Stress Management in the Midst of End-of-Year Exams

Ella Spitz, Contributing Writer

Every student knows that May is “stress season.” The season for standardized tests, the season for end of year shows, the season for major projects. Along with this stress comes an attitude that is told to and internalized by those that stress: “don’t stress.” It seems somewhat absurd now that it is written down, does it not? Suppressing any emotion will not end well in any capacity, especially in situations when one is experiencing undesirable emotions. The only way to reduce the negative effects of an emotion is to understand its root cause and respond to those causes. To be told, or to tell oneself, “don’t feel this emotion because it is causing you pain,” will only exacerbate the feeling.

In the case of stress, people should take three steps in order to gain an inner peace. In any healing or comforting process, the first step to take should always be undergoing catharsis. Catharsis is the act of releasing any sort of emotion or energy that burdened the mind it was released from. Depending on the person, a cathartic experience could be anywhere from a rant to someone, to a flurry of poetry writing, to a good ol’ cry. Catharsis is extremely important when under stress because it not only forces one to acknowledge that what they are feeling is real, but it allows them to let go of all the accumulated stress, validating their feelings. It is crucial to understand, however, that a cathartic experience won’t completely eradicate all stress—it’s just the first step in making peace with one’s emotions.

The next step to take is to gain perspective, to anchor oneself in reality, because it is very easy to spiral when under large amounts of stress. One has to start shallow, and ask more questions to get increasingly deeper.

Say, for example, that someone is stressed about an upcoming test. They ask themselves, “Is this really what I’m stressed about?” and they come to the conclusion that no, they are stressed about how getting a bad grade on the test will affect their overall grade in the class. Once they reach that conclusion, they will dig deeper and realize that they aren’t worried about their grade in the class, but about their GPA. That leads to their stress over acceptance into a good college, which ties into opportunities they’ll have, until the person finally realizes they are stressed about having a successful future. Which is really pretty silly, isn’t it? How will this one test actually determine their success in the future? If one really looks within themselves for the reasons they are stressing, they will see how minuscule their stresses are compared to the many factors, experiences, and opportunities that will shape their future.

Although these strategies can do a lot to minimize stress, many are more drawn to a tangible method—organization. This could be seen in the form of creating schedules with time intervals, cleaning a room, going on a run, or any other preferable action that organizes thoughts and clears the head. After things are sorted out, one should actively try to minimize their stress as best they can.

At the end of the day, it is important to realize that sometimes one will be just plain stressed. The most crucial thing for them to remember is that they do not have to be stress-free, just stress-managed.


This piece also appears in our May 2019 edition.