Three ways to manage stress in your last year of school

Image: Three ways to manage stress in your last year of school

What's more important to remember than the answers to your exams?

I am probably one of the least equipped people to talk about dealing with stress. Every time someone asks me to share a prayer request, my brain immediately leaps to tasks I haven’t completed and looming deadlines. And like any good procrastinator, I’m not ashamed to admit I frequently watch funny cat videos (and more recently Golden Retriever puppies jumping into swimming pools) on YouTube…

A few years ago, I was in the same situation as you—rapidly approaching end of school exams and major assessments, joining the caffeine craze and spending a few too many late nights buried under a pile of textbooks. I felt like there was a perpetually flashing neon sign in the back of my mind, saying: How on earth am I going to finish this assessment task on time? What if I fail my exams? What if I don’t get into University?  

Through this article, I hope to share some of the things God has taught me along the way.

So what does the Bible recommend we do with our stress? Here are three simple suggestions to help you deal with stress and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus:

1. Remember to find your identity in Christ

Although many senior students admit the goal for their final year of school is to get good grades; we need to remember that we are more than our grades. 

In Galations 2:20, Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Instead of living to impress your favourite teacher or get the top grade in your class, we should strive to impress the one who created us; the one who loved us so much that he sent his only son to die the death that we deserved! Put simply, do your best to bring glory to God.

When I was in my final year of school, it was an incredible comfort to know that the creator of the universe had a plan for my life. And even though his plan involved enduring English essays, French speaking exams, and becoming nocturnal during exam time, his grace was sufficient for me.

As Hebrews chapter 4 reminds us, we do not serve a God who is unable to sympathise with our suffering. Jesus had every reason to be a crowd evading, holier-than-thou, know it all. In fact, at one point Jesus was too busy even to eat, and his family thought he was going crazy (Mark 3:20–21)!  And yet he didn’t spend hours watching, ‘I told my kids I ate all their Halloween candy’ videos on YouTube or avoiding his responsibilities. Jesus did not neglect his calling, no matter how hard it proved to be. 

So whenever you’re feeling stressed, look to the one who was tempted and tried in every way and still did not sin. 

2. Remember to read God’s word 

According to the renowned Christian author and preacher John Piper, worry and anxiety is actually a sin.  When we’re worried or anxious, we’re failing to trust God. Even though we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:31–39) —not even death —we still fail to trust God’s care. 

Paul describes the secret to weeding out stress and anxiety in Philippians 4:11, as learning to be content in every situation and relying on God’s strength. 

We are all anxious and flawed in our faith. But the more we read God’s word (and mature in our faith), the less anxious we will become. God does not promise that we will be completely free from anxiety, but we can find reassurance his word. For instance, in 1 Peter 5:7, we are reminded to “Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for [us]”.

In his book, Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung warns people not to become so immersed in the busyness of life that we just give Jesus our “spiritual leftovers”.  He says we must acknowledge Jesus’ warning in Luke 10:38–42. Martha, who is anxious and troubled, is too busy to fall at Jesus’ feet to worship him and learn from him. Don’t let the stress of an upcoming exam detract from your regular quiet time.

3. Remember to rest

You’ve just pulled off an all-nighter and handed in a mammoth assessment just before the deadline. What a legend. Right? Wrong. We can’t just borrow time. It has to come from somewhere. The next day, or even the day after, your body will demand sleep, or else it won’t be able to function properly and you will likely end up getting sick.

And yet, Crazy Busy says the average American is sleeping two hours less per night than a century ago!  Although we sometimes feel invincible, God created us to sleep for nearly one third of our lives.

The Bible also reminds us that keeping the Sabbath is still necessary. In Hebrews 4:9–11, it says, “…for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” So, a bit of healthy procrastination and a day of rest is just what the creator ordered. Not only that, but it reminds us of the eternal rest we receive in Christ Jesus.

So, don’t forget to take time off study to spend time with your friends, go shopping, kick a ball, or go on a holiday camp. Putting regular quiet times and adequate rest into your busy schedule will make your last year at school so much more worthwhile.

Want some help?

  • If you’re looking for something to help you read the Bible more regularly, why not try the devotional Survival Guide series by Kristen Young and John Young? Each book includes 10 weeks of daily devotions, with plenty of tips and helpful ideas for beating exam stress and keeping your brain and body healthy.
  • If you live in Australia, and would like to attend a HSC study camp, check out Youthworks HSC Study Camps.

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