No, really. Those of us at Lanterna have been visiting a fair number of schools recently and it seems like a lot of students, at all stages of the IB, are stressed at the moment. Maybe it’s the season, maybe it’s this particular time in the course, but I think it would do us all some good to think about what we can do to combat this. Because we want to be happy, right?
Because believe it or not there are more solutions to stress than this:
(Although it’s a fair point).
A little stress is good for motivation, but too much is not helpful at all. That’s why I want to give you some concrete tips and strategies that will help you to manage and channel your stress into productive work, while becoming a calmer person in the process!
Something to note is that all these things are strategies for the long-term. These are things you can use to create a bullet-proof plan for minimising stress, and that you can keep in mind all the way through the rest of the school year. Looking for some New Year’s resolutions? Here we go!
Write down your worries
I’m not talking about the notes you make in class to memorise atomic theory, or even your homework diary. I’m talking about a personal notebook that becomes the place where you put all your thoughts, stress and dilemmas. I know this sounds very simple, but it’s surprising how often a problem can be solved by simply writing it down.
For example: “I have an essay due in by Friday but I also have sports practice three nights this week and don’t understand anything in Maths.”
Re-read what you have written and try to think about the logical solution. Think about it in terms of three stages: situation, problem, solution.
The situation in this example is that there are three things which seem to be causing the stress. However, if you look at it closely, there is actually only one cause or ‘trigger’, which is the thing that is urgent and makes this situation different from any other week: the essay deadline.
The second thing, the sports practice, looks problematic but actually you should think of it as part of your solution; you need to write the essay in the time you have around the practice.
So that means the solution is to plan out when and how you are going to finish the essay by Friday. If three nights of the week are busy, maybe that means some of it needs to be done over lunch, or during a free period. However, if you plan ahead, it is perfectly manageable.
And what about the third part of the situation? The maths. Well, this needs to be solved, but it isn’t tied to any particular day. Instead, it’s a general problem, which of course will add to the stress unless you work out a plan to fix it. So, again, the solution is to plan how you are going to understand maths. But this can be gradual, for example setting aside an hour a week to focus on maths and going through things that you don’t understand one by one.
The best thing about this strategy is that these are notes you don’t have to keep! If you don’t want a record of all your worries throughout the year, get rid of the pages as you go!
This is what the above point is really about. Planning. It’s not a glamorous thing to commit to, but it will really help in the long-term.
Work out a system that will let you identify the situation and plan ahead accordingly. Create a schedule for each thing you need to do, and stick to it. It’s doesn’t have to be a hard-core, strict thing, just an idea of what you need to do, when. Work out what works for you, but do take at least some time to think through each piece of work you need to finish.
If you’d like to see an example of how to plan ahead for a particular task, take a look at our earlier blog: the method to avoiding an all-nighter
If you like the idea of using a visual calendar for this, remember you can also order an IB-specific wall-planner from our website for free, and we’ll post it straight to you!
I know, you’ve heard this one before. But let me tell you exactly why it’s effective. The stress response is evolutionary; it’s designed to prepare us for action physically (fight or flight). It releases hormones including adrenaline, but also alters the mind and mental processes so we don’t have to think so hard. Of course, when you’re trying to meet three different deadlines over a weekend this is exactly the opposite of you want! You want your mind to be working, right?
A great way to deal with this is to direct the energy into physical exercise, therefore allowing your mind to go back to its normal state. Regular exercise is scientifically proven to reduce stress. But wait! You don’t have to do team sports if the idea of this stresses you out in the first place! Running and swimming is equally effective, while yoga and pilates are both very good forms of exercise that you can do at home, for free, that will also keep you calm.
Give yourself a break
Be honest with yourself about whether this tip actually applies to you, but if you’re the type of person who always feels like you have too much to do and yet seem to be working non-stop, do stop. Not all the time, obviously, but make the breaks part of your planning. You’re allowed to talk a walk, eat something you enjoy, and make plans to go out with your friends. Seriously, this is important, and research has shown that breaks do help productivity.
Sometimes it’s important to chill.