For many students, high school is a time to get the most out of life. Whether that be doing the sports you love, throwing yourself into all the activities you can, taking the AP classes necessary for success or anything else, we often load ourselves with stress one way or another. Is this always a bad thing? Absolutely not. However, when this stress starts to sap the happiness out of our lives, we need to take a step back.
To “stop and smell the roses” may just be a cliché phrase that we see used in books and movies, but in my experience, it can be one of the most wise pieces of advice out there.
Not too long ago, there was a week my teachers decided to punish me with a particularly large load of homework. But, by the grace of God, the snow fell, the temperature dropped and I received two snow days plus the weekend to get my work done. Despite all this extra time, I found myself sitting at home in tears with the combined mindsets of zero motivation and the terror of failing in life.
What I have witnessed in myself and in my peers is that when we are most stressed, we are often irrationally fearing the worst possible outcome in a situation. This is supported by evidence from Linda Saab, a psychiatrist and Assistant Professor at Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. The part of our brain that sends fear signals, the amygdala, is in action then the part of our brain that processes things logically, part of the cerebral cortex, is turned off.
Knowing how our brain works can help relieve us of stress because it is a reminder that we aren’t thinking of our best interest when we get stuck in fear, and that we don’t have to take our fear seriously. Despite what our brain is screaming at us, we won’t end up homeless if we get a C on a test or miss out on an activity.
When I made the decision to put aside my irrational fear of failing, I was able to let myself find the joy in the snow days that I had received. Instead of staying shut in my room worrying about how well I understood my AP European History reading, I decided to go sledding. Whenever you are feeling the weight of stress and fear, I recommend you take some time to do something enjoyable. Sacrifice feeling 100 percent prepared for school, or your other activity, and take time to smell the roses.