Senior Coach Michaela shares her proven tips!
Stress management seems to be something that is always talked about and never actually addressed. There is a multitude of articles online claiming to help you reduce stress etc. In fact these articles are rarely helpful. But why is that? Well simply because there is no magic cure for stress! Reading an article will not be any help unless you take action on what you read. I will try to summarize for you a few of my personal strategies for coping with stress. But remember they are not designed to, and will not be a magic cure… You will have to actively try some for yourself, figure out what works, and then stick to it!
Firstly, stress is normal. Stress is caused by your body releasing chemicals (hormones) into the blood stream and ultimately give you more energy and strength. This is an integral part of our survival, most of you will have experienced an adrenaline rush. The danger of stress though is when it is evoked in response to an emotional, not physical stimuli and the additional strength and energy has no outlet. When you become emotionally invested in the HSC (which all of you who want a good result definitely are!) then it is natural that you will experience a stress response, especially now, so close to the final exams. The question is how do you manage that stress and harness the additional energy and put it to good use.
There are bad ways of managing stress which in fact exacerbate it in the long term. Things like smoking, drinking, junk food, procrastination, outbursts of anger… The list goes on. I’m sure you have experienced some of these. If you truly want to learn how to manage stress, you must abstain from these behaviors, which will only compound the problem down the track.
Now some of the good ways to manage stress, techniques that I and many successful people use. But remember they only work if you implement them!
Tip #1: Exercise
Cliché, I know. But it works! Scientifically exercise produces endorphins (chemicals that make you happy) and can counter some of the negative effects of stress. During the HSC I had a friend with who I would go for a run/walk along the beach every morning ? Having a routine like this and someone to keep you accountable to sticking to your exercise definitely helps! You don’t have to do an intense gym session to get the benefit, just go outside for a few minutes. If you want to be super focused you can take your laptop outside and work in the shade or record your essays and listen to them as you do your walk. It doesn’t matter how you personally approach it, but do something active (especially if you don’t feel like it) and your mood will 100% improve. My personal tip though is go somewhere natural. Nature has a way of putting things into perspective ?
Tip #2: Plan Your Time
Again a cliché… But especially important if you know you are a person prone to get stressed easily. Try to avoid the problem. A lot of HSC stress comes from the feeling of ‘I have so much to do but no time!!’ Get out a daily calendar and plan every day in detail. Make sure the plan fits the type of person you are though! For example, I am a morning person so I would much rather get up early and study from say 7am-1pm and then take the rest of the day off. I also find the thought of getting everything done quickly quite inspiring whereas the thought of studying until the late hours makes me depressed…If you are a night owl though, then you might want to swap it around, chill in the morning and work in the afternoon. Again up to you but make sure you adapt it to your personality.
Tip #3: Don’t isolate yourself
Engaging socially has been proven to be the quickest and most effective way of relieving stress. But by this I don’t mean going to a party with a massive group of friends and drinking your worries away together (remember what we said about BAD ways of coping with stress!). No, what I mean is meeting up with one or two really good friends who you trust and are comfortable with and just chatting or doing some activity for a while (if possible talk about non-HSC related topics). Just try to enjoy yourself for a bit. You will feel more relaxed and capable of doing productive work later. And I’m sure your friend will thank you for making them feel the same ?
Tip #4: Avoid unnecessary stress
Most of the HSC stress is unavoidable and you can’t do much about that. However, there will often be additional factors, or stressors, that will make you feel more stressed. Avoid these. Some examples could be highly competitive classmates (you all know the type…”omg have you prepared for the possibility of a minor characters question for Hamlet?? You haven’t?? Whaaat?”) additional chores around the house (most parents will be very understanding about being a bit more chill with your responsibilities over the next few weeks) or even things like the news (just turn the TV off! Your brain is more active when you sleep anyway so you might be better off just going to bed instead!).
Tip #5: Accept the things you can’t change
Some things you can’t change, so it is a futile exercise to try. There is no point sulking about the HSC, you have to do it. You will go through some stress and lots of study. Accept this fact and move on. When you are facing challenges during the HSC or your study though try to look at them from a positive perspective (incredibly hard, I know!). See them as an avenue for self-improvement. One of my favorite quotes of all time is:
“Don’t think of it as a problem, think of it as an opportunity for a solution”
This might be the hardest strategy of all, because often it requires a complete attitude shift. Guaranteed it’s not easy, but if you do master it, the rest of your life will be easier! Because remember this does not relate just to the HSC, but the rest of your life as well.
Michaela Turancova (Senior Coach)