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Surviving Stress

Every day when I ask students how they are doing, some of the most common answers I get are “tired” and “stressed,” and I don’t expect this to change with SAT, ACT, AP exams, and finals coming up. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, your parents won’t get off your back, and why can’t that cute girl in Pre-Calc just notice you? And these examples probably only scratch the surface. High school students have it tough. Don’t let a “back in my day…” or “wait until you have kids…” adult tell you differently. Then again, generations of high school students have survived and so will you. Stress happens. What matters is how you deal with it.

People who don’t have the tools to deal with their stress tend to collapse after a while. Seeing someone just give up and stop caring about anything is really sad, especially when you know it doesn’t have to be that way. By actively confronting problems, you can take steps towards bettering your life, whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, pressured, or lost. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is time to prioritize. Think about what matters the most to you. You don’t have to do everything. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to give important items the attention they deserve. Your health should be high on your priority list, since it affects your ability to do everything else. This means that compromising on meals, sleep, and/or exercise to save time can actually end up backfiring. Cutting things out of your life can be painful at first, but you will see the benefits later.

Another approach you can take is to be more efficient. If you pay attention and ask questions during class, that will cut down on the amount of studying you need later. In fact, just ask for help more often in general, you’ll be surprised by how willing others are to assist. Ask that one friend who is really organized for pointers. Ask your classmate getting an A in the class if they would like to study together for the next test. There is no shame in asking for help. Everyone who ever did something great with their lives did so with others’ support.

Finally, take a step back and think about if any of this stress is coming from within. Sometimes we can be our own harshest critics or impose unnecessarily high standards upon ourselves. A good exercise is to pretend that your best friend is coming to you with the same problems you have. Then take all the reassurances and advice you would give your friend and apply it to yourself. A lot of people are better at caring for others than themselves and this shift will help put situations into greater perspective. It also really helps to talk about personal issues with someone you trust. Not only is venting therapeutic but getting a problem out in the open instead of stuck in your head can make it easier to solve, especially when you have two brains on the job. Look, I don’t expect a blog post to solve your life’s problems, but one thing I learned in making it this far in life is that most problems on a personal scale are solvable. Just knowing that they are solvable even if you don’t know the solution right now is reassuring. Also keep in mind that finding and creating solutions involve proper communication.

You might need someone to remind you that not getting into your first-choice college is not the end of the world or you might need to hear your parents say, “if we knew this was causing you so much stress, we would’ve never made you do that.” Those things are much less likely to happen without some initiation on your part, though. It’s just human nature, since people, even if they care for you, are busy with their own lives and are not mind readers. So until next time, remember to help others, ask for help yourself, and in doing so, we’ll get through this experience called life.