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Senior stress: I’m out of whack

A summer course, honors classes and a failed driving test have a letter-writer feeling stressed.

Can our elder help her put things in perspective?

 

Dear EWC

This is my senior year in high school and I am stressed. I feel like all my troubles are collapsing in on me. Everything has made me feel out of whack. I failed my drivers test after getting nervous. I practiced for hours and hours with my mom and I never imagined failing. I decided to take a summer course – I never imagined the stress-inducing whirlwind that has been. I’ve barely thought about university. Next year (I attend a cadet school) I’ve been promoted to a high rank and instead of feeling proud I feel so out of my comfort zone and I can count one million ways I will mess it up. My classes are honors so I just know how confusing and hard they will be. Projects, assignments and other things have already begun to pile up and school has not started. Because I took a summer course in the midst of coming back to school, I’m required to take my exam and if I fail, I wasted my parents 6oo dollars they spent on the course itself. 

Everything has been stressful. My brothers have come home from university and they make me feel so insecure about everything I do. I feel ridiculed by the both of them. They have their own apartment and more than anything in the world I want them gone. Everything feels so out of control for me. I honestly wish I didn’t have to go back. I know my problems seem small and manageable, but the weight of the pressure and stress have been getting to me. I’ve seen a noticeable weight gain and I can tell I have not been properly taking care of myself. I awake at random times and study for hours. I sleep in short bursts. I avoid my friends like the plague. I feel nowhere ready for my exam.

 

Jay replies

First, let me welcome you to one of the least exclusive clubs in the world; students who have failed their first driving test due to nervousness. I was so upset that it took me two years to get up the nerve to try again, but then I did pass, and I have been, with all due modesty, a very good driver. 

In all seriousness, Monica, I can see that you are a highly motivated person, and such persons often have to deal with stress. You are really dealing with a natural biological reaction, and a certain amount of stress is good because it produces adrenaline, which can help us to perform better in certain situations. (Think of our Neanderthal ancestor coming face to face with a saber-tooth tiger.)

Unfortunately too much stress or dealing with stress too often is not good for you physically or emotionally.

One way to cope with stress is to focus only on the immediate task at hand. Don’t worry about issues that may or may not arise in the future. Approach your problems one at a time. As someone who has had to cope with stress and anxiety all during my life, I cannot count the times I have worried for no reason at all about situations that never came to pass. 

One suggestion, Monica, is to put things in perspective and consider that life is more about the journey than it is about the destination. If you try your best that is all that anyone, including your parents or yourself, can ask from you. Also, I want to let you in on a little secret. At some point in your life, you will experience failure; we all do. It is not pleasant but knowing that everyone goes through it can help ease the pain. Also sharing your disappointments with friends can be very therapeutic. 

Consider, Monica, that there are numerous methods for reducing stress, including exercise, socializing and meditation. I have attached an article listing these and many other ways to cope with stress. 

Finally, if you ever feel that your stress has become unmanageable and is adversely affecting your physical, mental or emotional well being, then I would recommend that you have a talk with your parents and suggest to them that you would like some professional help the stigma once attached to seeking professional help no longer exists and most people recognize that your mental and emotional health is as important as your physical health.

Miss, I wish for you only success in life, and, more importantly, I wish for you a joyful life.

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