5 ways to survive the end of the school year.
The end of the school year can be rough. April and May are typically the busiest months for mental health professionals. Interestingly enough, April is Stress Awareness Month and May is Mental Health Awareness Month! For many of the teens and college students who I work with, the end of the school year is a particularly stressful time—deadlines, a pressure to complete assignments that were put off and studying for finals. Maybe you are starting a new school in the fall or going away to college. The awareness that these transitions are approaching can also contribute to anxiety during the last few months of school… And don’t disregard the fact that you have been in school for almost 9 months now and you are probably exhausted!
So how do you finish this marathon without burning out?
Here are 5 helpful tools:
- Keep things in perspective. Stressful situations are easier for most people when there is an endpoint in sight. Remember that you are nearing the end of the school year and the barrage of academic demands will end shortly. If you find yourself overwhelmed, it might be helpful to lower the expectations you are placing on yourself. Focus on getting your work done. Remember it does not have to be perfect. Education, whether it is high school, college or grad school is a place for you to learn. It is okay to not have all the answers and make mistakes. If you knew everything 100% you wouldn’t need to be in school! Do the best you can with what is in front of you.
- Practice grounding. When anxiety takes over your brain, it can be extremely difficult to think rationally. Panic symptoms can cause you to go into fight or flight mode, which is not using your higher level thinking. So how do you get your logical brain back onboard? Hit the pause and let yourself just be. Feel your feet on the ground. Notice your surroundings. The 5,4,3, 2,1 game can be a great way to bring yourself back to the here and now. Scan your current environment for 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, listen for 3 things you can hear, find 2 things to smell and 1 thing to taste. This grounding exercise can be a quick way to bring you back to the present moment.
- Let yourself feel your feelings. It is okay to feel angry, “over it”, tired, disappointed or sad. Whatever you are feeling, allow yourself to feel it. Feelings are feelings, they are not good or bad and there is no reason to suppress how you are feeling. Let yourself Ride the wave, in other words, let yourself surf the intense emotion rather than trying to change it. Remember, no emotion is permanent, allow yourself to experience what you are feeling in the moment without judgment.
- Schedule activities to look forward to. I think by now most people are aware that positive incentives can increase motivation. Whether or not your grades are where you want them to be, you worked hard this year, so give yourself a reward. Examples of rewards could be getting a massage or pedicure, planning a dinner date with some friends or taking a weekend trip that you’ve been putting off.
- Join a group. Having some accountability can be super helpful if you are struggling to stay motivated during these last few weeks of school. Being with peers can also provide a safe place to vent about what is bothering you and see that you are not alone. Group members can often provide helpful solutions, sharing what has worked for them. Group therapy can also be a great place to share your feelings in a safe supportive setting, without the threat of judgment.
It can be so hard to keep the momentum going at this juncture. Give yourself a break, let yourself feel, be where you are and talk it out. There is a light at the end of this tunnel!
Feel free to post any other tips you have for surviving the end of the school year.
Teen girls- contact me if you are interested in joining a therapy group this summer.