Aaand we’re here.
Assessment period, season or, rather, an everlasting storm of frantic cramming. When we started a two year course for GCSEs/ A-levels/ Btecs I don’t think any of us thought we’d be assessed like this (and, if you did, scrap all career plans to make it as a fortune teller). The social, political and educational changes we’ve seen over the past two years have been absolutely immense… I mean, schools haven’t closed like this for over a hundred years. It’s not exactly been a twenty four month snow day though, has it? As we draw to the end of it all, I’ll be talking about what’s kept us more or less sane throughout this period- our mind!
I promise I didn’t time this, or shift the calendars in anyway, but it’s Mental Health Awareness Week from May 10th to the 17th. Another reason why we should take some time out to thank our brilliant brains for getting us through all this. Right, so, how does one look after the mind? Spend some time in nature, sit down on the soggy grass (thanks rain) and take some deep breaths? Although, unsurprisingly, that doesn’t sound like the most exciting, there are things we can do on a day to day basis which will help improve our mental health. We have to remember that looking after ourselves, both physically and emotionally, should never be a one off, maintaining a good habit regularly saves you a lot of extra pressure and stress (pretty handy for assessment season).
We’ve all faced different challenges this year in lockdown, whether that be something seemingly small (like having to talk to your siblings a little too much for your liking) or something much bigger like losing a loved one. If you feel comfortable to do so, it’s so important to share and have a conversation with the people closest to you about how you’re feeling (both the good and the bad, happy or sad)! Everyone responds to pressure a little differently, and these changes have maybe tested how we respond to things. If we’ve learnt anything, it’s what has made us feel happier, who’s made your smile slightly brighter or taken some weight off your shoulders. What activities have you found help you relax or wind down? Whether that’s been a funny meme account on Twitter, making a Spotify playlist of all your favourite songs or having a FaceTime with a friend, it’s nice to know the things that lift your mood. Notice how it’s the little things in life that make you smile (wow, that sounds like a mash up between an Asda and Tesco ad).
So it’s all well and good that we’ve learnt how to appreciate things and be happy with our lockdown lives, but school life and exams is a different kettle of fish. The majority of students said their mental health worsened upon going back to school. So that mounting confusion and exam pressure along with a constantly draining social battery and attention span, trust me, is felt by us all. Getting back into a school routine may just take some adjusting (slightly annoying given that we finish school soon anyway) but it’s still important to check in with yourself and others. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, having assessments spread out (either in class or in a more formal exam setting) as well as accounting for different proportions of the grade should relieve some pressure. Each exam isn’t the be all and end all, far from it, so looking after your well-being and keeping good habits is certainly not worth sacrificing. In fact, keeping a positive mindset is much more likely to improve exam performance!
Another big stress if you’re planning on going to university can often be finances… ideas of mounting debt and those alien terms of ‘maintenance and student loans,’ all sounds a bit too adulty, don’t you think? But trust me, it doesn’t seem as scary with a little bit of research, here’s a great video that will help straighten things up. It’d be great to watch with your parents or guardians who’ll have to fill out parts of the finance application (and it may console them that they won’t have to wholly fund your obsessive Starbucks addiction). Make sure you get started on applying for student finance earlier rather than later (the deadline being May 21st) and that’s one big thing out of the way!
ANISHA MINOCHA is a sixth form student from Manchester, hoping to study English Literature and Spanish at university. She is a passionate writer and poet whose work has been published in anthologies, magazines, blogs and won competitions. Contributing to Sink Magazine, she is keen to utilize the voice of young people and share work through her creative writing blog. As a climate activist, she has combined her love for words and the planet in a performance of spoken word at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 'Letters to the Earth'. She also co-runs Young Friends of the Earth: Manchester and has organised workshops, participated in panels and spoken at Manchester Cathedral.
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