April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers just may bring on allergies. All kinds of environmental stressors and contagions are popping up: APs, research papers, SAT Subject Tests, freaked-out friends (and parents!), proms, playoffs, galas, and celebratory outings and activities. In addition to prep for final exams. Good grief! It’s a lot. As one colleague put it to me, “Do you notice how many gray children there are walking around?” With color drained from their being, a lot of folks are pretty spent – and that’s with more than a month of school left to get through!
We are now in the late spring push to summer, and this is an extremely important time for students to feel in control of their lives. Their sense of control will help lower their stress and improve their motivation. In other words: #Igotthis.
Not everything can be most important. Nor should it. Part of feeling out of control is feeling overwhelmed. And, when overwhelmed, it’s hard to think clearly. Make a list of what needs to be done. Then, ask do you need to do it or can you let it slide? Maybe do a B version rather than an A version? Can you delay it a week or a month? Ask for help? Strong AP scores, for example, are a great feather in your cap, but your grades matter most. If you are wondering how to do your physics project and study for APUSH, remind yourself that your GPA is considered most important by colleges. In addition, remember that learning is your goal, and coursework is about developing mastery. Or, if you signed up for AP Calc, AP Spanish, and AP Lit but feel overwhelmed, consider which matters most for you and what you can most easily crush? Engineering type? It might make sense to ditch the Lit and double down on Calc. Show your strength by not making everything most important. List. Examine. Reconsider. Prioritize.
- Stress is contagious, so avoid stress contagion.
If I am really worked up, my stress will affect my family, friends, and colleagues. On the flip side, if I am calm, I can be a stress sponge. There are many ways to destress and maintain balance. If you have a dog that is affectionate and playful, spend time with your dog. Even ten minutes can help. If you don’t have a dog, look around for people who have positive energy. That might be your school counselor or favorite teacher whose very energy says, “It’s alright. This is all gonna be fine. Trust me, I’ve seen this a hundred times.” Go for extra help even if you have the content down. Or, if your friends are wound up in some sort of AP fever, maybe smile sympathetically. The key is to avoid conversations about competitive martyrdom, who is most sleep deprived, most stressed, or suffering most. That can only add to feelings of anxiety. Keep in mind that time with people who lower your stress will also improve your thinking and state of mind. This will make it easier for you to handle the demands of your day, week, or month.
- Take the long view.
As the closing number of the Broadway musical Avenue Q reminds us, “You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes. You’re going to have to make a few compromises…But only for now! Only for now.” Do your best. If you are feeling overwhelmed, lower your expectations a notch. If you have to set aside or set down an expectation or goal you have been carrying, you can pick it up again later. In a month, it will be summer. In a year, you’ll be in college. In a decade, you’ll have forgotten your AP exams (along with the chain rule, the Spanish subjunctive, and what synecdoche means). But, you’ll likely have great pictures of outdated prom garb (yes, tastes will change) and a sense of your own abilities to get through things. #yougotthis.