How I coped with the pressure of year 12

How I coped with the pressure of year 12

It’s almost seven years post-final-year and the occasional dream featuring a looming exam that I have arrived completely unprepared for still haunts my slumber. 

These dreams are not just unique to me; in fact, many of my friends have also mentioned this nightmare. It’s a scenario we would have feared enormously during the uphill battle that was Year 12. Perhaps the pressure we placed on ourselves still bubbles away within us and has left us with a very mild stress disorder. 

But is it possible to escape this feeling of pressure during your final year? And if not, then what?

It’s fair to assume that everyone feels the pressure of year 12 differently. But it goes without saying that many of us begin the ‘final year of the rest of our lives’ with a few anxieties (to put it mildly). I certainly did.

The war stories of survivors play on your mind in the leadup to the final 12 months of your schooling. 

There are your older friends and family members that you watched gracefully fly through their final year with a result that they needed. But then there are those that you witnessed crying in the school corridors as they realise the topic they decided not to study for is actually in the exam (or, worse still, that their final grades were not enough for them to get into their desired course). 

I knew that I wanted to study law after I finished school. This meant that the ATAR I needed was high in the nineties – and there was no way that I would forget that. In fact, I visualised and calculated all the possible ATARs I could get every time I would receive a test result, on a regular basis. 

My routine each day would be to eat my toast and cup of tea, attend all my necessary classes and try to get as much work done in those as possible, complete all my leadership responsibilities (I was vice-school captain so there were weekly meetings to arrange for this), catch the bus home from school and continue to study for a little longer (usually until around 6pm). 

The days would go on, my routine was in place, but the pressure did get to me. In fact, it was very hard to escape. 

It was the end of Term 2 when I was starting to catch colds and feel sick more than usual. I think the stress and pressure of my final year was getting to me, which was in turn affecting my immune system. That’s when I knew it was time for me to check in with myself again. 

I realised that what I needed was to ensure that I created a balance. While it was important that I studied hard, it was also important that I consistently made time to check in with myself, whether this was by making sure that I did a walk by the beach every evening and set time aside to meditate or attending birthday parties on the weekends and making sure that I would get enough sleep every night. 

I am indescribably thankful that this was before the days of Netflix. However, I am a ginormous reality television tragic, so after I finished studying, I would religiously sit in front of the television and make sure that I watched My Kitchen Rules and Offspring whenever I had the chance. 

So I did just that. I strived for balance and ultimately was able to achieve some perspective. 

Yes, there was an end goal that I really wanted. But there were also ladders and steps behind the goal posts that I could feel safe knowing existed and that helped me dispel some of the pressure I placed on myself. 

My friends were all striving high as well. One wanted to go on to study veterinary studies, while others wanted to be psychologists, engineers, and teachers. It was an individual experience for each of us, but we knew that we would support one another the whole way. 

And we did. We would check up on one another in the common room each morning, make time for coffee catch ups in breaks, and put down a textbook on a Friday night to attend social gatherings. 

While Year 12 and all its baggage (exams, tests, homework, essays and endless readings) are important as they determine the infamous ATAR, I can confidently assure you that it is not the most important year of your life. You will go on to do amazing things, regardless of the final result you get in your exam. 

I have friends that weren’t initially accepted into their desired courses. However, they followed alternative pathways and completed necessary courses that meant that they are now in the exact position that they wanted to be in all along. 

For me, I used the pressure, tried to keep perspective, checked in with myself and others and ultimately, was able to walk away with a result that I was really happy with. 

If you are a parent, remind your kids it will be okay and that they are doing a wonderful job. Reassure them that it is not the whole world and that whatever they achieve, life will be great to them.

And if you are a student in the midst of World War 12, know that it will all work out the way it should (indisputably). 

It may not be possible to escape the feeling of pressure. But you can use this pressure to work hard, motivate yourself, and most importantly, convince those around you that is absolutely essential for you to buy ten bath bombs (for self-care, obviously).  

Remember, as the saying goes, pressure makes diamonds. 

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