New School Year = Stress

When school hits you by Victoria Nevland on flickr

Tackling School Stress

I’m probably one of the most nervous people I know, especially when it comes to school. Like any teenager, I’ve completed countless tests, quizzes, presentations, and exams. But, sometimes it can feel like no matter how much I study, no matter how confident I am with the material, my heart is racing and my hands are shaking.

When I’m stressed, I feel the symptoms physically, as if I’ve convinced myself that the only way I can perform at my best is when my stress levels are unhealthily heightened. But the truth is optimal grades come from confidence, not anxiety.

During the days leading up to a final, or a midterm, or an important test in school, it’s important to keep track of your priorities. Mental sanity is always a priority. Getting a bad grade might be disappointing, but being in a state of despair is worse.

I’m the biggest hypocrite in the world for saying this, but sleep is also important—very important. It’s necessary for both mental sanity and academic achievement. We’ve heard these facts a million times, how our brains consolidate material. We’ve learned sleep puts us in a state where we can absorb information more efficiently, but the science doesn’t lie.

What I’ve found is that when I don’t get enough sleep before a test, I make tons of careless errors and my malnourished brain isn’t awake enough to catch my mistakes. Moreover, thinking itself gets harder, and my exhaustion interferes with my efforts to retrieve the fundamental concepts. My writing gets convoluted. To say that I do badly on tests with five or less hours of sleep wouldn’t be entirely true, but I know that I never do my best.

In order to avoid the 2AM ‘time to learn three-hundred years of history in the next three hours’ epidemic, I make lists, tons of them; What I need to study, how I’m going to study, when I’m going to study. I try to take advantage of my free time, whether that means sacrificing a bus ride to school for an extra hour of sleep the next day.

I also learn to enjoy the time when I’m not studying, even if I’m not doing anything exciting. I love stepping out of the shower, washing my face and braiding my hair before I get into bed. I love lying in bed, the moments right before I fall asleep, because I can let my mind wander. I love wearing my robe as I brush my teeth in the morning, before I can think about rushing to class.

Being consumed in school stress is neither healthy nor beneficial for doing well academically. When listing my priorities, I make eating lunch with my friends one of them. I make eating a snack one of them. Reading before bed. Talking to my mom when she comes home from work. Make yourself a priority, whatever that means to you.

– Josie 15 years Old