As a student in Singapore, feeling stressed is practically inevitable. We are constantly pressured to do well and to be on top of our game. We are also constantly bombarded with homework and CCA commitments. Year after year, we compete in a rat race that is life. And we feel burnt out. But the world will not stop turning for us, and so we must trudge on.   

However, chronic stress is actually very harmful for our physical and emotional health. No matter how stressed you may feel, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and to regain control of your life.

All of us are unique and the amount of stress we can take before we buckle is different. Our reaction in the face of stress is different too. Some of us fight, some of us flight. But even if there is no “one size fits all” solution, one of the following 6 tips is bound to help.

1. Exercise

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones in your body. A quick exercise can be used as a channel to metabolise the overload of stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a more relaxed state.

2. Sleep more

Efficiency is the name of the game. By sleeping well, your head will be clearer, and you will be able to study more effectively.

3. Keep a to-do list

This tip is very effective for me. In the past when I did not have a to-do list, I only knew that I have a lot to do. But exactly what do I need to do NOW? That was unclear. I was running around like a headless chicken, doing the things that came to my mind (when the deadlines loomed ominously near) but neglecting those that might be just as important. As such, I constantly felt stressed.

After I developed the habit of keeping a to-do list, the heavy burdens lifted off my shoulders. I got a clearer idea of how much work and how much time I have. This allowed me to prioritise the more important and urgent ones first, and if I really did not have the time, I would just skip the less important tasks.

It also gave me the satisfaction of ticking things off the list. The feeling is so good, seriously, you need to give it a try.

4. Don’t be a perfectionist

As I said, efficiency is the name of the game. Bear in mind the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the outcome can be attributed to 20% of all causes for a given event. To illustrate the 80-20 rule, let us use the example of exams.

In a given exam paper, approximately 80 marks (out of 100) will come from questions which test basic concepts. These concepts are easy to learn and as such, requires maybe only 20 percent of your effort. On the other hand, to secure the remaining 20 marks (which come from hard questions), it requires you to build upon the basic concepts, to apply what you know to unknown situations, and to be exposed to a variety of challenging questions.  All these require substantial effort. This means that if you want to get 80 marks, you may only need to study for 1 hour. But to get 100 marks, you need to spend 5 hours studying.

Is it worth it? I will let you decide, whether to pick only the low hanging fruits, or to climb up the proverbial fruit tree and pick all the fruits.

5. Be prepared

Fear of the unknown may manifest itself as stress. By being prepared, you make the unknown less scary. Have a presentation tomorrow? Rehearse your lines. Have an exam next week? Start studying now.

6. Don’t be distracted

Have you ever woken up telling yourself that “today I will be super productive”, only to end the day moping in self-pity and guilt because you got distracted by Youtube…?

I can empathise because I have been there. When I was taking my A levels, I keep getting distracted even though deep down, what I truly wanted was to study hard and do well. Eventually, I came to realise how weak my self-control is. As such, I asked my parents to change the Wi-fi password and I turned off my phone once I reached home every day. But temptation can come in other forms. For instance, my bed and the stash of food in the refrigerator… Which eventually caused me to relocate to the nearby library. Once school ended, I would go to the library and study until 9pm, the closing time of the library. The hard work eventually paid off, so no complaints here.

I hope at least one of these heartfelt tips inspired you. All the best keeping your stress level low!