Exams, the most stressful time in a student’s calendar. We’ve all experienced those pre-exam mornings when you ask yourself: is it worth all this anxiety? Meeting friends on campus those long days before an exam is the worst. The conversation usually goes like this:
You: “How are you doing?”
Friend: “Pretty okay actually, I studied all of last week and I’m just heading to the library right now.”
You: “…” (deep panic silently sets in)
We’re all familiar with this feeling. But often, no matter how put together others may seem, they really aren’t. It’s just a facade to hide the fact that they too have been eating cake and watching Netflix in bed all weekend. I am certainly one of these people. I’m compensating for the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing. In reality, I’m stressed out probably 90 percent of my day and I have an ever-growing collection of grey hairs to prove it.
“Making mistakes and learning from them is an essential part of what makes us human, yet we go through such extreme lengths to avoid them.”
In our society, stress is seen as something bad and to be avoided. Just look down your street and you’ll probably see five yoga studios that all promise you less stress and more zen. But we all live in contradiction of this belief. We all strive to be perfect and we become anxiety-ridden creatures any time we even approach failure. Making mistakes and learning from them is an essential part of what makes us human, yet we go through such extreme lengths to avoid them. But the fact is that we are not trying to succeed only to satisfy ourselves, but also to show the people around us that we are capable of success.
From a young age we are taught that too much stress is highly detrimental to our well-being, but what has our society done about it? There isn’t a better example of inaction than universities – you can see the results of this inertia on the faces of almost every student. The life of a student can be followed along a positive parabola – extreme stress during exams, long periods of absolutely nothing in-between, and then extreme stress once again. Rinse and repeat. Stress levels during exam period get so out of hand that many students are physically and mentally not capable of doing their best. There is plenty of research that has found that people do not perform well when operating at their extremes. Without stress, people become lethargic and unmotivated to reach their potential. Too much stress and they shut down. It’s a seemingly easy fix: school work should be more equally distributed throughout the year. This would help students maintain a consistent work pace while giving them enough time to study and reach their potential during exams. Universities – and society in general – need to start thinking about the well-being of students. This situation is only getting worse as every incoming year of students is seemingly more competitive than the last. The bottom line is that a healthy mind and body contribute to good results.
“The absolute beauty of being highly stressed is that you stress about being stressed.”
The absolute beauty of being highly stressed is that you stress about being stressed. For those who wonder why students live in extremes – too many parties, excessive drinking, and impressive lack of perspective – it’s because we’re taught to be this way. As I write this there are three weeks until exams and my anxiety has hit an all-time high. Yet we all try to hide the warfare happening in our minds. We all put up calm and composed facades. The more we fake it, the greater the chance we’ll crack – whether it’s today, tomorrow, or sometime in our lives after graduation. We all blame ourselves and kick ourselves for being failures, but we should remember that we’re really just products of our environment. We’re products of a system stuck in a twisted status quo. For the many that are suffering through this, it’s important to recognize that balance is key. In the end, the majority of the things we learn in our degrees will be of no use – university education is about developing a mature way of thinking and deliberating. How much self-destruction is that perfect grade really worth? Hopefully, one-day things will change in academia, but until then, it’s okay to take a breath, to take a nap, or to have some ‘me time’. This exam period, I hope you find an outlet to channel your stress through – speaking personally, writing this column helped me a lot.
Lucia Holaskova is a first-year media information student. This column focuses on Slovakia. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.
- Columnist (Fall 2018)