It’s a really overwhelming feeling; when you’re awake at 2 AM in the morning studying for three huge exams you have the next day, or when you are two days away from that SAT you want to score well on, but know that you have neither the motivation nor extra time to study. Academic Pressure is hard on teens who want to attend good universities. We, today, are told to take as many APs and Honors Classes as possible while still maintaining great grades and stellar extracurriculars. Sometimes it can feel like everyone wants too much and it’s impossible to accommodate. It’s frustrating and painful when you believe your best effort isn’t enough. This is how I felt through my sophomore year of high school. I felt sad and anxious every Friday, when extracurricular events were held, papers were due, and exams were given. I felt insecure and stupid as I continuously compared myself with others who I thought were scoring or achieving higher than me, and I fooled myself into believing that grades and percentages were the only true marks of intelligence. They weren’t. They didn’t define who I was as a student and they don’t define who I am as a person.
When I think of my sophomore year, I know that the academic stress was getting to me; I felt as if I was in a depression. I wouldn’t be able or enthusiastic enough to interact with my friends. I would wake up 3 or 4 hours before school started to study for an exam or stay up all night preparing another project. Constantly tried, temperamental, and lonely; I eventually realized that I didn’t want to hurt myself and that I could be successful and happy with my grades without the anxiety. I decided to make sleep my priority. I decided I would only attend extracurriculars that were personally important to me. That year, I quit both Robotics, and Key Club. I decided that I would make time for friends instead of projects, and started talking about the material I was learning instead of just digesting it. The surprising thing is that after I took the time to take care of myself, my grades improved. By sleeping more and interacting more with others, I regained my confidence and my academic performance accelerated instead of stagnated.
But listen, I’m not telling to give up on your goals or what you are trying to achieve. My experience when letting go and sleeping instead of studying might not be something you are willing to risk. But I want you to take the time to think about yourself and how you are feeling mentally. I don’t want you to go to start believing you are worthless because you aren’t reaching your goals. Maybe those goals aren’t the right ones for you. But I know you are already performing better than a lot of other people.
I think the best way to manage momentary academic stress is to find a good coping method. For me, it was journaling and writing poetry. For you it might be meditating, drawing, punching a pillow, or having a friend you can call immediately when you are feeling down. The next time you are feeling right down or overwhelmed, set aside 10 minutes to do something that will help you relax and feel less strained. It was also important for me to stop comparing my performance and achievements with those of others around me and instead comparing my performance with myself.
Good Luck and Stay Strong.
– Rachael, 17