People often say that change is good. But the truth is, academic, social, and physical changes often prove to be hard to cope with one at a time, not to mention all three of them simultaneously. A word that summarizes these changes is probably somewhere along the lines of “puberty”. A drastic change like puberty is something we have all gone through and dealing with that change is something that many struggle with. So the purpose of this article is to share a few personal experiences and offer some small pieces of advice that *hopefully* help make you feel better.
For me, dealing with academic change proved to be the hardest. Matter of fact, I struggled a LOT transitioning from my G9-10 year: grades started to matter more, responsibilities set in, and workloads increased drastically. At the start of G10, I’d have these rushes of anxiety during class: it felt like my heart was closing up on my throat, making it difficult to breath. The saying of ‘swimming in anxiety’ was the perfect description of me, except for the fact that I was drowning.
But through those first couple months, I found a couple of ways to destress and make myself feel better. After compiling, I thought sharing these tips and ideas might help those going through this hard period of time.
1. Giving yourself those constant shots of positivity
These shots of positivity might be motivational quotes, what you are thankful for, or things that make you smile (memes, jokes, or even your dog). Practicing gratitude is a really good way to make yourself feel better and truly acknowledge the things that you HAVE compared to the things that you lack. I wrote the small note shown below three years ago and having it taped to my door, seeing it first thing in the morning everyday is my self-reminder to be grateful of what I have :)
Changes are hard to go through, but at least I have a loving family and parents that will listen to me whenever I need it; at least I can receive a high-end education that will better equip me for my future; I have all four functional limbs … When you think about it, there are so many things that you can be thankful for, and those are what one should focus on.
2. Allocate time for self-care
Our lives move at such a rapid pace with so many different distractions, making it hard to find time and space for self care and to become more aware of your own thoughts and consciousness. Every week, I set aside 30 minutes dedicated just to myself - put on some relaxing music before bed and write my heart out. All my worries, concerns, good and bad thoughts, all transferred onto paper. The trick is to always try and end your thoughts with positive ones, so you go to bed with a content mind. It might sound kind of silly, but it does wonders to your mindset.
3. Organize + Prioritize
Becoming organized is one crucial step I took that significantly helped with decreasing my anxiety. Whether it is digital or handwritten, a planner for writing things down really helps you get things done. Some might say how stressful it is just to look at a to-do list, and I felt the same way at first, but that changed as I attempted to focus on one assignment at a time. I’ll get to this in the next tip, but setting small goals like that and taking it one assignment at a time helps remove a lot of anxiety. Sorting your assignments by urgency and importance gives you a clear order to work in. An app I recommend for this is Wunderlist, which can visually show you when each assignment is due and give you a better idea of how to prioritize your assignments.
Getting rid of your distractions and working efficiently is really important too. I use the app Forest to stop myself from looking at my phone every so often. If you are also guilty of procrastination for the same reason, this app is a godsend. I use the 45/15 rule, where you spend 45 minutes working then have a 15 minute break to effectively balance out work and rest. For those that feel like that 45/15 might be too long, 25/5 is also a good time range to work and rest in.
4.Set small goals
Last but certainly not least, set small goals. To get an idea of how big of an influence small goals can have on an individual, I’d like to share a famous story about the Japanese marathon runner Yamada Motochi. He had unexpectedly won the 1984 Tokyo International Marathon Invitational championships with few that had even heard of his name before. The key to his success, as documented in his autobiography 10 years later, was the following: “Travel the whole route and check it carefully. I will mark some important signs along the road, such as the first mark is a bank, the second mark is a tree, and the third mark is a red house, thus mark to the end. When the race begins, I run as fast as I can towards the first goal, the bank. When I arrive at the bank, I will strive for the second goal, the tree. I break the whole marathon route into many small goals and finish them one by one easily.” (eytankobre.com)
By breaking it down into smaller, more realistic goals that one could see the end to, he was more motivated to complete each step. This could be applied to something like a long paper due in 2 weeks and even a small task due tomorrow. Taking everything step by step prevents you from getting easily discouraged by the difficulty and allows you to see the progress along the way.
While it is good to remain optimistic and happy as much as you can, the more important part is letting things go and being able to express your feelings. You don’t have to be happy all the time, and that is more than okay. If you feel like you need to cry, let it out and don’t allow it to overtake you. I like to speak of it metaphorically: the tears and unhappiness are ‘quick stops’ that you make (like on a train!) to give yourself some time to calm down and just breathe.