The stress paradox

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WITH CXC, CAPE and CSEC creeping at the door, we pupils are excited, dejected, busy, lazy, stressed, unbothered, lively, tired, motivated, indifferent; there are not nearly enough words to convey our cascading feelings, as we stand on the brink of these examinations.

In these tests, we earnestly want to do well; we want to make our parents, teachers and schools proud, have them looking upon us with favour and pride.

Generally, though, many of us don’t know how to study effectively in order to conquer these exams, and because of this, and a few other factors, many of us are crumbling mentally due to the overwhelming stress these examinations are imposing upon us. Stress, however, can be considered a paradoxical phenomenon.

While we Trinbagonians know pressure does buss pipe, it also possesses the ability to form diamonds. Ergo, on one hand, stress can be a major vehicle in which we can progress toward success.

To become successful, we often need a catalyst, and for many, this catalyst is stress. In the words of Mrs Michelle Obama, ‘It’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.’

Hence, in dealing with stress and adversity effectively, we reap lessons for life and become more resilient, disciplined and committed; just some of the significant qualities that are mandatory for the real world into which we are about to enter.

Without these obstacles that induce stress, we would just be stagnant and possibly allow ourselves to wallow in mediocrity, which of course, none of us want.

Contrastingly, though, stress can break us. At times, we don’t know how to deal with stress or it becomes a painstaking weight on our shoulders; and as adolescents, this is extremely unhealthy.

For instance, according to Michaela Pascoe, a mental health researcher, academic- related stress can actually hinder academic performance and cause mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, stress can cause sleep disturbances and other adverse effects.

I’m sure most of us can relate to the latter. So, how do we deal with this? Well, let’s outline a few useful tips.

Firstly, we need to take breaks. In my personal experience, taking breaks to enjoy activities that I love such as listening to or playing music, watching my favourite show, even something as simple as watching the night sky in silence, are important ways to regulate my stress levels. And unsurprisingly, the World Health Organisation suggests doing this.

Furthermore, we must stay in touch with our family and friends. Often, we could isolate ourselves in our rooms and forget we’re not fighting alone in this rigorous battle. We have our friends who are writing these exams with us. We are meant to support and aid each other as these exams draw closer. A simple conversation with a friend can ease much tension during any adversity. The same goes with our family, especially our parents.

Additionally, it’s very important to stay physically healthy. Our physical health can have a direct impact on how we fare mentally. We have to make sure to get sufficient sleep, eat well and stay active. The CDC says getting sufficient sleep (eight to ten hours) is essential for good focus and concentration.

A healthy, well-balanced diet helps us think clearly and feel more alert. It can also improve concentration and attention span. Conversely, an inadequate diet can lead to fatigue and impaired decision-making.

Lastly, exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, and boosts physical and mental energy.

We have to prioritise ourselves and our health.

To everyone reading this-I wish you success, not only in these exams, but in life and all your other endeavours. We will undoubtedly conquer CAPE and CSEC, and if doubts ever begin to penetrate your mind, recall this quote by Helen Keller, which I suggest you let reside in your heart: ‘ Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.’

Jonathan Manzano Upper Six pupil Fatima College