It’s that time of year again: Finals are rolling in fast, and even if you’re lucky enough to not be facing major exams in the next couple of weeks, chances are that you have a friend or family member who is. Everyone’s feeling the pressure, and sometimes it seems like there’s just no way out.
We all need an escape from school stress. Maybe for you, escape comes from playing sports or going for a run. Maybe it’s buying those shoes you fell in love with yesterday at the mall. Maybe it’s a made-for-TV movie or a really good book. Maybe it’s just getting outside in the fresh air.
For me, escape often comes in the shape of music – my jam playing on the radio, my latest favorite blasting through my headphones, or my best friend rehearsing for a new orchestral arrangement. For those three or five or seven minutes, I don’t have to think about anything else. With the car windows rolled down and with the dial up at full volume, who cares about upcoming debate competitions or that slightly terrifying encounter with aliphatic hydrocarbons in last week’s chemistry test?
But the thing about school stress is that you can’t just escape from it: You need to deal with it. Appealing as escapism is, it’s not a long-term solution. No matter how many Game of Thrones episodes you need to catch up on, you are still going to have to take that exam or hand in that assignment.
Cue Germ Magazine’s Guide to Busting the Myths of School Stress. Tackling your workload and dealing with anxiety can be challenging, but it can be done. Just remember the following:
1. Believe in yourself. More importantly, show yourself that you are worthy of being believed in.
“Believe in yourself” is such an abstract, overused statement, but I cannot reiterate enough how important self-belief is — not just in situations like this, but in life, too (even if it induces the occasional eye-roll from my fellow weary high schoolers who’ve probably heard it all before). It may not seem like a big deal, but all I can say is that before you even think about what anyone else thinks – not your parents, not your peers, not the teacher correcting your end-of-semester project – think about yourself. Remind yourself that you are good enough, that you have succeeded in the past, and that you will do so again; but, don’t rely on blind faith to get you through, either. Be practical. Break your work down into manageable chunks. Be proud of small achievements and even prouder when they grow into larger ones. This isn’t about self-absorption. It’s about remembering that in the face of huge challenges, help can come from the simplest of places: yourself.
2. Sticking to a study schedule is not impossible.
Another cliché when it comes to academic advice is the infamous study schedule. Sample timetables and fervent testimonials as to the power of them are probably being thrown at you from all sides; but, for most students, the idea of being able to structure in hours upon hours of uninterrupted study into daily life is little more than a distant dream. How can anyone devote three hours to algebra when you have kid siblings running around the house in the world’s noisiest game of hide-and-seek or when you have a broken-hearted friend in need of a shoulder to cry on? What if you miss the bus and arrive home an hour later than normal? What if your coach calls an emergency team meeting or you’re just too exhausted after a long day to want to study? Sometimes schedules can be more of a hindrance than a help, especially if you’re the kind of person likely to feel bad or worry about falling behind on your plans. Well-meaning as they are, schedules and those who advocate them don’t always account for flexibility in teenage life.
That said, schedules are the best way to make sure that you have covered all the material you need before the day of an exam. It takes commitment, but just remember: When following a schedule, tailor it to you, your school life, and your home life. Maybe you’ll need to go to the library once or twice a week to escape the chaos of your own house. Maybe you work best doing half hour stints, or maybe you’re better at the long haul. Make realistic goals – 25 minutes of math on weekdays, an hour and a half of history over a weekend — whatever works for you. Stay organized, but don’t assume that you need to live on coffee and give up sleeping in order to get the work done.
3. School stress does not impair your ability to laugh.
This is possibly the most essential rule of all. Life is good, people. Laugh, smile, enjoy it. Even the most miserable of days has something to offer the world. Refuse to let stress control you. Talk to others if you feel it starting to become too much. Exams do not spell the end of happiness – and your results, whatever they may be, do not define who you are.
And if that’s not enough, just think of this quote by the fabulous Tina Fey:
“‘Blorft’ is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.”
We’ve all got stress. You, me, Tina Fey. But even if you’re feeling totally blorft, there is a way through it. It’s not even about staying strong or being Katniss Everdeen. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other – one sentence in a paragraph in an essay in an exam at a time – because you know that you can and that you will achieve.
Good luck, everyone. You’ve got this.