Many people, certified counsellors, psychologists, behavioural scientists, et cetera have written on how to manage stress. Of course, I am not qualified to write a self-help guide, nor provide professional counselling help to those who are stressed. What I can do, however, is share a few strategies I have used to continue making progress even when I feel stressed and am not in top emotional form.
Before I begin, I think it is important for each person to know his or her limits. Excessive mental fatigue is not sustainable in the long run, and can be detrimental to productivity, as fatigue can cause burnout and reduced motivation. Hence, you need to know when you need to take a break.
However, sometimes when we are stressed, we tend to procrastinate on our work, and this leads to a vicious cycle, for the more we procrastinate, the further we slip behind, and the more stressed we become. In the end, we end up not making use of our full potential, and get stuck in a situation of halted progress, dissatisfaction and frustration.
1. Break up work into smaller tasks
For me, the reason why I tend to procrastinate when feeling stressed is that stress causes me to feel overwhelmed, which makes the tasks I have in front of me appear more daunting than it actually is, and causing some form of irrational dread to take root. Hence, in order to combat this, I break up my work into smaller tasks, which are less intimidating to start on.
2. Create a comfortable working space
Secondly, I also create a comfortable study space, by playing music while studying, making myself a nice cup of tea, using my favourite stationery… the idea is to make the experience of studying as enjoyable as possible, decreasing the “push” factor that causes you to stay away from studying and procrastinate.
3. Tell yourself “I will just do one question”
Sometimes, the first step is the hardest. So don’t make starting even harder for yourself by telling yourself “I have to complete ALL these tasks”. Get yourself started by telling yourself “let me just attempt this one question”. Often times, I find that it gets much easier to continue after that first question, and I just drift along smoothly until I complete more than I expected to!
4. Study with friends
This may not work for everyone, but for me, studying with friends allows me to stay motivated by my peers. Specially gathering in a good location (e.g. the school library) also gives my time a sense of purpose, making me want to use my time productively to study, rather than procrastinate by watching YouTube videos or playing games.
5. Don’t underestimate yourself
Don’t underestimate your capability to perform under stress. Often times, we can handle more stress than we think we can. And in the journey towards the A Levels, stress will be there every step of the way (of course with its highs and lows), and stress can sometimes boost your performance by creating a sense of motivation. With that being said, long periods of excessive stress is not healthy, so do make sure you are getting enough rest and not overtaxing yourself, mentally and emotionally.