Throughout my sophomore year, I was a consistent mess of academic stress and anxiety. In addition to the hardest workload I had had up to that point, I also had to juggle an increased involvement in extracurricular activities and commitment to a sports team. On many nights, I would return home after 8pm, with tests, quizzes, and assignments all due the next day, and though I had motivation to complete them, after meets, training, layout, or practice, I had barely enough emotional or physical energy to stay awake.
It wasn’t helping that I would frequently go to sleep past 1AM, perpetuating a cycle of chaos, anxiety, and sleep-deprivation. By the end of 10th grade, I felt burnt out. Though I was satisfied with my grades and my performance in my extracurricular activities, I felt as if this outcome was only the result of my unhealthy sleeping patterns and the testing anxiety I believed I needed to do well.
During 11th grade, I did somewhat of an experiment. Even if I felt like I should study for another half hour, or hour, if it was past midnight, I would go to sleep. On weekends, I wouldn’t feel guilty if I hung out with my friends during the day, even if I had a test on Monday. If there was a big exam in a week, and I knew myself enough to know I wouldn’t actually start studying for it until two nights before, I wouldn’t worry about it until two nights before. Rather than stress out about the work I needed to do and hadn’t done, the test I still hadn’t studied for, I would just sit down, calmly, drink some coffee if necessary, and do my work.
In a sense, I tried to remove a lot of the emotion I had attached to my schoolwork, taking a more pragmatic, and less anxiety-filled approach to school. The actual amount of work wasn’t really changing between 10th and 11th grade, but my outlook certainly was. In tenth grade, the anxiety and emotion I mentally attached to my schoolwork burdened me, and guilted me about doing things I loved and cared about—spending time with friends, reading for fun, watching movies. I spent so much time worrying, that that in itself probably took away from the time I could have been studying (or sleeping, or watching movies). By replacing the worrying with continuing to do what I enjoyed, I felt less like a worker bee and more like an actual person.