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I am currently head girl at a grammar school in the south of the UK, I'm taking 3 A levels—biology, chemistry and maths—and coming up to my exams, I am no stranger to stress, so here is a bit of advice for those more stressful times.
The things that would cause me worry and stress differ from year to year, but the important thing to remember is that you are not alone. At times, I felt the need to put on a brave face and smile and pretend to be okay when deep down I didn’t feel okay, and over time I’ve come to the realisation that it’s okay to not always be okay—you’re allowed to have down days and days you’d rather be alone—we’ve all been there and felt that at some point.
In the same way that physical health improves and declines over time, so does mental health. We all go through low points and high points, and if you are at a low point, then it’s good to go to people, seek advice from friends and loved ones. These are the people that care for you unconditionally no matter how you’re feeling on the inside, and it’s so important not to hide things from them and remind yourself they are there for you.
Another really important thing to both your mental and physical health is sleep. After all, we spend around a third of our lives sleeping, so it’s no wonder it affects mood, energy, and concentration levels, our relationships, and our ability to stay awake and function at work during the day. For me, it's too easy to substitute a few hours sleep with some extra school work, binge-watching Netflix, or an extra work shift, but it really is important. Good sleep can improve athletic performance, reduce calorie consumption, and help your immune system, while poor sleep has been linked to a variety of health issues. So here are a few tips for a better night’s sleep which could in turn improve your overall well-being:
- Avoid working on your bed where you do work, as your brain can associate that location too much with work and find it difficult to switch off.
- Historically, our brains would know when to sleep based on how dark it was outside, and they still operate this way, so reduce light levels and use night modes on your phone in the hour or so before you sleep —this way the correct hormones have been released to prep you for sleep.
- Finally, it’s easiest to get to sleep when relaxed and free from concerns. We’ve all had a night where we lie awake and worry. Before you go to bed, try and wind down, be less stimulated, and relax. These days this can be harder than ever, but relaxation techniques, a warm bath or mindfulness practice can all help. If you find you can’t get to sleep, it is always best to get up, and then try again when you feel sleepier.
I hope that has helped some of you, even a little! I'll soon be posting exam and revision tips for my 3 A-Levels, how I got an offer from Oxford University, and how I got 12 A's at GCSE!
Lastly, some little quotes that I came across writing this:
- "We all have those things that even in the midst of stress and disarray, they energize us and give us renewed strength and purpose. These are our passions." ~ Adam Braun
- "I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed." ~ David Benioff, City of Thieves
- "If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles." ~ Doug Larson