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Dealing with stress

by Grace Frith published October 29, 2020



Starting senior school and thinking about your HSC year induces stress in most students. In fact, the pressures of high-school are enough to cause stress in any student – especially around exam periods. Stress is a part of life for everyone. The important thing is to know how to deal with stress.  Here is my advice:.

1.      Time Management

Everyone will tell you this. If you manage your time well, you will stay on top of your responsibilities and work and you won’t get stressed by allowing your work to build up and become overwhelming. Use timetables, diaries and planners to know when things are due. You will know if you have 3 assessments in one week, long before they are due, giving yourself the time necessary to complete them or prepare for them.

Obviously, this only works in an ideal scenario, and even those with the best time management skills get stressed. But give yourself the best opportunity to succeed by being organised and sticking to a regular schedule. Remember to balance out time for study, work if you have a job, spending time with friends or family and other extra-curricular activities.

2.      Prioritise

Sometimes, you find yourself approaching multiple deadlines with no spare time on your hands. This means you need to sacrifice – time with friends, that shift at work, a sport game, or an assessment that is worth 5% compared to your 40% one – in order to accomplish the most important tasks.

A relevant analogy I’ve heard is that life is like juggling balls. Some are plastic and some are glass. The plastic ones – it’s okay to drop them. The glass ones are the ones you cannot afford to drop. Know which ones you can drop every now and then, so you can focus on the most important ones. This doesn’t mean ignore anything that doesn’t relate to your school assessments – it’s still important to maintain other aspects of your life – but figure out what to prioritise.

3.      Know your limits

Stress comes from being afraid you cannot meet the expectations set for you – whether by yourself, parents, teachers or employers. When I was in year 11, I tried to start the year with 14 units and a part-time job – it was just ridiculous. I ended up quitting my job and dropping to 12 units. I had way more time on my hands and way less pressure on myself.

Many people continue to struggle with overloading themselves, not just in high school but well into University studies or working life. It is an important skill to learn how to acknowledge you have reached your limit, rather than not be able to achieve your responsibilities and the expectations on you because you are overworked. Many people can commit to studying, working and playing sport in senior school and thrive off being busy – just figure out what you can manage and create boundaries to stop yourself from doing more than that.

4.      Use your stress to your advantage

The worst thing you can do is try to avoid stress. Stress is a mechanism your body uses to motivate you – if you study Biology you’ll understand the fight or flight instinct your body uses to respond to “danger”. In a modern world, danger is no longer physical but things like deadlines and assessments. In response to induced stress, you can either run away (flight) or use the adrenaline in your body to work harder against the stress inducing factor (fight). In high school, you can’t just run away from your problems – so use that stress to motivate you. Avoiding school work because it stresses you out and watching Netflix or finding other ways to procrastinate will only cause you more stress later.

The best thing for me when I am stressed is to write out a list of what I need to do, figure out what needs to be done first and what can wait, then get started. This is using your time management skills, prioritising skills and knowing your limits all together. Know what you are capable of in a set time period, and don’t expect more than that. Scientifically, your stress allows you to focus better – both when studying and in exams.

However, it is important to acknowledge that whilst little bit of stress is a good thing – if you feel constantly stressed or on edge, and unable to relax or focus, then it is an indication the stress is becoming unhealthy. If you are having physical or ongoing symptoms of stress, you should talk to your parents, teachers, a doctor or somebody else you trust about how to better manage your workload and take steps to deal with your stress. It should not impact your study or wellbeing!

5.      Figure out what works for you to destress

Sometimes, stress can become so overwhelming that you cannot focus on study. You might feel tight inside your body, or quite energetic, and your mind might feel like it is going 100 km/h. Everyone will have different ways to destress, but if you haven’t quite figured out what works for you – try some of the options below! You can even add your own to try.


Go for a run

Read a book


Go outside in nature

Watch a movie


Craft – pottery, knitting

Play sport

Face mask/ hot shower



Try a new study space

Tidy or rearrange your room


Paint your nails


Cup of tea/hot chocolate


Listen to music