Dealing with A Level pressure

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A level results – the future is YOURS – and yours only

It’s not a conventional topic for me to post about – but today is A Level Results Day. And whilst there are many influences behind people developing an eating disorder, pressure is undoubtedly one of them, both internal and external.

It’s 5 years ago since I ventured into college to collect my results. I could hardly be bothered to get out of bed and make the journey. I wasn’t well throughout the two years I spent at college, so I skipped a lot of classes and as I wanted to be a make-up artist I wasn’t particularly bothered about my results. I didn’t see them as the key to my future, like so many of my friends did.

I’m so grateful for that perspective now; even though I was told I was careless and unambitious at the time. If I’d have gone to university I wouldn’t have published books or be running my own business today having gained so much throughout the course of my 5 years in the employment of others.

When I was leaving college, going to university was everything. If you didn’t, you’d failed – it was the only path. The only other option was employment or an apprenticeship, which were both seen as ‘poor relations’. Most of my friends who were going to uni had questionable motives for doing so – either involving drinking, partying and dossing, or crippled by immense pressure from parents and peers to take the plunge. I knew university wasn’t for me, and I refused to be bullied into it. Besides that, my mental health was incredibly poor, and I knew it would worsen as a consequence of going to uni – I simply wouldn’t have survived there. So I gave myself a break and protected myself from certain disaster whilst chasing the dreams the careers staff at college told me were unambitious and wouldn’t constitute a ‘proper career’.

Watching the much hyped-up television coverage of anxious and elated students collecting their results, it’s clear nothing has changed. Contrary to what many people will have you believe, your A level results are not everything. This is just the very start of your life – there is so much time for you to change your mind and think things through. Don’t rush into anything or go to university just because you have been told that’s what you should do. Follow your instincts – do your research, then go out and do what you truly want to do. you never know where it will take you – perhaps you will end up somewhere completely different to where you expected to be, as I did! Either way, life is a journey and it is filled with second chances. Don’t allow anyone – no matter who they are – to shit on your dreams. I didn’t – and I’m so pleased I stood my ground! Many people my age who have just left or who are leaving uni are trapped in soul-destroying supermarket jobs, or have gone straight to the top of their tree only to find they don’t like it there. It’s not necessarily the right path for you – it’s certainly not for everyone.

So if you don’t get the results you’re expecting, or you simply don’t feel university is for you, then follow your heart. It will pay dividends in the future – even though you may be being told you are making a foolish choice. That’s what they told me – but I’m better off now than I ever imagined I could be.

For more advice and support on dealing with A Level pressure, other external and internal pressures,  and for plenty of inspiration, keep reading the blog!

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You can’t do it all – and you certainly can’t do it all well

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There’s increasing pressure on us these days, especially women, to be proficient at everything. The areas in which we must excel in life have increased over the years as equality has been improved, and whilst this of course is a step in the right direction it means that women are expected to fulfil a number of roles with no room for failure in any of those.

The main pressures in life on women, being a good mother and wife, having a good career and being financially independent as well as looking good, all have sub-sectors which often in themselves can take up most of our time and energy.

The truth is, it’s simply impossible to be all of the things above, at least to a degree of excellence in all.

How do you prioritise and concentrate on just one thing, once you decide what it is you wish to focus on? As a younger person, it’s likely that the responsibilities you do have seem huge to you, but when you look at the lives of other women, you wonder how the hell they juggle the things you juggle, in addition to children and work and a husband (I know I do!!). You only have a certain amount of energy. Where do you want to expend it? And what do you want to achieve as a result?

For me, I’ve decided I have to take a look at what I have to do, what I feel I have to do, and what I want to do. When I did, I realised that much of the things I ‘have to do’ and subsequent tasks give myself to do are actually not things I have to do at all. They are things I feel I have to do, make myself do, for the approval of others. It’s not at all simple just cutting these out (especially if you have an anxiety disorder), but I re-evaluated my list and found there were things I could possibly subtract.

The things I actually had to do, like working, and things I wanted to do, came last on the list. Isn’t that ridiculous? No wonder I am so stressed. Sound familiar?

Prioritising isn’t easy because our brains tell little fibs and make unimportant, non-essential things seem imperative and astronomical in comparison to the things we actually need to do day to day.

I’m making a conscious effort to re-prioritise my life, to make room for the really important things that in the long run will make me happy. Try it for yourself – write everything down that you ‘have to do’ and assess just how important they all are. If you really do have to do all of those things, try and grade them in order of importance. If you struggle with that, you most certainly are not alone. It’s just a case of having a real think about what you want, and taking time to try and get your head around what you want to focus on. Focus truly is everything – you can only do one thing at a time and do it well! Then you will succeed. Let me know how you all get on!

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