a month. They are just as happy as the kids to not have sit and teach their children discipline and the times’ tables. What a disservice these parents are doing to their children, in a world where everyone gets a medal, not teaching your children you have to do some things you don’t like, and you have to learn skills that will make you a functioning, employable member of society, we take the “easy button” and kick the can down the road. What are we teaching children about having to go to a job they don’t like, or having to help take care of a sick elder which is inconvenient and cuts into their XBOX time? I expected the kids to love “No Homework November” but the parents who are just as happy are a disappointment to parenting.
Sometimes life is hard, sometimes you must do things you don’t want to do and that aren’t that much fun. How will we teach them this if we all take a “pass” on doing 60 minutes of homework a night? What will their anxiety and stress be when they go and apply for college or a job and their test scores are too low to get the position because they didn’t do much studying and homework?
Are kids in Japan, China, India, and Germany not doing homework tonight? I highly doubt it.
Wouldn’t a more sensible response to kids’ unprecedent levels of stress and anxiety be to ban all youth under the age of 18 from being on, or having a social media account? Why not use age-verification on all Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat account? YouTube just instituted a revamped kids’ policy on videos and in order to see a mature content video you have to sign in and verify your age. It would not solve kids’ anxiety problems overnight, but it would be a good start compared to not having kids work on their handwriting or multiplication tables.
As the APA reports
Americans are much more anxious today than a year ago, and baby boomers have seen the largest increase in anxiety levels, according to a new poll released today by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
“This poll shows US adults are increasingly anxious, particularly about health, safety, and finances. That increased stress and anxiety can significantly impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their mental health, and it can affect families,” APA President Anita Everett, MD, said in a statement. “It highlights the need to help reduce the effects of stress with regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating, and time with friends and family.”
While the idea of giving cannabis to kids that feel anxious and stressed is a non-starter, more cannabis legalization around the world is the adult answer to stress and anxiety. A recent study of public records showed that the main reasons given by people that apply for a medical marijuana card are anxiety, stress, chronic pain, sleep issues. If we attribute sleep issues such a “racing brain” to stress and anxiety, you can argue that 3 of the 4 top reasons for taking medicinal marijuana are because of adults feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.
As more states legalize are seeing dramatic drops in alcohol sales as well as a drop in prescription drug medication refills. Some areas have seen up to a 15% drop in alcohol sales where cannabis is available recreational and medically. Many medical marijuana patients report dropping anywhere from 1 to 5 of their prescription drugs once they started using medical marijuana. Of course, there are extreme examples in each case where someone has given alcohol up completely or dropped all prescription drugs, but we will talk about the middle and realistic ground.
Could cannabis ever be given to kids for stress and anxiety? We will not see that for years or until there are major medical studies on how cannabis effects brain development in minors and up through about the age of 22. Will CBD seen a middle ground for kids to try in gums, lozenges, and tinctures, probably? Get the calming affects of CBD without the psychoactive effects of THC.
America is stressed and anxious at record levels. Kids are reporting stress and anxiety at records levels according to teachers and mental health professionals. Is it because of social media and having to look perfect, when, life is not perfect? Is homework an unnecessary stress in kids’ lives?
What we do know is that as a society we are tinkering with major changes in order to counter act this trend. Eliminating homework, regardless of my opinion, is an earnest attempt at addressing childhood stress and anxiety by eliminating what some people feel is a cause of that stress. With cannabis legalization, we are not looking to attack the cause of adult stress and anxiety but looking for a healthier treatment for it compared to big pharma drugs and their side effects. One looks to a cure by finding the cause, while the other looks for a healthier treatment to the symptoms of stress and anxiety.