We all know that the HSC is a stressful time, and with the added uncertainty of changing COVID situations, anxiety levels are all over the shop and you’re probably experiencing more study stress.
It is important to know that you are not alone in this difficult journey; one in three students experience high levels of stress throughout Year 12.
With this in mind, we have three key, research-backed, strategies to help you deal with study stress and anxiety in Year 12.
Let’s find out what they are!
Tip #1: Pay Attention to Your Breath
This can sound a little random, and questionable at times, but simply being conscious of your breathing can help you maintain your pace and nervous system.
There are two drivers to our nervous system — sympathetic and parasympathetic. You might not be too familiar with these terms, but you have probably heard of ‘rest and digest’ or ‘fight or flight’. These are basically the main ways we respond to the stress of study.
Sympathetic VS Parasympathetic
We may rest and digest, or respond in a parasympathetic way, which means we react calmly and in control.
Contrastingly, we go into fight or flight mode where we trigger the sympathetic nerves and start to feel really anxious. When feeling really anxious, everyone’s body responds differently. Some of us may start to sweat, shake, or feel our heart pound really fast.
When you start to feel anxious and your sympathetic nervous system is switched on, you want to try and switch it off to calm your body down. Breathing is an incredibly simple yet effective way to do this.
Simply pause for a moment, close your eyes if you want to, and take deep breaths focussing on breathing only through your nose. Count to three every time you breathe in, before exhaling; feel your stomach fill up when you take a breath so that you are breathing from your diaphragm.
As you start to calm down, your parasympathetic nerves take control. These nerves slow down your breath, conserve energy and can help you centre yourself.
Tip #2: Get More Quality Sleep
The key term here is ‘quality’!
You are probably thinking, this is obvious, I know I need eight hours of sleep, but research from Harvard revealed that getting deep, quality sleep has a positive physiological impact on our body.
When we are in a state of deep sleep, our body is relaxed and rejuvenating for the day ahead. Our immune system strengthens, and we can deal with stress and anxiety better.
A lack of sleep, or just poor sleep in general, can actually increase the stress hormone levels in your body, and so you can struggle to emotionally regulate yourself throughout the day. What this means is that it becomes more difficult to respond to challenges and overcome obstacles throughout the day if you are running on little sleep.
These are some of the aspects in your everyday life that are impacted by a lack of sleep:
Everyone’s body is different — some of us wake up energised after a six hour sleep, and some of us need the full eight hours to reset.
Consider how much sleep you are currently getting, and how much sleep you need. This could mean waking up earlier to make sure you don’t oversleep, or going to bed earlier to help you fit in more hours.
Find a sleep routine that works for you, and don’t sacrifice sleep for study! Although you may feel the need to keep studying late at night, your cognitive levels will be very low and you will not absorb as much content as you would when you are energised and awake.
Having trouble getting that ‘quality’ sleep? Figure out a sleep routine that works for you; that is, a time in the evening where you prepare yourself for sleep.
This could be a cup of tea, a shower, turning off your phone, or anything that can help you relax and unwind.
Tip #3: Mix Up Your Environment
Numerous studies have highlighted that a change in environment can have an immense positive impact on your mindset and mental health. Even something as simple as opening your window to get some fresh air flowing through the room can really help lift your mental state.
So if you have been spending the day at your desk studying, and realise that you start to feel anxious, distracted or uncomfortable, try switching up your environment.
Sit outside and get some vitamin D! You might like to sit at the kitchen table while someone is cooking dinner, or sit cross-legged on the floor.
This does take a bit of self-awareness to be able to recognise when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious. However, once you realise that you are not feeling your best or your strongest, make the conscious decision to sit somewhere else, and change up where you study.
It is essential that you find ways to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with study in Year 12. So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, remember to breathe, get sleep, and switch your environment up.
Seek Mental Health Support If You Need It
There comes a point when the stress of study for the HSC may feel like too much to handle. If you are struggling with anxiety and mental health, it is important to reach out for professional support.
These strategies we have talked about today are general methods that anyone can try out, but there is a range of support services you can contact, and some free organisations are listed below.
Some organisations you can reach out to include:
Stay resilient, take care of yourself and your mental health, and good luck!
Looking for some extra help with the HSC?
We pride ourselves on our inspirational coaches and mentors!
We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home, online, or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby or the Hills!
To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today!
Nandini Dhir is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Marketing) and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications), as a Dalyell Scholar, at Sydney University. She enjoys covering local issues in her area and writing about current events in the media. Nandini has had one of her pieces published in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald. In her free time, Nandini loves doing calligraphy, ballet, and sewing, or is otherwise found coddling her cats.