AS we begin a new year, many young people will be facing into the final few months of second level school and preparing for the Leaving Cert.
For many this is an extremely stressful time. Long hours of school, homework and revision leave little time for anything else. However, taking care of your wellbeing should remain a priority at this time.
In fact, to remain productive and focused, looking after your wellbeing and managing your stress are two of the most important factors to help you be as successful as possible. It is when we fail to take time to rest and relax that our lives can quickly become stressed and anxious, which can lead to counterproductive habits such as procrastinating and self-doubt.
To ensure that stress does not become too overwhelming there are a number of things that you can do to help yourself. Parents can also play a key role in ensuring their child is taking a balanced approach to this year’s exams.
Whether a student is doing too much or is unmotivated and not doing enough, both scenarios can easily become overwhelming. Those who do too much often become stressed from the lack of time to do things they enjoy. Those who do too little do not enjoy the things they are doing instead of schoolwork and can become anxious.
To manage stress, it is important to ensure that all our needs are met. We all have basic needs which are, connection, a sense of achievement or progress in our lives, fun, freedom, and safety. Focusing on one of these at the expense of the others will make us become frustrated.
Although a significant amount a student’s time will be spent revising and doing schoolwork, it is important to ensure that time is allowed for connecting with friends, having fun, socialising and exercising.
It is important to remember that for each one of us, success is relative. What one student is aiming for could be very different from another. We tend to measure our success in school against our peers, and more often than not compare ourselves unfavorably to others. This can quickly erode motivation and self-belief and make us feel like we are not measuring up to unrealistic expectations.
Rather than allowing this, it is important to track your own progress and resist as much as possible measuring yourself against what others are doing. If you are putting in effort and you can see small improvements in yourself regularly, you will build up a momentum of success that will ensure you remain focused and motivated.
Coping with Uncertainty
One of the most difficult aspects of the Leaving Cert is coping with the uncertainty of the outcome. Although students have good indicators of what their results might be from class exams and pre-exams, how the exams will ultimately go is unknown. This can create a lot of worry and stress. As well as this the class of 2022 have faced huge uncertainty over the last number of years and experienced huge disruption to their education. This has added to the general sense of anxiety that many students are experiencing.
When we are facing a big life event with an uncertain outcome, we naturally tend to focus on all the things that can go wrong and worry constantly about these. However, by changing our perspective a little we realise that if things can go wrong, they can also go in our favour.
When we catastrophise and continually think about everything that can go wrong, our wellbeing will suffer. However, changing our perspective and adopting a more realistic view of our potential outcome will help us realise that if we continue making a good effort, we are more likely to achieve positive outcomes.
Coping with the Bad Days
When we are working towards a goal, we will inevitably have good and bad days. While the good days keep us motivated, the harder days challenge our ability to persevere and overcome the challenges that face us. It is important to remember that we can only do our best on any given day and some days our best will be different from other days.
When we lack motivation or when we are tired and cannot focus doing what we can and starting again the next day is enough.
We often criticise ourselves on our bad days for not working hard enough or not doing enough, however, keep in mind that we all have bad days or even bad weeks where we do not make the progress we would like. During these times remember that this feeling will pass and there will be better days ahead. Take time out to rest, do something fun or connect with friends. Often by taking a short break to think about something else other than the exams is all that is needed to become motivated again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alan White is a second level teacher at Bishopstown Community School and Wellbeing Author. He also facilitates wellbeing workshops for companies and organisations.
For more information visit www.changeswellbeing.ie linkedin Alan White or facebook Changes Wellbeing.
Tomorrow: Part 2 - Developing a positive mindset.