By Heather Harney, The Crescent
There are only four weeks left before finals. I don’t know about you, but I am freaking out just a little. Okay, maybe a lot! I am a junior so I should have “stress management” down by now, right? I shouldn’t still battle with procrastination, but I do.
I have friends who work better under pressure. Their ability to juggle papers, extracurricular activities, and studying boggles my mind. Too often, I attempt to mimic them and fall horribly on my face. I rest in the insanity of hope that someday, I too will be able to juggle it all.
Why do we do this to ourselves? We break our backs trying to be like those we admire. I’ve heard the saying, “We want what we can’t have.” But is that true?
I have learned I can manage my stress, if I ask for help. Therein lies the rub.
Asking for help can be really hard. There are many feelings that rush to drown us as we think about asking for help: shame, self-loathing, weakness, anxiety, and fear. Many students try to rationalize why they can’t ask someone for help.
“The librarian is too busy.”
“My professor probably has heard too many excuses and won’t be open to helping me.”
“I am going to try and take this exam like other students. My disability won’t come into play.”
“I am struggling with Greek. I am sure others are too and they probably couldn’t help me anyway.”
Other students might make the following assumptions:
Assumption 1: Having someone help you means you are unable to exhibit control of your life.
Assumption 2: Asking for help shows how weak you are.
The problem with these “reasons” and “assumptions” resides in the simple fact that most people want to help and they don’t assume you are an uncontrollable weakling. Professors want us to succeed and grow. Friends want to see us happy.
Like most people, I sometimes struggle in asking for help.
My mind doesn’t work like most. I have bipolar—it does not have me. However, there are days when I fight to pull a cohesive sentence out of the racing images, words, and scattered thoughts that fly through my mind. Sometimes when the sun shines so bright I have no need for help: my manic highs make me feel indestructible. Sometimes the grey dulls my skills and I feel incapable of functioning. In between those drastic moments, I try to be like everyone else and, at times, ignore the need for help.
While taking my first exam of this semester, for example, I knew there was an essay part of the test. I refused to ask my professor for extra time to do the essay because I wanted to be like other students. However, I struggled to put thoughts together in a short amount of time—I needed extra time in order to construct a thesis statement and supportive claims.
Not asking for help before the test resulted in my receiving an 80%, when I should have scored higher. My professor said I had a great thesis but provided no support—this is because I came up with the thesis at the end of the class and had no time to fix what I wrote. I take ownership of my grade, because I tried to be someone I am not. This doesn’t make me less than any other person, but what it does is present an opportunity to ask for help.
Ironically, I had just encouraged another student to ask her professors for help. Why can’t we take our own advice?
I think we avoid our own advice because at times we feel emotionally mature enough to believe we would never make a bad decision. There is a small part of us that sees ourselves as wise sages; unfortunately, even wise people fall on their faces.
Sheena Iyengar said, “Life hands us a lot of hard choices and other people can help us more than we might realize. We often think we should make important decisions using just our own internal resources. What are the pros and cons? What does my gut tell me? But often we have friends and family who know us in ways we don’t know ourselves.”
Receiving help and encouragement from others only aids us in success.
I am writing three papers, one sermon, one sermon series, preparing three presentations, and studying for two exams in the next three weeks. I also work on campus. So I have begun to ask for help. I need people to keep me accountable for my time. I need extra time for in-class essays. I need extra help with making sure my papers make sense and cease to have grammatical errors. I also need God to keep me balanced.
Some might wonder, “Why ask Heather for assistance if she also struggles at times to ask for help?” My reply is simple. God has given me a servant’s heart to encourage others to find their voice. Helping others actually sharpens my mind and aids in stress management. Facilitating plans of execution and ways to accomplish goals is something I excel at.
But like everyone else, I am human, and therefore wrestle with things. Any stumble on my part does not hinder my ability to aid others with advice and training. I want to be open about my battles, because I know others are battling their own issues. We may not approach things the same way, but we all look to others for guidance and honesty.
I know, as students, most of you are looking at your syllabi and saying, “Holy crap, I have a lot to do!”
Asking for help, especially in the last four weeks, is important. I want to encourage you not to wait for it to rain down from above. Take a step out of your comfort zone and ask for help now. Schedule an appointment with the ARC, your professor, your RA, your advisor, or your friend. Ask God for guidance—He is waiting to help you.
Don’t try to be like someone else! You are special and have much to contribute. Reach out if you need to.
Reward yourself for seeking help. Go grab some Crazy Sushi in Sherwood or go see a movie. Don’t let shame or fear keep you from asking someone to help you.
“Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger