How to Handle the Stresses of School Without Using

How to Handle the Stresses of School Without Using

Published on September 19, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Studying for school or training for a profession can mark an exhausting chapter of little to no rest. Committing to a program of education can be highly demanding — and with an increase in responsibilities comes intensified feelings of stress. First responders experience this in the form of training, while military personnel may be making good on an undergraduate, masters, or trade program as they adjust back to civilian life.

Taking on the time commitments of lectures and homework adds a lot to the plate of any working-class individual. In today’s world, remote learning may present additional stressors for anyone relying on external resources — such as the internet, in-person study groups, tutoring, meeting with professors, etc. — that may be more difficult to secure now as a result of COVID-19. As overwhelming as seeking a higher education might be, the efforts will yield a stronger, smarter person, empowered in both their education as well as their recovery.

What Steps Can Be Taken to Plan for Stress?

The course has been selected. Books have been bought. The first week is looming. Before any classes officially begin, a lot of students begin to experience stress dreams. Experiencing a stress dream about classes can be off-putting if it happens anytime after high school.

It may feel counter-intuitive, but paying attention to these dreams — whether they are daydreams or happen while you are sleeping — acts as a warning sign that external stressors are on the horizon. First responders seeking additional training and coursework to improve their job prospects, or to possibly land an entry-level position with a fire department, law enforcement division, or emergency medical services, must recognize that they are undertaking new potential tension.

After making it home from a long day of work, the last thing anybody wants to do is stay up late writing an essay or studying. Particularly with first response work, a person’s energy levels drastically spike while they are on the job before declining sharply at the end of a shift.

With additional pressure to perform as a student after many hours of performing as a civil servant, one can easily be distracted. As poet George Burns wrote, “the best-laid plans of mice and men are oft to go awry,” essentially describing our human tendency to diverge from well-intentioned schedules.

The minute we think we have a hold on our alcohol and/or substance use disorder, they begin to sneak up on those in recovery. Paradoxically, it is only once the facets of life that used to seem impossibly stressful become manageable that the desire to assume more responsibility begins to swell.

Although this marks an important aspect of personal growth, mental health typically thrives within stability, making it necessary to realistically anticipate the increased workload. Setting up time for physical workouts, mindful exercises, and emotional growth will strengthen one’s ability to help others while gaining an education. Without making time for personal well-being, overwork can quickly escalate into high levels of stress and even alcohol and/or substance use relapse.

What to Do When the Plan Doesn’t Work

It is normal for the stress we experience from a new responsibility to exceed expectations in the least helpful way. Remember, this doesn’t mean one has failed, despite how the mounting workload weighs down even the most positive-minded individuals with negative thoughts.

It just reveals that person’s limits — and all humans have limits. The truly exciting part of assuming more responsibility is that with dedication and time, these limits grow. Imagine a marathon runner. When they first began training, they weren’t clocking 20+ mile runs at a break-neck pace.

Before they were able to even finish a marathon, they had to start by running as far as they could — usually much closer to single-digit mile markers. Just like conditioning for a long-distance run, any first responder already shouldering the weight of a high-stress job, and possibly the emotional load of addiction recovery, will need to start with a light jog.

More importantly, they need to look at all they are accomplishing, rather than the few ways in which they fall short. One of the pitfalls of the highly ambitious mindset is when the reach of one’s attempt exceeds their grasp. Pushing the limits of one’s ability can offer so much growth and independent development, but it isn’t healthy to constantly stretch the mind and body in every possible direction.

First responders are put in a position where others are relying on them, frequently during life-and-death situations. In order to help others survive, first responders must exude confidence and remain calm. But within the context of a first responder’s personal life, it is okay to feel out-of-control and overwhelmed. Just keep in mind that there are friends, family, and trained professionals available to help when the pressure mounts.

In today’s job market, both work experience and higher levels of education are often necessary to secure a position. However, juggling stress from both school and first response work can trigger addictive tendencies. It is human nature to seek relief from mounting anxieties, and taking on a career along with education combines two highly ambitious, albeit stressful endeavors. Before getting in over your head, consult a mental health counselor or therapist about the prospect of adding more stress to your plate. First Responder Wellness is here to help first responders struggling with alcohol and/or substance use disorders, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Let us show you how to manage your stress and live a new life filled with endless possibilities. To learn more, please contact our staff 24/7 or call True Recovery at (888) 743-0490.