It was the beginning of junior year when I started experiencing a lot more stress than usual. I was in my counselor’s office and he was looking through my records.
"Bracy, if you want to graduate with a high GPA," he said, "you’re going to have to start passing your classes with straight As and Bs."
After that, I tried hard since I wanted to graduate with honors. I studied late at night and the next morning. If I didn’t understand a lesson, I stayed after school for tutoring. Adding to my stress, I had to do some chores around the house after finishing my homework. I barely had time to eat dinner, and even less time to enjoy being with family and friends.
I felt like I wasn’t going to get anywhere in life. Not having enough time for everything made me feel overwhelmed. I wasn’t enjoying life and that made me feel depressed. I noticed that I was constantly angry with everyone. I had frequent colds and always had muscle tension in my neck. My concentration level dropped. The more I stressed on everything, the less I accomplished. However, being stressed also kept me on my toes and I figured that if you want to be successful in life, stress is always going to be around.
Half way through my junior year, I had to register for the SATs. Little did I know what I was getting into. I studied two books and attended the Ivywest SAT Prep class for two hours after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays over a two-month period. But that was only the beginning of college-search stress.
During senior year, I applied to 13 colleges. The year before when my senior friends complained about how many college applications they had to fill out, I thought, "How lazy can they be? All they have to do is fill out their names, addresses, their majors, etc." I didn’t realize until I got my first application that essays were included! Essays?! To top it all off, I wanted to apply for scholarships, so I had to write essays about topics like: who I admired the most, what was my reason for attending college, or what is one thing that I would change in my community.
The stress got so bad that I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about exams I had the following day. The next morning, I’d wake up with a headache and didn’t feel like I had the energy for school. But I knew that if I didn’t go, I would miss the lessons. I realized that it was time to do something about my stress. Thankfully I discovered The Unofficial Guide to Beating Stress, a really excellent book that breaks down some stress-coping techniques. Here are a few that helped me.
In ninth grade I often forgot to write down my homework assignments. I would get home, throw my backpack on my bed and watch TV for hours. I would eat and have long conversations on the phone. When the next day came around teachers would say, "Hand in your homework." I didn’t remember that we had any homework. I looked around and noticed everybody else turning in their assignments. I felt like an idiot. I fell behind in algebra and French.
As a senior though, I jotted down everything in my planner, from homework assignments to phone calls I had to make. Before I left any class, I made sure I had written down the homework. Instead of getting Ds and Fs, like I did before, I earned As and Bs. Besides the planner helping me with school, it helped me organize my life outside school. Before, I wouldn’t know that I had a doctor’s appointment until the secretary called me the night before. Then, I had to ask my mom to take me, ruining her plans for the next day. Also, I had to figure out whether I would go to school or miss the whole day. One of these situations caused my mom and me to get into an argument about how I leave things to the last minute.
It’s really easy to find a planner. I found one at the 99¢ Only Stores that had everything I needed: an address book, hour-by-hour daily pages, a to-do list and calendar pages.
I used to have problems concentrating and I couldn’t think things through. I performed poorly at school because I was so tense that I couldn’t pay attention. Eventually I couldn’t handle it anymore, and I knew it was time to relax. But how?
I attended a yoga session but I couldn’t stop laughing at the instructor. Instead of concentrating, I was paying attention to how everybody was making all these funny sound effects like saying "Ohm, ohm," or I was watching people try to bend in ways they couldn’t really do.
After yoga didn’t help me relax, I had to find something that would. Luckily I was on the swim team and the exercise definitely helped. I started sleeping a lot better and I felt more energized. The main point was to get my mind off of things. I don’t feel the tension in my neck as often, either.
Now this is the most challenging technique of all, if you’re an eating freak like me. Take a look around you at nutrition and lunchtime. What do you see everybody eating? Chips, soda, cookies and all that good stuff. But eating unhealthy also relates to stress. I barely had any time to eat a healthy breakfast. On the go at lunch, I would grab a hamburger and fries every day thinking that that was enough food for me. My favorite foods were: hot dogs, tacos, burritos and ice cream sandwiches. As a result, I gained 10 pounds while in high school. However, being on a diet does not mean you don’t eat. Instead of having those chips and soda for a snack, I eat an apple or an orange and drink a lot of water. Just eating three meals a day has helped me lose a couple of pounds. Now, not only have I lost the weight, but I have more energy to get things done and I can fit into jeans that I couldn’t fit into before.
When you eat all that junk food it can affect your digestive system. I read in another book that eating junk food can upset your stomach and cause diarrhea or other problems. Because the digestive system slows down, the food sits in your stomach for so long. So drink plenty of water and eat your fruits, vegetables, protein and whole grains. You can treat yourself to a hamburger and fries once in a while, but not too often.
In the middle of my junior year I felt trapped by school and fatigue. Instead of going out on the weekends, I found myself staying at home doing homework or just not having the energy to go out. My friends and family even called me a "party pooper." I had to work on projects and do all kinds of chores around the house—wash dishes, vacuum, dust, and clean my bedroom, the kitchen and living room. As a result, I knew I had to get organized—not only with my school tasks, but my house chores as well. Prioritizing my time made life easier. I did my homework as soon as I got home. That way, I didn’t have to worry about it throughout the weekend, and I could go out again.
Haven’t you noticed that every time you go out with your friends or family, something exciting happens? One time my family and I went to Mexico with some family friends to camp at the beach. On the way there, one of the three cars overheated and another got stuck in sand. Finally, we arrived at the destination and the weather was not all that great. The first night was windy, the second, there was rain, and finally the third night, there was a terrible sandstorm. Throughout the whole trip, I was so scared, but looking back, it was so exciting.
Spend time by yourself
There were times when I would feel so out of place. People would be talking to me and I wouldn’t be paying attention to what they were saying. All I heard was "Blah blah blah blah…" I just wanted to be alone. I was so overwhelmed and was yearning for at least one minute to myself. Instead of worrying about me, I was worrying about whether so and so would graduate, or who got into a fight or a friend’s relationship problems. I had to make time for myself. Sometimes I felt angry with the whole world and I couldn’t share my feelings with my friends and family. I just thought that no one would understand what I was going through.
So now, I tend to schedule my time equally. Mondays through Thursdays, I dedicate my time to schoolwork, as well as talking to my friends once in a while. Saturdays and Sundays, I spend time with my loved ones and friends. But Fridays, I try to spend time by myself. I go out and buy something for me. Hey, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. So sometimes I go to the salon and get a manicure and pedicure.
Some suggestions: listen to your favorite music, take a long hot bath, go out to the store and buy yourself a gift. You can also close your door and lay down in silence, or head outside to the park. Just pamper yourself and do whatever is best for you.