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Important Reminder: You Are Enough.

By Lena Carter

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How are you doing? No, really? How are you? Have you stopped recently to ask yourself and answer that question?

If you are in S4 right now, the chances are that maybe the word “stressed” will feature in your description of yourself. You are maybe in the middle of Prelims or mocks, or perhaps you have them out of the way and are in that “in between” period where the practice is over and the next thing on the horizon is the real exams and assessments.

A bit of stress is generally acknowledged to be a good thing when it come to activities where “performance” during a short time period is important; taking exams, running a race or giving a presentation to an audience. Nerves and adrenaline in moderation are helpful to us in short sharp bursts and if you have attended Tree of Knowledge workshops on study skills, the Chimp Brain or Mindset then you will know all about this.

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But long term stress is not so helpful and we need to ensure that in between the times when we need to use some “helpful stress”, we also allow ourselves time to recover and live at a calmer pace. A while back, I explained to a friend that I had been feeling quite stressed for quite a long time and he mentioned the analogy of running; we can sprint for short periods of time but if we don’t allow ourselves periods of jogging or walking in between then we become exhausted and maybe even injure ourselves and “burn out”.

The problem can sometimes be that stress can also be a bit addictive and that at exactly the time when adolescents are going through a time of huge brain and personality development, we also put them through several years of high stakes assessments where those who are susceptible can develop workaholic habits that can then be hard to break. Because of course, work is a GOOD thing and workaholism is one of those addictions that is secretly ok because it is about ‘achieving’. You don’t get the same criticism for being addicted to work or exercise as you do for being addicted to booze or drugs… Or self-harm.

But really, we do need to take addiction to stress and work seriously and make sure that we watch out for signs that work might becoming more than just a means to an end.

I have seen several very able, conscientious young people become addicted to stress during their final years in school and it is important that you are aware and take precautions if it could happen to you.

Some of you, of course, will read this and think “I LOVE the idea of being addicted to work… I wish that I could be so that I spent less time relaxing and more time working!!”. But we are all different and the key, ultimately, to becoming a successful and thriving person, is understanding our own ways of thinking, feeling and behaving and knowing what it takes to feel personally satisfied and productive.

Again, this can be difficult during adolescence when neurological processes tend to encourage us to try and “conform”, fit in and be “normal” but later adolescence is a time when we can start to really understand our individual motivations and influences and develop healthy behaviour and thinking habits.

So, to finish, here are five ideas that may help to get you through the “stress” of the exam period both this year and in those to come:

1. Some stress is good but sustained stress is not. Plan for study as well as relaxation and expect that you may go through a “low” after exams which is quite normal; don’t be fooled into thinking that starting work again straight away is the answer to overcoming this.

2. Realise that some people whom society hold up as role models are workaholics and that this is not healthy.

3. Remember that your life now is there to be lived and enjoyed; you need to enjoy the journey as well the final destination towards which you are heading.

4. Don’t just take advice from me; look at what Yuval Noah Harare says in his amazing book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and make sure you don’t end up on the eternal “slaving away” treadmill:

How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.

― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

 

Accept that you are enough, regardless of the qualifications you may get. Qualifications may help you to feel proud of your achievements and hard work or get a college place or a job that you want but they are not everything. You are enough, right now.

 

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