High school is supposed to be an exciting time filled with football games, late nights, and memories that will turn into stories to tell future children and grandchildren. This is one of the best times of our lives, yet so many of us find ourselves weighed down by the burden of stress. With piles of coursework, loads of extracurricular activities and the fear of college preparations, high school is definitely not always smooth sailing. Through my three years of high school experience, I have found that some of the following ways have helped me manage my stress, but it is important to find a system that works for you.
Dedication to Organization
Simply stated, a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind, and a cluttered mind can lead to stress. Organization is the key to finding a balance and reducing stress. By physically organizing things such as your bookbag or closet, you will declutter your mind and help you feel emotionally at ease as well.
Every year, my New Year’s resolution is to be more organized, but it never lasts past the first week into the new year. However, this year, I have found that keeping a large desk calendar and an easily accessible notepad on my desk have helped me budget my time among projects, practices, tournaments, competitions, events, tests and trips.
An easy way to stay on top of those easily forgotten long-term projects is to write in a planner. I use a weekly planner to record my assignments, due dates, practices and activities. This is also a great way to keep track of distant events, such as a final presentation or college visit. Every person must find what works best for him as a source of organization.
If you find that writing in a planner isn’t conducive to your schedule, try using the Calendar and Reminders apps on your phone to monitor your upcoming events and assignments. You may prefer to download a weekly planner app so that you don’t have to lug another item around in your bookbag.
Prioritize to Optimize
Prioritization goes hand in hand with organization. It’s important to personally rank tasks in order of importance and timely relevance. For example, if you have a test one day from now, a project due in three days and a competition this weekend, it is most important to study for the test even though you may be more excited to prepare for the competition.
When doing homework, I’ve been told that it is most efficient to begin with the hardest or least desirable task first. Then once you’ve completed the more time consuming work, you’ll only have simpler tasks to complete that require less motivation.
On the other hand, I tend to begin with the quickest task first, such as a few math problems, so that I feel more accomplished and have less tasks to do later. Then, I move on to the more time-consuming projects, so that I can follow through from start to finish without many interruptions. No matter how you approach it, prioritize tasks according to their due dates even though that may not be in your preferred order.
Another helpful tip is to take small breaks to relax, but remain disciplined to return to working on time. Staying disciplined when prioritizing is important, but don’t forget to leave time for fun every once in awhile. The project you’ve been putting off can be done tomorrow, but celebrating your sibling’s birthday can’t wait. I am guilty of letting my projects and activities get the best of me, forcing me to sacrifice time with friends and family. Because of how busy I am, I was so exhausted and overworked one night that I fell asleep at 7 p.m. and missed my uncle’s return from India. You may have a lot to do, but you must not let that get in the way of your mental health or your relationships with others.
Plan Ahead to Combat Procrastination
Stress, unlike most everything else, is one thing that will not go away if you simply ignore it until tomorrow. Procrastinating an assignment will only lead to more stress in the long run. I’ve found that an effective way to combat procrastination is by establishing goals and rewarding myself upon completion of a task. My rewards typically include watching Netflix, eating ice cream, or even something as simple as relaxing on the couch.
When doing homework, try not to pick up your phone. If possible, set it aside or put it on do not disturb mode. Eat a snack before you start, so you are not tempted to get up and become distracted. Distractions lead to a never-ending vicious cycle of being unproductive, and soon you’re trying to fit five hours of homework into two hours of time.
If you can’t seem to overcome your negative habits, try to identify the source of procrastination. Are you not understanding the lesson? E-mail your teacher or text a friend to ask for help. Does the task at hand seem too daunting to complete on time? Break it down into smaller chunks. Is the task just so simple that you don’t have the motivation to do it? Force yourself to sit down and face it head-on so that you won’t be scrambling to finish it later.
Know When to Say, “No!”
Along with prioritization, saying “yes” to too many commitments can pile up. It begins with one activity and one project, but it grows slowly and silently. Soon you’re staying after school every day until 8 p.m. and leaving early to rush to another practice halfway across town. On top of that, you may still have homework, chores and a job as well.
Learn to say “no,” and how to do so without being rude. Everyone encounters stress, and those who ask for your help will understand that you simply do not have the time to attempt another project. When you take on too many tasks at once, it becomes overwhelming and forces you to underperform in all of the tasks. It’s better to do fewer things — and to do them well — than to do everything poorly. If saying “no” is difficult for you, try to find another way to word it so that you feel less guilty.
Find a Way Out of Stress
When managing stress, everyone needs a healthy outlet. For some, art may be an escape while others find relief in sweating it out in a sport. Exercise is mentally a healthy release for stress and anger, and it keeps the body in good shape.
Running is my favorite escape because my head is cleared from all thoughts, and I can control how hard I work throughout the duration of the run. In other activities, I don’t have as much control over the difficulty and length of my workouts. At the end of my runs, I feel calmer, as I experience a sense of accomplishment when I see the total distance and pace of my run.
If exercise causes you even more stress, try painting, reading, writing, meditating or baking. Each person’s individual wants and needs differ, so the outlet will vary depending on personal interests and talents. Find what works for you, and don’t be afraid to try new things or use a variety of options.
I have also found that writing helps to declutter my mind. Through a simple search on Pinterest for journaling, I found some creative writing prompts as well as thought-provoking questions, so I always have something interesting to write. This helps to clear my mind of all that had happened that day as well as the tasks I still needed to accomplish the following day. As French author Jules Renard once said, “Ècrire, c’est une façon de parler sans ȇtre interrompu.” This translates to: “Writing, it’s a way of speaking without being interrupted.”