School stress: can’t sleep

I spend 12 hours a day on schoolwork and the stress is unbearable. Help!

Our elder, a former educator, has some tips for a student who’s feeling anxious about school.


Q. Dear EWC:

I’m writing hoping to receive some advice about school and what I can do to fix my issue. I am feeling unbearable stress from high school. It’s like constant pressure and something that will never go away. Even during the weekend, breaks, summer! I never have time off. My grades are good but because of this whole distance learning, all we are doing now is submitting everything before the deadline. The teachers don’t even care if we are learning at this point. I honestly don’t think I have learned a lot since the beginning of the school year. My teachers left comments that I am not participating enough or that I have late assignments. I don’t participate at times because of social anxiousness that I feel when I want to ask a question and that’s why most people my age won’t talk during class but they just won’t realize that. I try extremely hard to hand in the assignments on time but I only have one or two late assignments. It’s like everything we do right now affects our future.


I want to do big things and go to an amazing college with a great job but I don’t know if I will be able to do that with my grades right now. I’m only 15 and this stress is keeping me up all night. It’s literally 2:30 am and I can’t sleep because of worrying about it so much. We are expected to sit at a computer screen for online classes for eight hours and then do homework for another three to four hours. That’s 12 hours I spend on school. I barely have time for anything. I’m so tired and it makes me sad that I’m only a child facing this much stress and work. I want to be living my life. But I also want to do good in school. You see, school isn’t about learning anymore. It’s about competition. They don’t care if you’re learning they just care about who is doing the best and reward them for it. It bothers me so much that something I used to love a lot is the reason I cry multiple times a week. What advice would you give to handle all of this schoolwork and do you think I’m right about all of this workload being put on top of us?


A. Elder Bess replies:

You obviously want to do well in high school. I feel for you… and every other student who has to deal with online learning. I also feel badly for parents with children who work from home and have to be sure their children are learning and focused online while still maintaining their own jobs! It is just a bad situation right now for the entire world. I know that doesn’t make you feel any better but it is still a fact.

Ok, now, what do we do about your situation?  Are you just not motivated or do you not comprehend the information?  Is this stress new to virtual learning or have you always been one to bear stress when it is regarding your schoolwork?

I have several suggestions:

First, it sounds like you need organization. You need to maintain a daily planner so you can keep track of your assignments and the due dates. It might not seem important since you are not attending in-person school but it is still very important. You need to then make sure to look at it. If you have an assignment that is due in a week, you will need to count down the days until then on each page of the planner.

Secondly, you need to break up your assignments into smaller parcels. A person facing a huge challenge can become overwhelmed but when that challenge is broken down into smaller steps, it is, indeed, manageable. Figure out what the assignment is and break it down like this:  1) Arrange book and notecards on table. 2) Take 3×5 cards and write a question on one side and the answer on the other. 3)  If textbook has questions in the back of the chapter, use those. 4) Every day go over the questions and quiz yourself. 5) Separate the questions you can answer correctly from those you miss 6) Go over the ones you miss until you understand every question and can come up with the answers.

The above will work for subjects like history, science and maybe English vocabulary or a foreign language.

When I was struggling to learn another language as an adult, I used flash cards and the above technique which really helped!

Don’t be afraid to email your teachers if you don’t feel like answering or asking questions during class time. You might even let the teacher know that you are feeling a lot of stress and anxiety speaking up in class which is why you find it easier to ask questions outside of class time.

If your parents are unaware of your high levels of anxiety, you could talk to them about it and it may be possible for you to get some outside counseling help to learn ways to manage this stress.

I am also sure that the teachers, themselves, are under a lot of stress having to teach online. They would rather teach in person.

Is it unfair or unreasonable to have to sit there in front of the computer all day and then do hours of homework every night? Not really because you would be sitting in class and doing homework for the same amount of time if you were in school. If you would rather be doing something else, tell yourself that you will ‘reward’ yourself with free time once your required work is finished. Break homework into smaller time periods and take frequent breaks. Don’t allow yourself distractions such as texting friends, watching videos or playing video games. Use those as rewards for when your assignments are done.

I know this may sound ‘preachy’ but it really does work. I am a former educator and those high school students who used flash cards, a day planner and a schedule for assignments really succeeded. Some of them were amazed at how much it helped to learn these techniques!


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