If you are, you’re probably on Facebook way too much, stalking profiles of people you probably don’t even like, and clicking on everything in your newsfeed (even if it’s not that interesting). That’s what most psychologists would call Avoidance-Coping, because you’re trying to distract yourself from the stressor (in this case, your school work)…but sadly, it’s proven to be a bad way of getting rid of your stress for good. Not very time efficient, in my opinion, either.
But don’t worry! Your time is about to be put to great use.
Stress from school is tricky. On one end, it can make you into a professional procrastinator who spends hours on YouTube watching videos of baby sloths…or it can make you into a complete workaholic with no free time and no fun. Thankfully, the solutions for these two terrible extremes are one and the same…
You’re More Than What You Do
We certainly know that there are way more fun things in life than to study. Maybe there are even things we would consider more useful or practical (I know I certainly would). Yet…we still stress about it. About homework, papers, exams, quizzes. Maybe you’ll lose scholarships if your GPA drops. Maybe you couldn’t stand to tell your parents if you failed the final. Or maybe you just don’t want to pay to retake classes. All of those are viable things to think about for your educational career…but they don’t define you.
Life goes on. It will ALWAYS go on. There will always be solutions to your problems, and you’ll always find your way around or through or over or under all of those “life” obstacles. What you have to take to heart is this:
There are tons of things in life to experience that have nothing to do with school work, but everything to do with something much more important: who you are, and who you are becoming.
There is great value in taking some time for yourself and spending time with other people. There’s even some value in the process itself–learning organizational skills, coping with emotions, prioritizing. Throughout all of this, you’re learning something important–not just the textbook material–give yourself some credit for that.
Don’t Fall Into the Reward Trap
When we were little, we were taught that everything we do determines our future. That every decision we make will lead us to our “fate”. I took that to heart…and while it led me to make some really good decisions that granted success, it also harmed my own psyche.
I often find myself falling into what I call the Reward Trap. Basically, if I begin to think that I am not receiving some kind of reward or recognition for something I do, I begin to think that it is useless or a waste of my time. That often means that my apartment gets messy, the dishes pile up in the sink, I never spend time with my friends, and I don’t give myself any alone time.
I constantly have to remind myself that just because I’m not getting a grade for something or climbing the social ladder as a result of it doesn’t mean that it is not good. It is good to spend time with your friends (when you’re not trying to avoid school work–in that case, it’s counter-productive). It is good to spend some time thinking about what is important to you and restructure your priorities. And, most importantly, it is good to do things that you genuinely enjoy.
What This Means for Your School Stress
One of the greatest sources of school stress is the situation that occurs when we have way too much to do and not enough time to do it. But you’re only one person, with one brain, and two arms (sometimes I do wish I had more). That means that your abilities aren’t infinite. You have limits. And that’s okay. In fact, that is very good.
That means that you don’t have to do everything. You get to choose what is important to you, and what can probably be put aside right now. I think that finding that balance of priorities is one of the most important things we can learn at this time of our lives.
Using these ideas as a framework for the techniques you use to bust your stress, you will reduce your long-term stress and gradually become more and more balanced.
Stay tuned–in the coming posts, we’ll talk about specific “good” things you can do to reduce long-term stress, and discuss some great tools and tricks for avoiding stress in the first place.