Lunchrooms are stressful

Lunchrooms are stressful

Jocelyn Sweeney

A freshman sits alone nervously at the end of a lunch table. He taps on the table impatiently, pulls on the collar of his shirt, and anxiously scans the busy room. He waits alone until a friend comes and sits down across from him and finally relaxes. This student isn’t the only one to show signs of stress when finding a seat in the lunchroom. Classes often stress out students, but an overlooked cause of stress involves going to the lunchroom.

In class, students don’t fear sitting alone, but that changes in the lunchroom. Students worry no one will sit by them. “It would be weird to sit alone at lunch, but not in class,” Frosh. Dominic Overway said. Students feel judged surrounded by their peers and not having anyone to talk with. Judgement from peers causes students to feel anxious and self-conscious in the lunchroom.

Claimed seats also cause students to stress. “In class, it is easier because you have assigned seats, but in the lunchroom, it is really busy and people can take where you normally sit,” Soph. Emily Peckham said. Many tables in the lunchroom are seen as “reserved” because the same people sit there every day. Students become anxious because they don’t want someone to take their normal seat, causing them to sit in a different spot. Reserved tables create cliques that dominate the lunchroom and cause others to feel left out.

While not having assigned seats causes some to stress, others like having the freedom to choose. “I stress more about assigned seats in class because I may get paired next to someone I don’t want to sit next to; at lunch, I can sit by whoever I want and move around freely,” Soph. Cruz Martinez said. The lunchroom allows students to have choices on seating, which helps students who dread being stuck in one spot.

Students who don’t stress about the lunchroom confidently know they have friends sitting in the same spot every day. “I wasn’t really stressed about where to sit at lunch because I already had my clique,”  Frosh. Joel Hardman said. Knowing he had friends to sit by eased any concerns Hardman had.

Creating a friend group takes time; therefore, stress prevails mostly at the beginning of the school year and new semesters. “I get less stressed after the first few days of school or a new semester because I know where and who to sit by, but it can still be stressful going to lunch any day knowing that one of your friends isn’t there,” Soph. Presley Whittaker said. After a few weeks, students develop a lunchtime routine and automatically go to the same table every day. With their lunchtime routines in place, students relax.

In the stereotypical new girl going to high school movie, the main character will often be shown sitting alone in the bathroom so she doesn’t have to sit alone in the lunchroom. New students don’t typically end up alone in the bathroom because many teachers and students are inclusive of others. Instructor Rachel Womack, in room 132 South, offers a lunch group for new and returning students who don’t feel comfortable eating in the lunchroom.

Womack originally started the group when she entered the loud lunchroom and saw students unengaged with their peers. Womack knows the lunchroom overwhelms students, so she created a safe place where students could interact with each other. Having a quiet place to connect with peers has a huge impact on students. “It has helped some students feel more comfortable, some students have gone to school dances for the first time because they feel more connected with the school and have other students to go with,” said Womack. Students want to interact with each other, and the lunch group helped create a calm environment to encourage interaction.

Lunch can cause anyone to stress, but support and inclusiveness from peers can help. Everyone can help each other out by being kind and inviting to others in the lunchroom.


Womack’s room is open to any students for lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays in room 132 in the south building.