Tuesday, 15 March 2016

School Stress, Survival and Shut down

Hello! 

I really wanted to write a post on this topic the minute I set up my blog as it is something I am very familiar with and have experienced a lot of difficulties managing. 
I just want to start by saying I'm not a professional psychologist or have any scientific background, these are simply tips which helped me and I rely on them for ways to cope during exam season. 
School can be a very stressful time for young people, especially in later years when we're constantly being told that we must plan our futures and that our whole life rests on one month of exams. These kind of comments really get into my head especially, and once you lose control of rational thought they can become exceedingly difficult to cope with. 

The bottom (and unfortunate) line is: exams are hard, but there are ways of dealing with them that can make them manageable. This is a list of tips that I have developed over 5 years of high school to cope with the stress and pressures school and exams constantly present. 

1. Make a plan. Charging into the mountain of work randomly and spontaneously is only going to stress you out. All night study sessions, cramming and 'I'm never going to be able to do this' meltdowns are all the outcomes of plan-less revision. Take a night to really get to grips with your exam timetable and make a revision plan to suit it. Write down all the dates of your exams; it helps me to put them on a calendar in my room where I can see them clearly with the dates they're on and tick them off when I'm done- very satisfying! 
Then evaluate your subjects- how many you've got, how much you need to cover and 
which are your strongest- and fit them into a timetable making sessions for your weakest subjects more frequent. This will instantly make you feel in control and help you 'portion  out' sometimes overwhelming amounts of work. Once you can see that 'you will be able to 
do it' the revision gains a clear purpose and control and loses its panicked, last minute frenzy.

2. Prepare well. You wouldn't embark on a physical expedition with no preparation and this should be the same for mental challenges. School work can feel long, drawn out and desperately boring, especially revision, therefore it is very important to prepare before you start. 
Think about what you are going to do. You may have your revision plan and be studying physics but you can't cover the entire syllabus in a night, same goes for school projects. Therefore you need to set a goal, what do you want to achieve in this study session, how much do you need to do? Once you have this decided the night is less overwhelming and more achievable.
Next, what will you need? Don't start your work only to find you need a calculator and have
to go find it. Then suddenly you run out of paper. Then you realise you need a pencil etc. This breaks up your studying and prevents you from concentrating and getting in 'the zone'. Look at what you need before you start so when you are working it is productive and useful. 
Mentally prepare yourself. Try not to enter the study period thinking 'I'm so tired' 'I can't do this' because then you will feel tired and you won't be able to do it. Try to be positive and focus on reaching your goal; get into your study mindset and go! 

3. Get supplies. Again, you wouldn't set off on a perilous journey with no food, water or extra socks and the same applies for studying. If you deprive yourself of things such as food and water then your brain won't absorb information as well. Try to eat 'brain food' such as blueberries, nuts and seeds and make sure to stay hydrated with water (tea and pomegranate juice also make me feel more energised.) This will make you feel more alert
 and help you focus during your studying. 

4. Take breaks. My grandma always tells me that in nursing school they wouldn't let them work for more than one hour at a time. This is because the brain stops absorbing information as effectively after long periods of activity. So revision especially works best in small chunks so your brain can 'recover' and be back to absorbing information effectively again. 

5. Shut down. No matter how much work or revision I have, I always try and shut down at 9pm. Then I can have an hour of 'down time' where I can relax and spend time with my family before going to bed. It is important I use this time to try and relax as much as possible because my brain needs to fully turn off from school in order for me to get a good nights sleep and feel rejuvenated the next day. I find that if I work too late I don't sleep as well and I feel worse the following day. Therefore, to get the most out of everyday I have to shut down an hour before going to sleep. This is also beneficial for my mental well being because doing something I enjoy for an hour after a day of work is something to work towards and feel good about rather than being bogged down with overwhelming amounts of work and getting stuck in a cycle of stress and school doom. 

If any of these tips were helpful to you I would be delighted and hope that you can regain some control over your life even in the midst of school and exams. 
If you have any tips of your own please pop a comment down below, I would love to hear how you cope with this stressful period in your life and maybe you know some tips that could help me. 
Also, if you would like me to write another post with some more revision and study tips please comment so and I will compile some more things that help me! 

Thank you so much for reading and I wish you well with your studies xxx.

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