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Stress Management: Rebekah Harpool

Rebekah Harpool, Voices Editor

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Maybe it’s just me, but the first week of school is one of the most stressful weeks of the entire year. Yes, there are weeks with more work (I refuse to think about finals week right now), but the first week is such a strange combination of excitement, nervousness, fear and stress. It’s overwhelming, but somehow we all make it through.

A week or so more and we’ll all be in the swing of things, and everything will feel less foreign. However, now is the perfect time to get some tools under your belt to properly manage the stress. Without these tools, a night full of homework or a big test can feel undefeatable and can decrease your confidence or self-esteem. So, let’s walk through some stress management techniques, and maybe, just maybe, we can all make through and actually still enjoy our year.

Perspective. Don’t let the stress engulf you. Yes, you might have 3 tests this week, a huge essay and you might have no idea what your AP World History book is talking about right now. Take a step back. This is just one week out of your entire life. One week in August in 2017—it does not determine your entire future. Just do your best to get all of your work done and to do it well.

If that takes longer, then that’s okay, don’t beat yourself up. Everyone is human and everyone works at a different pace. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We are all made unique and we should all embrace that.

Take a break. When you’re on hour four of working and you feel like your head is going

to explode, it isn’t always best to just power through. Take a 15-minute break. Do something that you find joy in–play an instrument you love, play your music loud and have a dance party, sit and watch a few minutes of TV–anything that will relax your brain and bring you joy. Text or call a friend and ask them how their day is going. Your brain will appreciate the break, and you will return to your work feeling refreshed and ready to continue. Repeat this at least every hour to two.

Think Positive. If you’re reading or typing a paper and the whole time the only thoughts

that go through your head are “I’m never going to get anything done,” or “I’m so slow at this,” or “I’m going to get a terrible grade on this because this is awful, but I’m just going to accept that it’s awful”. Instead of focusing on how much you have to do in a certain amount of time, strive to enjoy what you’re doing, and think positive thoughts. Tell yourself that you are smart and hardworking and kind. That your efforts will pay off. Instead of groaning the whole time that you hate this class and this material and blah blah blah, invest yourself in your work. Your teachers will be able to see that you put both heart and effort in, and they will be ecstatic to see that.

Remember that teachers have stress too. You probably read that in a sarcastic voice or

laughed. I get it. You have eight classes and teachers never seem to understand that, yeah? But your teacher has six to seven classes of the same material. Meaning grading the same thing 130 times, teaching the same material for two days in a row, making lesson plans, staying late and coming early, trying to make the material interesting, so much more. And just like you, they have home lives. Friends, kids, activities. Their evenings fill up too. Some of them may even be in graduate school as well.

I’m not saying that your stress is insignificant. Because if it’s significant to you, then it is real and your feelings are valid. All I’m saying is that instead of holding a grudge against your teacher, try to relate to them. Understand that as you’re working, they’re working too. We all have our part to play. (And yes, on weekends, when you’re partying or sleeping or celebrating, they probably are as well).

Create incentives or rewards for yourself when you complete something. If you know

you have a long night of studying ahead or a stressful week, make plans for the weekend to do something you love. Give yourself something to look forward to. Put your favorite snack or candy at the end of each page as a little reward for making progress. Maybe treat yourself to ice cream or Sonic or a movie night with your best friends. Whatever makes you happy.

Make a calming study environment that works for you. If you can create an environment when you study that gives you peace and sets your mind in study mode, that is the best place for you. Light candles, diffuse essential oils, put white noise or light music in the background that won’t distract you. Maybe you need absolute silence (including shutting the door so you can’t hear the rest of your family). Maybe you need to work outside in the fresh air,

in a coffee shop, etc. Figure out what works for you and do it every time you have to buckle down and get things done. Every time you step into that space your brain will be trained to focus, and also to relax.

Get outside. When you get stressed, don’t stay locked up in your room or house the whole time. Take the time to exercise. Go to the pool or go on a walk, run, or bike ride. Do a quick relaxing yoga routine or a high energy zumba class with some friends. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that automatically make you happier and put you in a good mood.

In short, don’t freak out. Take deep breaths. Take things one step at a time. Don’t keep your stress bottled up. Tell a friend or parent everything you have to do and exactly what you’re going to do to get it done. Have a friend text you every hour to check on your progress–it will actually help! Just relax. You’ll get through this, just like you always do.

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