In Year 11 and 12, it is completely natural to feel stressed. The intense workload, pressure, and expectations can be overwhelming and may lead to severe anxiety and stress – but the important thing to realise is that you are not alone and almost all of us have felt one of the following at some stage. Here is some advice that some of us wished we would’ve heard when we were in college.
Note: this is NOT professional advice but more advice from personal experience
Feeling overwhelmed by change
The transition from year 10 to year 11, and THEN year 11 to year 12 can be incredibly difficult for a lot of people. This may be due to the change in workload, environment, and friends but remember, any form of change (no matter how good it is for us) will be uncomfortable. All of this is simply a stage that you will get used to – just give it time (trust me, time solves many things).
Being stressed about the heavy workload and exams
The workload in year 11 and 12 is intense, there is no doubt about that. It is completely natural to feel stressed about it; in fact, a little bit of stress is good because it pushes you to do the work. However, excessive stress is harmful, but can be relieved by planning out your study – which will assure you that you are on top of things. Creating systems for studying and, in general, daily habits decreases stress by keeping track of your progress and removing doubts of whether you have done enough work or are forgetting to do any important tasks. In the end, have faith in yourself and your hard work!
Follow this link to learn how to build systems and good habits: https://jamesclear.com/habit-guide
No matter how much work you have, it is incredibly important to take care of your health. This means eating regular meals and, ideally, ensuring you get enough nutrients and calories (as well as staying hydrated). This is often a lot easier said than done, but taking out 20 minutes from your study to make a simple meal will NOT make you fall behind and will NOT decrease your exam performance. In the end, your health is far more important than your ATAR and is crucial to even getting a good ATAR in the first place. Studying an extra 30 minutes won’t make much difference but putting in 30 minutes to focus on your health i.e. eat well and exercise will make a HUGE difference!
Search “Quick and Simple Recipes” on Youtube or Google if you have no clue how to cook.
When people tell you to exercise, you may think they’re telling you to hit the gym or do some hardcore weightlifting. Although this IS exercise, you may be forgetting that going on a simple walk counts, too! In fact, going on a 20 minute walk is where you should start if you are new to exercising: find some time to go see the sunset. From personal experience, going on walks with a friend or family member (especially when I’m stressed) has been a very relaxing way of getting my mind off things and enjoying myself. If walks aren’t your thing, find a form of exercise you enjoy and engage in it at least once a week! But if you’re thinking this is a waste of time and you should be focusing on studying, research indicates that physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention AKA your studying!!
Not doing things you enjoy
Balancing your studying with things you enjoy is key to maintaining motivation and good health. This can be in the form of, for example, watching a Netflix episode after a long day of work or going out with friends on the weekend! You don’t have to be studying all the time to do well – keep your goal in mind and act accordingly WITHOUT overdoing it.
Not being able to sleep well
There are a couple reasons you may not be sleeping well: you’re consuming too much caffeine, staying up too late, having an inconsistent sleep schedule or not managing your stress properly. Use the following guide to identify such habits and improve your routine for better sleep: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better
It is common to believe that the more we study, the higher our scores will be. However, there is an upper limit to how much study is actually effective: the way we do things is just as important as the thing itself. That is, studying for 8 hours with a bunch of distractions is a lot less effective than studying with full concentration for 2 hours. Focus on HOW you complete tasks and optimise for efficiency to avoid burnout.
To learn more about burnout and how to overcome it, follow this link: https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/what-is-academic-burnout/
Watch this youtube video to learn more about this concept: The problem with most productivity advice
Getting bad scores
Once in a while, you will bomb an exam or assignment… or two. It happens to everyone – even people who get a 99.95 ATAR! Considering you can discount bad units, your ATAR may not actually be affected too badly by it. Still, it can be quite demotivating… now, what truly determines your success is how you respond to these failures. Take the time to identify where you may have gone wrong in your preparation or execution, and find ways to improve in these areas for next time. It is almost always possible to recover from bad scores so keep your goals in mind and get back on track as soon as possible. Everything happens for a reason so instead of being so harsh on yourself, take the opportunity to improve!
Where you can get help
To seek further help, consider going on forums such as Reddit or ATARNotes as many students share their stories and tips about mental health on them. Youtube channels such as Matt D’Avella are also very eye-opening when it comes to productivity and mental health.
Community (e.g. family and friends) can be extremely important when it comes to these, and finding the right people can be enough to get you through particularly difficult. If you find yourself needing further help, consider professional such as the school psychologist or a therapist.
Remember, take small steps everyday and focus on developing good habits that benefit your physical and mental health. Your life isn’t all about studying but more about creating the right balance. Find things that make you happy or feel good, and try to engage in them as much as you can!
This blog was written by our Chemistry tutor, Sreeya. You can find her profile here.