My Strategy for Getting Through Junior Year, Sanity Intact
For many American teenagers, junior year is synonymous with college visits, test prep, mountains of homework, and coffee in lieu of sleep. I watched my older brother and his graduating class survive the ordeal, but this fall, it was my turn.
I hid my fear well, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there as I sat through my first day of classes. I heard the same rhetoric over and over from many of my teachers: “These may be the hardest classes you’ll ever take.” “This is a workload unlike anything you’re used to.” “This isn’t sophomore year any more.” I could feel the anxiety rising around my classmates and myself with each passing hour.
But then the school day ended, and there was no place for that tension to diffuse. Everyone was geared up, ticked off, and already stressed after one day of school. Welcome to junior year!
I felt like I couldn’t escape it. It took only a few days of classes for my school environment to feel suffocating. College talk had somehow already begun, and “How stressed are you right now?” became a conversation starter at lunch. As someone who attends a school that has always boasted an academically rigorous culture, this really should have been expected. But as someone with the capacity to turn any situation into something to be anxious about, this really wasn’t working.
It was time for me to take a more constructive look at junior year. I realized I would never make it to June if I let myself be weighed down by negativity and apprehension. I sort of resent the hype that we build up around our third year of high school—it makes everything worse when we go into the school year with this stressed and tired image of what a student should look like already in our minds.
Now, more so than ever, I realize I need to prioritize my mental health. Of course, this is infinitely easier said than done. Every day, I see articles, studies, and tips about why self-care is so important for humans—especially teenage ones. I read them and the same information is relayed to me time after time: I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m spending too much time on my phone. I need to eat healthier, consume less caffeine, spend more time around friends, and maybe meditate every other day. As I read all of these things, I understand them and I understand why they’re important. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m up late doing hours’ worth of homework or that I don’t have time to eat breakfast everyday.
My goal for this year, and I extend this goal to other junior girls, is to know what is in my control. It’s true that I cannot change how much work my teachers assign or the fact that I’ll be taking College Board tests this year. However, I can change my work ethic, free time and social life to function in harmony with these challenges. I can choose to look at hurdles with optimism—it’s incredible how much of a difference it makes.
Because of that, I know that I will get through this year with my sanity intact. I hope that you find a balance in your life that will make you feel the same way. It’s not going to be an easy year for us, and it will look different for everyone, but that’s okay. We are smart, capable and strong—and all challenges must pass.
By Sarah Grousta, 16