As a tutor, youth worker and mentor I’ve guided countless students through the HSC. Regardless of what you want to get out of school if you neglect your wellbeing then you are selling yourself short socially, emotionally and academically. Yes that’s right, not looking after yourself will ultimately cost you marks. The research is in and there is a clear association between student wellbeing and improved academic performance (Gilman & Huebner, 2006).
To help you get the most out of school here are 5 reasons to take care of yourself in the HSC:
1. Risk of mental health problems increase dramatically in year 11 & 12
The HSC is hard. Duh. But lets look at what that actually means. Between 40-50% of year 11-12 students experience clinical levels of psychological distress, dramatically exceeding the normal levels (Einstein, Lovibond and Gaston 2000) and puts students at risk of psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol dependence and sleep disorders. If risk factors are increasing then it’s only logical that you need to step up your protective factors and look after yourself (check back next week for some practical tips on this).
2. Your health will always catch up with you
There’s an old saying; ‘Find humility before humility finds you.’ The same applies for good health habits. You have a choice to practice them now but later down the track you won’t. Learning self care during times of stress and change (such as the HSC) won’t just help you get the most out of year 11-12, it will set you up to get the most out of life. Sure you may get away with pulling all nighters, eating garbage and isolating yourself to study in high school, but if it doesn’t catch you at uni then it will during work and the longer you wait to address your health, the worse the consequences.
3. Bad health = bad marks
Elevated stress is linked to decreased academic performance and low self esteem (Smith 2000). Enough said.
4. Marks don’t predict happiness or success
If you’re sinking all your eggs into the good mark basket you might want to look away now. The main predictor of wellbeing is good relationships. This includes friends, partners, family and the community (Chanfreau, Lloyd, Bryon, 2008). So if good relationships = good wellbeing and good wellbeing is correlated with academic success… I’ll let you smart HSC students draw your own conclusions here.
5. It’s a hell of a time to be alive
As cliché as it is you are only young once, early adulthood is a critical period to form relationships (did I mention these are what make you happy), take risks and learn. It’s OK to fail and make mistakes in high school, in fact it is essential and it is exactly the time you should be making them, when you have a safety net around you and your whole life ahead of you.
Self care and a focus on wellbeing alone won’t get you through the HSC but you aren’t going to have a good experience if you neglect it. All things in life require balance, and year 11-12 is a fantastic time to start figuring out what works for you and a focus on your wellbeing is the best starting point you can have.
About the author: Cal is a director at Think Tuition and works in a wellbeing role in the public education system.
Chanfreau J, Lloyd Ch, Byron Ch, Roberts C, Craig R, De Feo D et al (2008) Predicting well-being. NatCen Social Research, London.
Einstein, DA, Lovibond, PF and Gaston, JE 2000, ‘Relationship between perfectionism and emotional symptoms in an adolescent sample’, Australian Journal of Psychology, vol. 52, pp. 89–93.
Gilman, R., & Huebner, E. S. (2006). Characteristics of adolescents who report very high life satisfaction. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 311–319.
Smith, L and Sinclair, KE 2000, ‘Stress and learning in the Higher School Certificate’, Change: Transformations in Education, vol. 3, pp. 67–79.