Homework, extracurricular activities, sports, college applications: there are a lot of stressful things on a high school student’s plate. Sometimes stress is a good thing; it braces your body for challenges up ahead. Sometimes . . . NSM.
With your future plans looming over you, here are some ways to manage that stress into something productive instead of letting it overwhelm you.
Drop activities and electives you’re not passionate about
Some people take on every club and AP class out there thinking it will look good on college applications, but that’s a surefire way to burn you out. If you’re overworked, you can’t give your best. This doesn’t mean you should push and challenge yourself, but colleges would rather see you excel and spend more time in a club you’re passionate about than just see your name on a club roster. As for AP or dual-credit classes, take the ones that will give you a boost in the major you’re thinking of applying for. If you’re unsure, take the classes that most interest you. Doing things you are passionate about will help your future more than doing them just to pad your college application and/or résumé.
Take a seat, make a plan
Lots of high school students (all?) stress over the fact that they’ll be graduating soon and have no idea what to do next. Then they get blindsided by application deadlines or standardized test dates, and it adds more stress. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan. It not only helps relieve stress but it helps you reach your goals and make the best of the opportunities available to you.
Sit down and list everything you need to do—everything you’re stressed out about—and break it down into manageable pieces as well as a schedule. Dedicate time to college research, to figuring out what major you’re interested in, to taking practice tests, and go from there. Figure out what subjects need the most study time. Are AP tests coming up soon? Maybe they take precedence. Plan months or even a year ahead. Having everything written down in a schedule makes you feel more in control of your future.
Related: Time Management and Study Skills
Use a reward system
You’re still a teenager. School is important, and the future might seem nerve-racking, but you should still enjoy your life. If you spent an hour or two studying, it’s okay to go out with your friends for a night. Treat yourself after accomplishing an item off your to-do list. Focusing on schoolwork 24/7 will definitely stress you out and leave you no time to relax and de-stress. No matter what you or others might say, you are not the Energizer bunny—you can’t keep on going and going and going without a break! Having a day off once a week will refresh you and keep you from being overwhelmed.
These are just a few ways to manage your stressful student life. Stress is normal, but it shouldn’t cripple you. Everyone can overcome stress with just a few minor changes in their routine. And if you find you’re having trouble getting your stress under control, reach out to friends, family, and school counselors for help—that’s what they’re there for!