School is too hard! I think that is one phrase every human being in the world who has been through the rigorous structure of that environment can universally agree with. As a student, I can say that I have gone through so much in my fifteen-plus years of constant, nonstop education. (I’m counting from primary school, I’m not that old ).
I remember my second year of university vividly because I termed it “the year of school work overload.” It was such a difficult year in my life and in the lives of my friends and classmates too. The mere mention of that period – Year 2 -will always be met with many dramatic gestures and sighs. During that school year, we would receive up to 7 assignments and 5 tests every week, all with unrealistic deadlines with due dates often either on the same day or just a few days apart. To meet up with the target date for a 4000 word essay and a test due the next day, I would have to forgo my sleep and finish the essay as well as read for the test. I would go in to write the test running on only 30 minutes of sleep and would come out having done absolutely rubbish in it. However, the worst part of it all was I couldn’t even sit to think and process the utter nonsense I just wrote in the test because I had another assignment and test due the next day. Worse still was the constant reminder at the back of my mind that I could not go home with a bad grade regardless of the fact that I had a very cogent excuse! Talk about pressure, the struggle was real!
I became chronically moody, anxious about tests, enjoyed no social life whatsoever and suffered emotional breakdowns at random moments of the day. My mental health was an absolute mess until I came across a quote by Maureen Killoran. She said, “stress is not what happens to us. It is our response to what happens, and our response is something we can choose.” I saw this and made intentional steps to cope with all I had going on. Just to toot my own horn a little bit, I did finish the year with a 4.0 GPA even though I certainly did not begin with that momentum.
Education is a good thing, it’s an enabler that makes you qualified and able to make the most of opportunities, but if proper steps are not taken to prepare oneself- mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially – for the overwhelming amount of stress that comes with it, you are likely to flake out and end up with mental exhaustion and burnout. It’s just unfortunate that some teenagers don’t realise that this is what they are suffering from and instead of trying to figure out what the problem is, they settle for distractions or an ‘escape’, which is likely to become harmful or destructive.
An author once said that the greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another and that rings true. When you think about all you need to get done, all at the same time, you overwhelm yourself. I believe the key to getting through school lies in proper organisation and planning. Sit down, preferably with a paper and pen or your notes app on your device, and write all your tasks down to the most minute details necessary to complete them. You will realise that instead of thinking about the plethora of work you need to get done without actually doing it, your brain will focus on what you have set as your tasks for that day. Try and complete the smaller tasks first, it gives you the momentum you need to face the larger tasks. Use organisational apps such as Microsoft To Do or Any-Do that you can sync across all your devices or even a journal. Ticking off your completed tasks is highly motivating. Find your most productive hours of the day and resolve to do the bulk of your work then. Try to clear out distractions and have a dedicated work area preferably with a table and chair, and feel free to take a break. Some students feel guilty when they take time to watch a little Netflix or scroll through Tiktok when they have so much to get done but as the old saying goes, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. So, make sure to time your breaks. The truth is that music distracts you more than it helps you focus, so try to go for a completely quiet space. Last but not least, have an accountability partner who reminds you, assists you, and works with you to make sure you remain consistent with your plans and goals.
“You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” Christopher Robin.