Written by Mary Hoang, Founder and Head Psychologist at The Indigo Project.
High school can be tough. It’s not easy trying to study, support friends, meet expectations (of teachers and parents), stay fit & healthy, have an actual life and stay sane all at the same time. It’s no surprise then that it’s prime-time for stress and anxiety to take hold. While the experience of high-school can often feel insular, all-consuming and sometimes pointless, it’s actually an incredible testing ground for life skills that will be way more useful than physics or stuff about integers (soz, Mr Moncrief). We’ve collected some helpful ways to approach those prickly high-school hassles and how you can use them to feel calmer and live smarter.
In high school, friends seem like everything – and honestly, they’re pretty important. Research shows that the strength of our social connections is one of the strongest determinants of overall life satisfaction. But it’s not about having heaps of friends, rather, having a few good ones that you can be real and talk openly with. Throughout high school, you might never feel like you’ve found your people and that’s okay too. There are so many opportunities outside school where you will meet plenty of different humans to connect with. And in life you’re always working out what you need in your support system, therefore you’ll have a bunch of friends who will come and go.
MAKING FRIENDS | Questions are key. Ask open questions that can have a range of different responses. Open questions kick-start conversations like “What did you get up to on the weekend?” or “Who are you listening to at the moment?” Plus, people usually love talking about themselves, so asking questions gets you on their good side.
SUPPORTING FRIENDS | Be there for them. Often when mates are going through a crisis, it feels like you need to try and fix it for them. But sometimes what people need most is someone who will listen without judgement and really hear what they have to say.
DEALING WITH BULLIES | Call it out – whether you’re being bullied or you see it happening to someone else, online or irl. Calling out bullying disarms the behaviour and while it might not always stop them completely, it will likely catch them off-guard. Don’t try to bully back as it’s a sure way to rile them up. If you’re being bullied, make sure you talk to someone close to you about it – you shouldn’t go through tough stuff like that alone.
You can do anything, but not everything
Keeping up with studying, homework, after-school commitments, work, friends and family-stuff can feel like you’re juggling flaming torches. It’s impossible to please everyone, and its essential to take care of yourself. Burnout is something that happens when you exhaust yourself physically and emotionally – and it’s quite common at workplaces, schools and unis. It wipes you out, leaves you susceptible to illness and injury, and makes school and social obligations feel almost impossible.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY | It’s remarkable how your body can know something’s up before your brain catches on. If you’re feeling increasingly fatigued, headachy, not sleeping well, eating too much or not enough, getting regular rashes or cold sores, or your body is full of aches and pains, your body might be telling you to slow down. You may need to decrease your workload, get more rest and find healthy ways to relax and recharge. Chat to your parents or teachers about ways they can help too.
ORGANISATION IS KEY… It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you don’t know what’s going on. Keep your assignments, study-sessions, exams, parties, work shifts and family-time written out clearly in your diary or calendar. When you know you have something coming up that sucks a lot of energy (like a big exam or assignment), try not to fill up the preceding week with heaps of social events and double work-shifts. Give yourself space to breathe.
GET MINDFUL… Often when we’re too “in-our-heads” we can wear ourselves out and become totally consumed with the small stuff. Mindfulness is a practice whereby we take a break from pondering over the past and fretting about the future and allow ourselves to exist fully in the now. You can learn it while meditating (there are great apps to help), but you can also practice mindfulness when you’re exercising, absorbed in nature, or immersed in an engrossing activity like art-making, dancing or playing an instrument. Take some time to find an activity that makes you forget to check your phone.
Hopefully these tips will come in handy while you’re navigating friends and school life. Remember, when you’re having a hard time, that everything you’re feeling is completely okay. It’s natural to struggle, and its human to feel overwhelmed, lonely, confused or bored. Don’t try to squish down your feelings, get rid of them or let anyone try to diminish your experience. Learn to reach out to others, to talk about stuff, to ask for help or to say no when you need to. These lessons are the kind that will last a lifetime.
Read more from The Indigo Project’s Mary Hoang about how music and sound can help you destress.