It’s no secret that the last two years of school are the most stressful ones. In fact, some of us at Atomi reckon we felt the pressure during our HSC even more than we do at uni. Only difference is, we are (kinda) fully functioning adults at uni and a bit better equipped to deal with the mental stress. Rewind a few years and experiencing the very novel pressure of the HSC wasn’t all smooth sailing.
The stress of assessments, exams or even your formal can have all sorts of effects on your mental health, made all the harder if it seems like you’re battling it on your own. So, in light of remembering how hard we found it, we’ve put together a few tips to help you stay sane and look after your mental wellbeing during your HSC year.
Ah yes, the cult-y world of mindfulness. But hype aside, this stuff works. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on your bedroom floor whilst humming “ommmmm” to reap the benefits (although be our guest 🧘); mindfulness is basically just focusing your awareness on the present moment while peacefully recognizing and accepting your thoughts and feelings.
You can 'practice' or 'build' mindfulness during everyday activities like brushing your teeth. The key is just to try and focus on the present moment. A great tip is to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. It works by keeping your mind from getting caught up in your thoughts, which is a pretty nifty tool to have at hand when you’re dealing with a ton of pressure. Plus, regular mindfulness practice can help you to concentrate, relax and be more productive. If you want to give the meditation thing a go, we really recommend checking out the Headspace app - it has a great guided meditation that’s easy to follow.
Take up a relaxing hobby
One of the things that’s really hard to juggle during your HSC is the balance between working and actually having a life. But giving yourself time away from working is like pressing the reset button on the Wi-Fi box: it’s going to make your brain work again, basically. You don’t have to take massive amounts of time out of your day, but having something to look forward to makes the world of difference and acts as a much-needed mental refresh. Brownie points for an activity that’s going to calm your mind before bed. You could try: yoga, painting, journaling, reading, dancing or anything else that’s going to make you feel all zen ✌️.
Get a good night’s sleep
Talking of relaxation, clocking a good 8-10 hours sleep is a real must for taking care of your mind. When you’re sleeping, your brain has the chance to rebuild and repair itself from the previous day, which means maximum productivity for the following day. So as much as you want to stay up and watch another episode of Game of Thrones or continue playing Fortnite – that’s not going to be beneficial for a fresh and clear mind in the morning.
Side note: power naps. They’re a thing. Embrace them. Love them. 20-30-minutes is all you need, otherwise you’re going to wake up wondering what universe you accidentally fell into.
Have a regular meal plan
If sleep is 50% of your body’s fuel, food is the other 50%. Your brain needs a bunch of nutrients to keep performing and if you’re feeding it crap (or not feeding it at all) it’s going to be in all sorts of mess. Start your day with a good old bowl of cereal, not just because yumm, but also because studies have shown that people who eat a cereal breakfast regularly are “less emotionally distressed and have lower levels of perceived stress” compared with those who do not.
Also: snacks. Revision and snacks go together like toast and avocado (which is a great snack idea, btw 🥑). Take care of your body and your mind will thank you.
Get out and about
When you’re spending eight hours or more hunched over a desk, it’s really important to find time for some physical activity. Even if that just means getting away from your study to dance around the house like a loon or go for a walk, getting your limbs moving is a tried-and-true way of shaking some of that fuzz out of your head. Plus, exercising is scientifically proven to improve your mental health and it’s surprisingly energizing 🏋️.
Use your phone
Contrary to popular opinion, there are ways we can put our scrolling, screen-time addicted thumbs to good use, and one of them is a whole bunch of apps dedicated to managing your mental health.
- Breathe2Relax offers guided breathing exercises to help stabilise your mood, control anger and manage anxiety.
- Mind Shift is designed specifically for teens and young adults with anxiety and basically works like a completely free, pocket cheerleader: changing how you think about anxiety, promoting self-worth and encouraging you to face challenging situations.
- Flowy is a pretty cool game app created to help those with panic and anxiety disorders. You play the game by solving puzzles with your breath, holding down a button while breathing in and letting it go while breathing out, getting you back to calmness in no time.
Do something you love
Make sure you find time in your week to do something you really love. Whether it’s meeting up with friends, or hiding under your blankets for a Netflix binge, try keep your mind away from work-related stress for a couple of hours. Don’t feel guilty for making time for yourself, it’s all part of giving your brain the best chance to perform.
If you’re really struggling, the best thing you can do is talk to someone. Teacher, friend, parent, stranger – there are people around you to help you through what can be a really overwhelming time. Not sharing your worries can make you feel even more anxious, as it allows them to build up and multiply in your own head. Don’t be worried about speaking up, it’s very normal and very okay to need a bit of extra help.
Happy healthy studying.