There comes a point where everything becomes too much and you’re so far behind that you feel like you’ll never catch up. Usually it happens around some of the most crucial times of the school year like exam period or when all your assignments and major work are due.
You know you need to be doing something, but you just can’t. You nap and watch Netflix and fuck around even though you know you’re only making it worse for yourself. Part of you wants to study but at the same time, the thought of trying to slog through all those notes is overwhelming and so you put it off day after day.
Every time you promise yourself you’ll do it later, or that you’ll get up early and start your work, it’s like adding another boulder of stress onto the pile. It’s paralysing and anxiety inducing.
When we asked you guys how you felt about Year 12 over 70% of you said stressed, and over 65% of you said anxious. You’re definitely not alone.
I did the same thing in Year 12. I got to the point where I was done, but the school year wasn’t. All I wanted was for it to be over but I still had exams and assignments ahead of me demanding to be completed. I’d find myself lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and doing nothing instead of actually starting the work I had to do. I was terrified of failing, of getting a shit ATAR, of disappointing my parents and of not getting into uni but none of that was enough to motivate me to get anything done. I was stuck in a cycle of stressing about studying, to the point where I was too stressed to study.
So, what do you do when you’ve reached breaking point?
1. Know that making it through the year is an achievement
For a lot of us it’s the fear of failure stressing us out. When we asked you, 18% of you said this was the top reason for your stress and it’s really no surprise. Most of you are probably feeling the pressure to head to uni and even if you’re not, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re trying not to disappoint your parents or your teachers.
What they don’t tell you is that getting through high school is an achievement in itself, regardless of what your marks are like. It’s a tough time those last couple of years; there’s assignments and essays, the pressure to decide what you’re doing with your life, changing friendships and the rest of the drama that comes with high school. You might think that for it to be a successful year that you have to come top of your class, or get an insanely high ATAR. The truth is, the real success stories are from those that struggled and fell but still managed to get up and finish the year, regardless of their marks.
2. Find a way to take a proper break
A lot of the time, the ways we deal with stress don’t give us a real break from our work. We think watching Netflix or scrolling through memes is a distraction from study but the reality is the whole time we’ve still got the list of deadlines at the back of our mind.
Find a way to really forget about all the things you have to do and have fun–hang out with your friends and laugh at dumb jokes until you’re crying, go for a run or kick a footy around until all you can think about is how you’re pretty sure your lungs are about to collapse or spend some time with your family and talk about everything except for school. Give yourself a chance to remember that there’s other things in your life other than study and you’ll find it puts your workload into perspective a lot more.
3. Stop the stressed thought process
One of the things I struggled with was thinking about how there was no chance I was going to be able to get all my work done in a day or a week or however long I had. The thought of not getting it done made me so anxious that I couldn’t do anything and then I’d just catastrophize everything. My thought process went something like this:
- There’s no way I can study the entire syllabus in time for the exam
- Oh god, if I can’t study I’m going to fail this exam
- If I fail I’m going to get a shit ATAR
- Which means I won’t be able to get into uni
- Everyone will be so disappointed in me
- I’ll be a massive failure
See how each thought just built on the previous one?
If you catch yourself thinking like this, you gotta break the chain. Take a deep breath, go for a walk or pat your dog. Then think about the situation logically and realistically- just because you lose a couple of marks in an exam doesn’t mean you’re a total failure for the rest of your life.
4. Do something
Once you’ve nipped that sort of negative thinking in the bud, you have to do something. I know what you’re thinking–‘but guys! That’s why I’m reading this article–because I can’t fucking get anything done’.
But here’s the thing. You don’t need to get everything done right now. You just need to get started with the easiest thing possible. Have a whole essay to write? Just pick one quote that you know you’ll be able to use. Write it down. That wasn’t too hard was it? Now what sort of technique is being used in that quote? Write that down as well. You’re not writing a whole essay–you’re just giving yourself the bare bones to get started.
Simplifying your work will make it heaps easier to manage than thinking about it as one massive task and before you know it you’ll have smashed out half the work without even realising it.
It’s understandable that you’re stressed (we all are). But you need to find ways to fight that stress so you can get through the school year. You got this.