Let the conversation begin.
Our gratitude to Sameen Mahmood, a volunteer mental health advocate in our Hope for Mentally Ill program, for her guest post this week. As a senior in high school, she inspires our team with her contagious enthusiasm and compassion. Learn more about this amazing young girl and what motivates her to give back here.
If you’re one of the millions of students returning to school this fall, you may be suffering from some “back-to-school anxiety.” Not only is this completely normal — you are NOT alone! — but it also can be combated and overcome so you can make school a place where you can focus on what really matters: your future.
Step 1: Do Not Be Afraid to Ask For Help
This could be academic, mental, or any other kind of help. School staff, including counselors and teachers, are there to help you. They have an important role: to answer your questions, guide, and teach you. If you need help with anything, ASK!
Rather than not asking and knowing, asking questions and getting answers will help relieve some anxiety. If you feel too shy or embarrassed — again, you’re not alone as I was in your same shoes for over 10 years! —, be kind to yourself. Keep in mind that the person you will be asking will probably not remember talking to you within the next 10 minutes. This statement isn’t meant to offend you. Staff are generally very busy people and have other things on their minds, so they can’t help it.
If you thought you were too awkward, it really isn’t a big deal. No one will actively try to remember that moment ever. By the next hour, it’ll have completely slipped their minds. So, ASK! Ask your staff, teachers, and counselors. You deserve to have your questions answered.
Step 2: Recognize Shyness is Not a Permanent Curse
In your academic career, you will be faced with talking to others, making presentations, reaching out to people, presenting speeches, etc. Now, although these tasks are really daunting at first, they are 100% doable. Think about it: if they can do it, then so can you!
One way I’ve found to overcome my fear of public speaking is Speech and Debate. By joining this club at my school, I was able to make speeches without difficulty within just one year. If you don’t have a Speech club, be open to clubs like Model UN, Debate, Mock Trial, Toastmasters, and such. These clubs are going to shoot up your confidence IMMENSELY. Speech has probably helped me more than any of the tips on this article. I highly recommend you at least try it out. It’s foolproof, so see what works for you!
Step 3: Avoid Procrastination Whenever Possible
I struggled with procrastination for several years. Surprisingly, overcoming it can be easier than you think. Try the “5 rule” — for five seconds, actually consider starting your work. Just stop what you’re doing and start working on it for five minutes. Five minutes, no more, no less. If you begin your work, you’ll find after five minutes that it really was not as hard of a task as your brain made it out to be. Then, you’ll realize that avoiding the task was more painful than doing the task itself!
There are several other ways to tackle procrastination. Through trial and error, you can see what works best for you. But, researching how to avoid procrastination is a form of procrastination in itself. Starting is often the hardest part.
Also remember that studying does not have to be a laborious, drudging task. You can create a pleasant environment for yourself. Have some mellow classical music playing in the background, sit in a comfortable chair, or maybe lay out some snacks. coffee, You may find find that studying or learning new things can be just as pleasurable, if not more, than binge-watching Netflix or playing video games for hours on end.
Step 4: Manage Your WorkLoad
This tip ties into the previous one. Keeping up with your workload is paramount to academics as well as STAYING SANE and STABLE when you have a lot of classes under your belt. Create a to-do list so you can visually lay out the tasks in front of you. Tackle each task one by one. Take breaks to let your brain rest and digest the information you just learned. Note: Do take breaks for too long or you’ll find yourself procrastinating again!
Step 5: Surround Yourself With Friends Who Lift You Up
I know this step can be really difficult if you’re a hard-core introvert like myself. Often times, though, your friends can be a truly perfect support system to cope with the daily stress of school. The important thing to remember is to surround yourself with the right crowd. Avoid negative people or bad influences, as they’ll just worse your anxiety.
Having positive friends will not only lift your spirits during those tough moments, but will also make you more optimistic. If you have trouble finding friends, being involved with school activities can help tremendously. I’ve found most of my friends through clubs I’m passionate about, but you can also find friends through sports or programs outside of school, such as band or orchestra.
If nothing works, you can always approach others. Try not to be afraid to do so! If you get a negative reaction (which is rarely the case) then they were never a polite person to begin with. Now you know that you should avoid them in future. More often than not, approaching others can help you make friends with someone you also needs a friend themselves. It’s a win-win!
My Wish For You This School Year
I hope these tips have helped those of you are apprehensive about starting school again. I realize how stressful school can be. You can have a million things going on one day and another million due dates the next. But, if I got through it with years of depression, anxiety, and social avoidance, so can you! Don’t forget to take some time for yourself and de-stress. I hope that this school year goes amazingly well for you as you deserve it.
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