Many students have just gone through tech week for the winter mainstage, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, and many more are watching major assessments beginning to rear their heads after three blissful weeks of winter break and the subsequent readjustment to school. Many in our community, therefore, may require some tips and advice for remaining healthy, happy, and productive through these trying times. No matter how long you have been doing this “school thing,”  juggling a heavy workload along with other responsibilities such as athletics and clubs can still be hard. So, what should a struggling high schooler do?

One should remember the effects stress can have on people and their livelihood. In a 2017 paper published in EXCLI (Experimental and Clinical Sciences) Journal, Yaribeygi et al., a team of neuroscience researchers, dive into the ways stress can negatively impact a person’s biochemistry functionality, including one’s central nervous system, which involves memory and cognitive processing, and even the immune system. In particular, studies referenced in the paper show that stress can hinder the secretion of vital hormones within the immune system—hormones that are crucial in this global pandemic. 

To avoid over-stressing, students typically hear about strictly organized scheduling or anything from getting off the phone and eliminating distractions to engaging in distractions to get them off one’s mind. Many sources from blogs to professionals also suggest identifying priorities as a good stepping stone in beginning to sort through a workload that at first glance may appear overwhelming. This can be as extreme as scheduling exactly when you will do each assignment throughout your day or as simple as choosing one important but accomplishable task and beginning to work on that first and as soon as possible. What both of these approaches have in common is that they require you to focus on one manageable task at a time, rather than staring at the mountain of homework and responsibilities you will eventually have to tackle. Dr. Travis Bradberry suggests that multitasking not only slows down the work process but also decreases the quality of the finished product. When you find yourself feeling particularly hopeless and worn out, the most crucial thing to do (after taking care of yourself and your mental health) is to find some perspective. It is easy to waste energy overdramatizing temporary situations rather than focusing on furthering your progress. 

In addition, Dr. Wendy Hargreaves, a learning advisor at the University of Southern Queensland, advises that students create a dedicated study space in addition to alternative spaces outside or in libraries. She claims that one’s environment has a large impact on the efficiency and quality of their work: A good study space that will improve the experience of tackling work should be comfortable and in a neat or uncluttered space as messes can lead to more stress. This space should also be dedicated as much as possible solely to studying to improve attention span. 

That being said, these are just some of the strategies one could employ to approach work. Everyone is so very different that routines and strategies that one person might find helpful could be detrimental to another. While sometimes it is tempting to turn to Google and scholarly articles by those with PhDs, it is important to keep in mind that there is no quick fix or easy answer for how to lead a happy and balanced life. There is only one suggestion that nearly every resource has in common, and that is taking a break. Above all, your happiness and sense of self-fulfillment are more important than any test, quiz, or homework assignment. Strict time management may be useful, but it should not rule your life. Remember that you know yourself best. Sometimes, when the workload is simply too much, the best and smartest thing to do is to reach out to your teacher(s) for help and/or ask for an extension. All in all, the only approach to work you should take is the best approach for you.