There’s no doubt about it: High school can be a challenging time. An alarming 70 percent of teens say that anxiety and depression are a major problem among their peers. A 2018 American Psychology Association survey reported that adolescents had worse mental health and higher levels of anxiety and depression than any other age group.

Of course, lockdowns, social isolation, and lost opportunities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened the situation for many high school students.

As a homeschool student, do you feel tapped out? It might be because you’re pushing yourself too hard, especially given the troubling dynamics in our world today. That’s why we wrote this post—we’ll explore a handful of signs you’re pushing yourself too hard. Then, to wrap it up, we’ll take a look at a few more signs that maybe you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

One caveat: Some of these markers of stress could indicate a more serious problem that requires professional help. The advice we provide below is a cursory look at these issues, so we highly recommend getting in touch with a doctor or counselor if you think your situation warrants it.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!

Signs you’re pushing yourself too hard

1. Sleep problems

Insomnia could be a telltale sign that stress is taking its toll on you. Even if you don’t suffer from insomnia, you might be burning the candle on both ends and it’s wearing out your body. Remember that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eight to 10 hours of sleep per night for teens on school nights. Tips for getting a good night’s sleep include:

  • Turning off electronic devices at least one hour before lights out
  • Getting daily exercise
  • Reducing or eliminating caffeine (especially after 2pm)
  • Not eating a couple hours before bedtime

2. Head and stomach aches

Personally, a pounding head and nausea are two signs that I’m stressed out. Trouble is, by the time these symptoms have developed, it’s too late for me to do much about it. If you’re like me and one of the signs of stress in your body is through head and stomach aches, it can be challenging to cope with everyday life. 

Aside from taking a standard painkiller, deep breathing is one of the best ways to relax your body and ease the tension causing your discomfort.

3. Emotional swings

Emotional swings might include irritability and bouts of anger or seasons of depression that you just can’t seem to shake. To help out, try taking frequent breaks during your day to clear your mind. Get outside in the sunshine and get some vitamin D, too.

4. Eating too much (or too little)

A weird thing about stress is that it can make you eat more or not eat at all. Which of these most describes you? Your strategy for coping will depend on your answer. 

If you tend to reach for salty and sugary snacks when stressed, then steering yourself toward healthier alternatives is a good strategy. If stress makes you ignore your hunger cues, take some time to better focus on your physical sensations and try scheduling your meals and snacks throughout the day so you have a set time for eating.

Signs you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough

1. You don’t have any goals

“Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan,” says motivational speaker Larry Winget.

Let’s be honest: It can be easy to coast as a high school student. Goal-setting will help you break out of that rut. Begin with some “dream storming”: If you could do anything after graduating from high school, what would it be? Once you have a few long-term goals in mind, dial those back down into shorter-term goals that will help get you there. 

Remember, nothing quite compares with the rush of checking a hard-fought-for goal off your list and seeing tangible progress.

2. You procrastinate

You might be putting off tasks that seem overwhelming in favor of video games and social media. We all struggle with procrastination to one degree or another—it’s so much easier to push hard to-do’s off to the side and just chill out with something else we enjoy. Long term, of course, the results are disastrous.

To help out, try breaking down big tasks into smaller pieces. For example, the thought of creating your high school transcript can be daunting. Rather than focus on the project as a whole, break into smaller bits: Create a list of courses you’ve taken this semester and your credits and GPA for them; organize a list of your extracurricular activities; or put together a small list of colleges you’d like to apply to.

3. You leave projects half-finished

Is your workspace or computer littered with half-finished projects? That could be another strong indication that you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. 

One tip for overcoming this is to learn the art of accepting “good enough” and not striving for perfection. If you have a stack of unfinished projects, another way to handle them is to start with the smallest project first—or the one closest to being completed. As you check one project off your list, you’ll experience momentum to tackle the others.

4. You spend too much time on screens

The COVID-19 pandemic has left us with screens as one of our few outlets to connect with others—through social media or platforms like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom. But it remains the case that too much time fixed on a screen can be a significant time waster, plus a big negative for your health

You’ll probably end up on screens more than you prefer during these trying times of social isolation. But it’s a good idea to mix it up with plenty of time reading, being outdoors, getting exercise, and hanging out in person in appropriate and safe ways with your friends.

Wrapping up: How are you getting motivated in 2021?

As we begin a new year, we’d love to hear how you’re staying motivated as a homeschool student (or parent)! Leave a comment below and let us know.