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Topic: extreme pre-exam stress

4 posts, 0 answered
  1. C74
    C74 avatar
    6 posts
    11 March 2019

    Growing up, I was never one of those diligent kids; you know the type. Those that go around holding massive organised binders with highlighted notes and study timetables... I would show up to class, occasionally listen, and binge study the night before; strangely, I managed to get by until year 11, when my grades began dropping quite extremely.

    This year, I am in year 12, the final grade of school. Afterwards, it's university where my life can truly begin, and I can mostly be independent and free. But before then, there's this hurdle I must cross; the HSC.

    The moment 2019 began, something clicked and I felt this resolve; I must study hard, I must work to get the best results I possibly can. Surely that's great, ambition is key to success and all that, right? Nope.

    I've heard stories of people who've gone overboard, and I've always pushed that aside. People told me that you should always put your health and wellbeing above studying and they're definitely right, as I've learnt much too late. Now I've fallen into a deep dark hole that I can't get out of.

    The start of the year was great; I made sure I slept at 10:30pm, I kept a diary, I made sure most of my homework was done and studied hard over the monthlong summer holidays. Alas, it wasn't enough. <- Result of me being too lax throughout year 11

    Now I'm in the middle of my assessment block, which'll go on until end of next week. We get ranks in these. As a result, I'm finding myself studying until 3-4am, I'm studying on the train, I'm skipping meals to study, I don't take breaks... Incredibly unhealthy. I've been suffering from low blood sugar levels, and now I've fainted twice in public from fatigue, and fell onto hard concrete both times so I've currently sustained injuries on my arms, legs and fingers (making it difficult to write fast). Not long ago, something happened (not going to go into much detail, it's not too relevant) which wasted an hour of my time. I had a completely mental breakdown, and refused to eat dinner, sobbing and panicking in the fear that people may have 'caught up' to me in that one hour. I have a stomach ulcer as a result of skipping meals, and the pain worsens when I'm hungry. Yet despite starving from skipping meals, I felt as if I had to catch up due to that lost hour. Just that one mere hour.

    I have gone from overly lax to excessively stressed. I can't help it, and I don't know what to do. If anyone could leave advice, I would so grateful. I just can't go on like this.


  2. Summer Rose
    Valued Contributor
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    Summer Rose avatar
    32 posts
    11 March 2019 in reply to C74

    Hi C74

    I'm no expert, but rather a mum who has supported two teens through VCE. I'm going to tell you what I would tell one of my own kids straigh up: your study habits are not healthy and you must change your behaviour now. You are at risk of burning out, becoming very unhappy and physically and mentally unwell. And it is only March.

    Instead of aiming for quantity of study time aim for quality. Target your effort and don't try to do it all. Simply do your best within reason.

    Get a large calendar for your room and plan your study. Look at your assignments and/or tests and record due dates on the calendar. Consider the weight of each assessment and then work backwards to block off appropriate time for study based on competing priorities. You don't always have to aim for top marks. Sometimes good enough, really is good enough. Be smart about where you give your time.

    Your major study hours should be at the time of day you are most productive. For some people this is early morning, for others evening. As a rule of thumb, aim for an hour before dinner and three hours after dinner.

    Work in 30 minute blocks (short, sharp, focused effort) with your phone off and then take a break. Eat, drink, stretch for your 10 minute break. Then back to the books.

    Every two hours take a half hour break. If you can, get some exercise in here. Try to get to bed by 11 pm.

    Stick to a routine and remind yourself that madly studying for hours on end is not productive. You are actually doing more harm than good. Remind yourself that there is more to life than high marks. There are many ways to get into most uni courses. Instead of trying to keep all doors open, ask yourself if you really need all those doors open.

    If you can't change your thinking on your own then you really need to talk with a professional about this. Your GP or school counsellor would be a good place to start.

    Stop. Breath. Reset. You can get through this.

    Kind thoughts to you

  3. C74
    C74 avatar
    6 posts
    15 March 2019 in reply to Summer Rose

    Hello Summer Rose,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I just wish I could bring myself to organise my time like this. On top of going to school (which is 1 hour away from where I live), I have six tutoring classes per week, all 2 hours each. At LEAST five hours of my time is spent travelling to and from my tutoring, and I'm running out of time to do anything. Nothing's working, I'm working so damn hard and I'm doing worse than I was back when I barely put in any effort, I don't know why. I can't absorb any information, I'm so damn tired.

    Ever since my last post, I've developed a sore throat too. My immune system's gone crazy from lack of sleep and I've been neglecting my health. I've been skipping meals more and more, to the point where my stomach ulcer has worsened. When you have a stomach ulcer, the last thing you want to do is skip meals, since that worsens the pain, but I've been doing just that. I've put in all this dedication to working hard, I want to be a doctor someday, I want my parents to be proud of me.

    They never acknowledge me, they never tell me they're proud. I slave away at my studies, but when I come back from a test not completely satisfied, they tell me off for not working hard. I can't even lie down on my bed for 5 minutes without getting told off. It's not fair, I just want them to be proud of me, I'm putting in all this work and dedication and I'm still failing. It's just so unfair. Some of my friends get by through doing practically nothing, and everything's failing for me.

    Worst thing is, I can't help but punish myself whenever my parents aren't happy with me. I just want them to show that they care about me just an inkling, so I can't help but ignore everything wrong with me (my throat, my stomach ulcer) and worsening it. I just want to see them care about me more than my grades just once. I just want them to stop thinking about my grades, and trust me to do this myself. Please don't say "Your parents will be proud of you and realise they're wrong in the future when you're successful" or "Stop worrying about your parents being proud, do this for yourself" or anything like that. I'm not going to be successful at this rate, my grades are dismal despite working so hard. I am doing everything for myself, but it'd be nice if my parents were proud.

    I can't control the way I think. I'm sorry, I just can't... I just want someone to understand how I'm feeling right now, I just want to be acknowledged :(

    Sorry if I just dampened your day,


  4. Summer Rose
    Valued Contributor
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    Summer Rose avatar
    32 posts
    16 March 2019 in reply to C74

    Hi C74

    It was really nice to hear from you again. I want you to know that I hear you and I do understand. I've seen the effects of year 12 pressure first hand. I do get it. I am sitting with you in friendship and support.

    I read your post and I saw a gerbil running on his wheel. Just running and running, until slowing with exhaustion until the inevitable flop.

    You need to get off the wheel, sweet child.

    Your body is talking to you but you're not able to realky listen. You're pushing through, which shows your determination, but I believe this compulsion will eventually bite hard unless you take some action. And I believe you know this too. I am worried about you.

    Would you consider dropping a subject? You don't have to do the full program and this strategy would give you more time and take some pressure off. (My daughter did this to safeguard her mental health and is now studying architecture at uni.) Can you participate in tutoring classes via Skype? Can you attend tutoring fortnightly instead of weekly? Can your parents drive you sometimes, which may be faster than the bus?

    Take yourself off the wheel long enough to think long hard about what is within your power to change that will help you survive this year.

    Your goal of being a doctor is admirable. There are many paths to get there. I know young people who have studied paramedicine, even physiotherapy, and then applied. Others who are in science aiming to transfer. It is not an all all or nothing situation. Life unfolds in mysterious, often unexpected ways.

    Please try to keep the pursuit of marks in perspective. Please listen to your body. Keep talking about how you feel.

    For what it's worth, I am proud of you. You are smart, you are trying and you have the courage to reach out for support. You will get there. My wish for you is that you get there safely.

    Hang in there