Chronic stress

I am heartened by the conversation that MIT Admissions blogger Lydia Krasilnikova ’14 (“Lydia K.”) has started with her “Meltdown” blog post.

I was originally a member of the Class of 2010, but was forced to graduate a semester late after I suffered a concussion in the fall of my senior year. Three years later, I still have not successfully returned to work. After many fruitless doctors’ visits, it is becoming clear that chronic stress, not a head injury, is the main culprit; the concussion was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I don’t blame MIT for my body’s collapse. I can trace my self-inflicted stress to before my MIT days, and undoubtedly my own personality is what led me over the brink. But by gathering so many smart, driven people in one place, MIT concentrates and amplifies the pressure we put on ourselves. If we want this to stop, the Institute must take the lead in affecting cultural change. The message that one is valued, regardless of one’s achievements, must be strong and pervasive if it is to be heard.

This message may seem to threaten MIT’s greatness, because the university as a whole is judged based on what it achieves. I think this is a false fear. Dissipating the internal pressure so many of us feel will only make our thinking more clear and more creative — leading to more Institutional success, not less.

With his letter to The Tech, President Rafael Reif has taken the first steps toward affecting positive change. Just look at the comments on the “Meltdown” blog post. Chronic, self-imposed stress is a major problem at MIT, and throughout the nation. Just as we have taken the lead on solving other problems facing our nation, I am confident we can be a leader on this one, too.

Katrina Ellison ’11 is a Course 2 alumna