After writing this blog post a few days ago, I have been inundated with so many emails, comments and tweets from people who really connected with the topic that I wrote about. It made me so happy to read phrases like 'for what it's worth I think you're an incredibly inspiring person', and it is comforting to know that so many of you can relate to the feeling of piling too much pressure on yourself. Therefore I have decided to do a little advice post, outlining some of the ways I deal with my own stress, in the hope that it may help a few of you out too!
1. Do things for yourself - working towards someone else's goal is never going to be as rewarding as working towards something that you want to achieve for yourself. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but try and separate yourself from what other people want you to achieve, and focus on what you would be happy with personally. Goals you set for yourself can be as big or small as you wish, but you will never feel pride or a sense of accomplishment if you haven't set out to realise these ambitions for your own benefit.
2. Be realistic - Whatever it is you are working towards completing; be it revision, coursework deadlines, fitness goals etc., these are usually long processes, and the start of the journey will always be the hardest. When you are a long way from reaching your ultimate aim it can be hard to stay on track and motivate yourself to keep moving in the right direction, especially when you feel you are no closer to achieving anything than when you started. Don't assume that you can wake up one day and cram all the information into your head, or go on a 10k run after years of never working out... setting yourself these unrealistic targets will only lead to negativity when you fail to complete them. Instead, set realistic goals to be completed in a comfortable and attainable time frame, giving yourself rewards if you manage to achieve them ahead of schedule.
3. Bad days happen - and when they do, you need to pick yourself up and move forwards. We all need time off every now and again, and that is OK. No one is expecting you to wake up at 6 A.M. and sit at a desk cramming your head full of information until you go to sleep at 10 P.M. It is physically impossible to retain all that information, and your brain will just switch off and become less effective by doing so. Giving yourself breaks will actually benefit your ability to absorb facts. Sometimes it's important to listen to your own body and mind... if revision isn't working for you that day, give yourself a day off and wake up tomorrow with a positive mind set that today you will get back on track. Every day is a new one, so don't dwell on the failures from the day before. (I could probably do with taking my own advice a bit on this one!)
4. Don't compare yourself to others - This one is without a doubt my biggest downfall. The most important thing to remember is that we are all different, we all work in different ways, deal with things in different ways and react differently when faced with the same situation. I have spent far too many revision periods in my life worrying about how many hours a day my friends are doing, what subjects they are prioritising, how many words have they written for the coursework etc... and at the end of the day this does nothing but stress you out. We all have different techniques that work for us, so try not to focus on others and focus on bringing yourself closer to the goal that you want to achieve.
5. Look at the Bigger Picture - For me, the thing responsible for the majority of my stress is a fear of failure... However, it is not just the principle of 'failing', it is the principle of having to admit that failure to other people. I remember waiting for university offers, not wanting to tell anyone where I had applied in case someone asked me the outcome and I would have to admit rejection, when sitting exams I always tell people a mark I would be happy with which is much less than reality for the exact same reason. It's a hard situation when you know you haven't failed in the literal sense of declining to pass, but failed against the much harsher expectations that you have placed against yourself. It can be a difficult thing to do, but try and take a step back from the situation, take your own over analysis out of the equation and start to look at the bigger picture. What ever it is you have achieved, you can be almost certain there are hundreds, if not thousands of people in the world who would love to have accomplished the same, and no matter what the final outcome the most important thing is that you didn't give up. You stuck something out and saw it through to the end, and that is an accomplishment in itself.
Good luck with whatever goals you are aiming to achieve over the next 12 months, as someone told me when I was young... aim for the stars, because if you miss the clouds will break the fall