(A bit of a rant, I can’t think how to phrase my thoughts)
I’m currently a YR1 poly student taking a design course, and I’m feeling sososo overwhelmed by the things we have to do and the wave of assignments that is hitting me.
The assignments require me to put my all into thinking about creative ideas, and they all require me to put in so much time into doing them, even just hitting the bare minimum, which makes me feel like it’s literally impossible to finish all of them, only some. And the GPA System requires good consistency, but i kinda feel like giving up even though it’s just week 5.
All these work is making me super stressed and unable to take time to sleep.
People talk about the “Sleep - Social life - Grades” Triangle as a guide to managing my work, pick 2 and discard 1, which I discarded social life, because I’m an introvert; but yet I still seem to struggle with the 2.
It makes me wonder if I made the right choice to take this course, even though I do not have interests in anything else, just a bit in design.
Or if I’m just simply unable to take stress, since it seems like my other classmates who have part time jobs are coping well.
Or maybe I’m just not good at this? And since design is a skill which requires experience and time (Which I don’t have) to improve, I feel like i’ll never be good enough and will have to keep struggling more.
Everytime I think of my work I feel like vomiting, and recently I even had a major meltdown thinking about the assignments I have to finish.
If my classmates can cope, why am I struggling so hard?
If everyone says “Adult life is similar/worse” to what I have to go through now, I feel like I’m trapped in an hole i cannot escape from, which makes me despair even more.
I seriously don’t know what to do, and all this inescapable negativity my assignments remind me of is taking a huge toll on myself. I’m not even a perfectionist, I just want to do well.
I wish there was a manual for this, because I really don’t know what to do.
Thank you for sharing about your situation and how you feel. I hear that you are feeling really overwhelmed by the heavy workloads and wave of assignments that seem to be piling up. I also hear that you are feeling stressed when the thoughts of not being able to cope and not good enough come by. While stress is a natural body’s response to challenges and demands in life, ongoing and intense stress can affect our productivity and take a toll on our health and wellbeing.
It may be true that the current challenge that you’re facing seem like a mission impossible, but if you step back and take a look at the journey you have walked, you may begin to realise that “ehh actually I’ve managed to accomplish ABC and overcome XYZ”. This new chapter you’re in may be really challenging, but keep heart that it also brings new opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
So, take a deep breath and have a go with the following steps to help you recenter and do what matters when things get overwhelming.
Firstly, give yourself time to adjust. Starting a new course in a new environment is itself not an easy task. Having to cope with the adjustments in routines, changes in social settings, on top of the demanding workloads—you’re indeed handling some really tough stuffs here. Instead of letting thoughts such as “it’s impossible”, “am I making the right choice”, “maybe i’m not good at this”, “why can’t I cope as well as others” beat you down; hold yourself kindly and give yourself the support and understanding you need to navigate through these difficult times. It would be a lot easier to focus on your assignments when you respond to the situation you’re in with kindness rather than self-criticisms or self-doubts.
Write it down—instead of thinking about all the deadlines and tasks that you have to complete, which can flood your mind and leave you with no idea where to even start, start writing them down. Big and small; tall and short—write everything that’s in your mind down. This will free up space in your mind so that you can properly plan and prioritise the tasks you need to accomplish, and to tick them off one by one. You will also be able to see clearly, identify, and eliminate tasks that you do not have to do or are unimportant to your overall goals.
Ask—get your questions answered. Sometimes we fall behind or unable to start doing things due to confusion or lack of clarity. If you’re unsure about a certain task, ask questions and figure it out. In class, after class, office hours, or via email. There are ample of opportunities to get an answer and the lecturers are usually very available to support you.
Reach out to people you trust—Social support is a powerful factor in reducing overwhelm and increasing resilience. I hear that you cut off your social life to prioritise your sleep and grades; and you mentioned that this has not been working well. How about try connecting with a loved one or close friend—anyone whom you feel comfortable with—and share with him or her about how you feel. This does not need to take long and does not have to involve a lot of people. The person may not be able to solve the challenges that you’re facing but he or she may be able to provide you the emotional support and a space to relieve your stress. You may even gain new and fresh perspectives to your current situation through the interactions.
Finally, starting poly and navigating through life transitions can be challenging, but know that you don’t have to go through this journey alone as help is always available. Do consider visiting a clinical professional if the current state of overwhelm persists and you sense that it’s interfering with your daily activities and health.
I’m not very familiar with design work but it does seem like you’ll need to get your creative juices flowing to some extent. Sometimes it’s not easy but maybe can try some of suggestions?
Take a break. Sometimes the best way to get creative is to take a break from whatever you’re working on. Go for a walk, listen to some music, or take a nap. When you come back to your work, you’ll be refreshed and ready to think creatively.
Change your environment. If you’re feeling stuck, try changing your environment. Go to a different coffee shop, work in a different room of your house. A change of scenery can help you to see things from a new perspective and spark new ideas.
Talk to someone. Sometimes the best way to get creative is to talk to someone else. Brainstorming with a friend or colleague can help you to come up with new ideas.
Do something you enjoy. When you’re feeling creative, it’s important to do something you enjoy. This could be anything from painting to playing music to writing poetry. Doing something you enjoy will help you to relax and let your creativity flow.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone fails at something creative at some point. Don’t let this discourage you. Just keep trying and eventually you’ll find your stride.
Thanks for penning your thoughts here!
Firstly I just wanted to reassure you that its totally understandable for someone in your position to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Transitioning from secondary school to polytechnic can be a challenging time indeed – like you said, if only there is a manual on “How to Poly”.
The previous responses are very helpful and comprehensive. Don’t want to risk overwhelming you further so if you don’t mind, I will just share a bit from my own personal experience as a polytechnic graduate. Your struggles matter and I care about your well-being, so in sharing I hope to let you know that I relate to much of what you have said and you are not alone
It is very normal (and common!) to think that everyone else is “coping well” but us. Something a senior once shared with me that really stuck is that secretly, everyone else thinks the same way. It is also quite natural to want to present the most “put together” versions of ourselves – the unintended effect is that we might think we are the only ones struggling. Looking at it in this way really helped me feel less alone in my struggles and more confident initiating conversations about what I am struggling with (like what you are already doing now, which is great!).
There are a lot of adjustments to make when transitioning to poly, some of which you have already raised yourself (eg. Waves of assignments, getting used to the GPA system). At one point, I too felt overwhelmed by this new system and having to navigate this new environment with new expectations. Something that helped me was having a social support to turn to. In my case, I had a close group of classmates whom I trust and got along with. We would study together and help each other brainstorm difficult assignments in between and after classes (other types of social support could look like school counselors, friendly lecturers, family, or even friends from your previous phases of education). Apart from feeling less alone, this was also one way that allowed me to maintain a social life while focusing on my work!
As you pointed out, the GPA system does require a fair amount of consistency because every semester’s work counts unlike the O level system in secondary school. As students, its normal to want to do well in school too. What I personally found helpful was to break the process into smaller steps by taking things one semester at a time and prioritizing my assignments. This took the pressure off me worrying in advance about maintaining consistent quality work throughout my 3 years which helped make things feel a lot less intimidating and manageable for me.
These are just some of my own experiences, and everyone’s journey through tertiary education looks different! No one size fits all, you know your situation best and what has been working for you In the meantime, Youth Mindline has some tools that might help you with prioritizing when assignments get overwhelming. Feel free to check some of them out here and explore the site:
How to prioritise and get stuff done
Time management is about more than life hacks
Tips for students struggling with time management
Single-tasking for productivity and stress management