How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed at School

Updated: May 14

Some weeks at school can get really overwhelming. When you look at your calendar and see you have 3 tests, an assignment and a speech all in the same week, this is completely understandable. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to feel overwhelmed at school!

Being extremely overwhelmed at school can take a toll on your school and personal life as well as your mental health. In order to avoid this from happening, make sure to follow these steps from day 1.

Step 1: Write down tasks as soon as you hear of them

By writing down the due date of every assignment you are aware of, you won’t forget about it and you won’t have to worry about forgetting about it! This will also help you to avoid those late-night stress sessions because you forgot that you had an assignment due tomorrow.

A Trending Machine national poll found that millennials are more forgetful than 55-year-olds when it comes to everyday tasks such as knowing what day it is or where they put their keys. This might help explain why students forget about assignments and homework all the time!

Start off by buying a simple calendar or planner. Alternatively, head over to the free stuff library and download the free yearly planner (subscribe to get the password to the library!). You can also start a bullet journal, which are super popular right now! For some bullet journal inspiration, check out our Pinterest board! Next, simply write in when all of your homework and assignments are due! It is also helpful to write in little reminders for yourself before the due date so that you can be extra sure you won’t forget!

This step may sound simple, but it will make a huge difference in your study and stress habits.

Step 2: Begin early

We all know not to leave our assignments to the night before its due but end up doing it anyway! Get out of that habit! A great way to stop this from happening is using a free assignment calculator like this one. It splits up your assignments into sections and tells you when you should be done with each section. You can use it to plan for research papers, speeches and lab reports!

Alternatively, you can plan out your assignment on your own on your calendar or in your planner! Make a due date for things like understanding the assignment, starting to do research, and writing the final piece.

Overwhelmed at school- keeping a planner or bullet journal can make such a difference


Step 3: Prioritise (Simplify)

Sort out your “must do’s” from your “can do’s” and “want to do’s”. When you learn how to prioritise your tasks correctly, you’ll find that many tasks aren’t even worth doing. In other words, your to-do list will get smaller!

You can start prioritising your tasks by asking questions such as:

  1. How much is this task stressing me out?

  2. When is this task due?

  3. How much time do I need to finish this task?

  4. If I don’t do this task, what are the consequences?

  5. What will I gain from doing this task?

Think about how much time you should be spending on each task and in what order you should be doing them. Generally, the tasks that are stressing you out a lot, need a lot of time to finish or are due soon are the tasks that you need to do first.

Do your most important task first and then move on to your less pressing tasks!

Here is a great little infographic I found on Productive and Free that offers different ways of getting prioritised. If you want more information on these method, visit the companion blog post!

3+Ways+To+Prioritize+Confidently+and+Effectively+|+ProductiveandFree.com


Step 4: Avoid procrastination

Many students get caught up in the problem of procrastination. When you REALLY don’t want to do your work, almost everything seems enjoyable- cleaning your room, clicking your pen, staring at the same spot on your wall for about an hour, etc. There are many ways to beat procrastination. Here are just a few:

  1. Do that one task that you’re avoiding first

  2. Understand why you are procrastinating

  3. Know why you need to do the work

  4. Set hourly goals for your study

Often, students set goals because they are told to, but have absolutely no idea why they want to reach them! Why do you want to do well in school? If you don’t have an answer to this question, it’s no surprise you are procrastinating! Find your answer and you’ll find that studying will come much easier. For a complete guide to beating procrastination (including a quiz) check out this study guide.

Step 5: Break it up and be specific

When you’re feeling overwhelmed at school because of one big assignment, stop thinking about it as one big assignment! Instead, think about how to break it up into smaller sections and think about each section separately. By doing this, you’ll know exactly what to do and be less likely to procrastinate doing the assignment.

For example, suppose you have a biology report in which you have to design an experiment and do a write-up. If you write in your planner:

Thursday

  • Do biology assignment

You will most likely end up doing it at the last minute because it seems like such a big task that you have no idea where to start! Instead of this, write:

Monday

  • Research design of experiment

  • Design experiment

Tuesday

  • Do experiment

  • Write up results

Wednesday

  • Write introduction

  • Write Method

Thursday

  • Write discussion

  • Write conclusion

  • Check for spelling mistakes

Friday

  • Submit report

The second option may seem like more work, but you’ll end up getting the assignment done on time with minimal stress! By breaking up tasks like this, you’re making the assignment much easier for yourself! “Write up results” sounds much less intimidating than “Do biology assignment”! Learn how to break up your tasks and you won’t feel as overwhelmed at school anymore!


Step 6: Have strategies ready for when things get too much

Sometimes, everything just feels too much. We may need an 'SOS' plan for when school gets really overwhelming. There are many different techniques and strategies out there, and it will be worthwhile to find one that works for you! Here is a list of some common strategies:

  1. Do some exercise

  2. Meditate

  3. Deep breathing

  4. Journal

  5. Write out your to-do list

  6. Talk to someone (parent/friend/therapist)

Have a strategy ready so that when you feel the sudden feeling of being overwhelmed comes around, you know what to do.


Step 7: Take a break!

Being overwhelmed at school shows that you work hard and want to do well- which is great! However, this can become a problem if you’re working hard all the time- everyone needs a break! I know it might sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes just taking 2 hours off of study can really help you study efficiently again afterwards. Go do something you enjoy and come back to study refreshed! 

Ideally, you should be scheduling break time into your study schedule- not just study. This will help you stay motivated to do your next task, help you relax a little and help you to feel less overwhelmed at school! If you need more information on scheduling break time in-between study time, I wrote an article a while back detailing how to do this.

If you need any study break inspiration, here are some ideas from the HuffPost!

Overwhelemed at school- Relax in study break


Original publish date: 23 April 2018.

Date last modified: 13 May 2021

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