This time of year is one of the hardest for high school students. For me, it is, at least. The lingering cold weather is disheartening, the newness of school has long since worn away, and classes are harder than ever. The middle of second semester seems to stretch on for the longest time. It seems as if winter will never end.


An overwhelming sense of dread follows me wherever I go. The pressure do well and to complete everything before the year is over consumes most of my thoughts. The only thing on my mind is “finish, finish, finish.”


It can be easy for students to fall into this mindset – school becomes the only thing that matters. We are so close to the end of the year, and more pressure is being put on us in classes, sports, and other activities as we begin the final stretch into summer.


When this happens, sometimes the easiest thing to do is just give up. Or stop caring.


For a lot of us, this year has been a lot to handle. I’ve heard from so many people how the stress of schoolwork has changed their perspective on life – and not for the better.


This isn’t only a feeling. Research proves that our society’s attitude towards work and school are anything but healthy, and not as productive as we may think. We live in a society where work and school are valued over focusing on how we feel or getting in touch with ourselves.


Finland, the happiest country in the world, offers more vacation time and shorter work hours than the United States. There is irrefutable evidence suggesting that people in their type of work culture are happier and more productive.  


The evidence is overwhelming that our culture of overworking actually makes us less productive in the long run. According to a Stanford University study, people who worked 60 hours a week were only 2/3rds as productive as those who worked 40 hours.


The same applies to students. When time is allowed for personal growth and relaxation, we become better able to perform in our academic, social, and occupational lives. It makes sense that by this time of year, most of us are pretty burnt out.


It is not natural for us to be putting immense amounts of pressure on ourselves to complete what in reality are minor assignments or tasks.


Now, my purpose in explaining this is not to make you feel hopeless. In fact, it is the opposite. You should know that the stressful culture in school and society is far greater than we were meant to deal with.


It is okay if you are struggling. It is perfectly normal. I know I have been. But there are ways out if we take the time to recognize the unnecessary stressors in our lives and become more in touch with our minds in bodies. Incredible things can happen when you listen to yourself.


For a while, I was dealing with my stress in a pretty unhealthy way. I was anxious all the time and hardly sleeping. I couldn’t find a way to deal with the pressures I put on myself in everyday life.


I tried to ignore how I was feeling and kept pushing – but that only made it worse. Opening up about it to myself and others was when I began to feel better. It made me realize that constant anxiety was not normal and not how I wanted to live. After recognizing that, finding treatments became even easier.


In these past few weeks, I’ve had to take a step back from school in order to gain a new perspective.


There are so many coping mechanisms out there that will help in dealing with the crazy fast world that we live in. I now have a balance of medication, meditation, exercise, and enough sleep every night – all of which play an instrumental role in my health and mental well-being.


But everybody is different – find what you need in order to thrive and destress during the day.


When school seems to be all-consuming, it can be far too easy to forget that there is a whole world out there to live in, especially in these last few months.


And I admit, it is a little disheartening to see snow falling in April. But winter will end, and light will fall on this dark place that so many of us have come to recently. We will get through this, even if it means just surviving for a while.


I ask you to take a moment for yourself. Just to breathe. Ask yourself what you need most… Organization? More sleep? Maybe just some good food? And make time for it. Then get back into the game with a replenished sense of determination – summer will be here before you know it.


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