Relax, seriously

By Austin Block

Raise your hand if you are stressed out. It doesn’t matter where you are sitting, or who you are with. Put it up. Right now. I’m not kidding. If your hand at this point still remains affixed to the table, then you are probably part of a very small minority.

Our school is a breeding ground for copious amounts of worry due to its “fill up your schedule with impressive classes and dignified extracurriculars” student culture and the constant shadow of college that dogs us in our junior, senior, and sometimes even sophomore years.

It’s truly amazing how worked up we get over grades, SAT scores, APs, and other school-related obligations. It’s only October and many of us are already feeling completely overwhelmed.

Let me make this clear: I am not exempt from this hysteria.

A few weeks ago, during the second weekend after school started, I was worried about a paragraph I had to complete for English. I sent my teacher an e-mail with a question. He answered promptly. I sent him another e-mail, and once again he faithfully answered. I shot him yet another e-mail, explaining why my paragraph was exceedingly long and then I was graced with a message of infinite wisdom: “RELAX!” my teacher typed with a large font. I didn’t send him another e-mail.

That message was reinforced recently in my ethics class when we studied Epictetus, an ancient follower of stoicism.

One of his main points: Don’t worry about things outside of your control. It will only cause you grief. We should instead focus our attentions on improving ourselves. Maybe we should take these 2000-plus-year-old words to heart.

If he were to walk around our school, he would advise students to stop obsessing over tests already taken, worrying about applications already submitted, and complaining about loaded schedules or upcoming graded assignments.

“Hakuna Matata,” the “Lion King’s” beloved Timon and Pumba would advise.

Here’s an idea for how to calm down, and I really don’t mean to be preachy, cliché, or a suck-up: Take a moment to appreciate all the amazing things we do have. Make a list, mental or physical. Count them on your fingers. Draw pictures.

It all comes down to putting it in perspective. Now, I understand that’s easier said than done when you get home from athletic practice at 6:30 without having eaten, practiced your instrument, or started on homework, and you have two tests and a quiz the next day which you haven’t begun studying for. But, as our buddy Epictetus would say, the way we approach life and its various problems makes all the difference in the world. All it takes is a bit of attitude adjustment.