Think about that one time you were super stressed? Oh, it was last week? Wait no … it was yesterday? You can’t remember?

That’s probably because you’re constantly under physical and mental stress. You’re probably stressed due to lack of sleep or large amounts of brain activity right now and don’t even know it.

Take a deep breath, right now.

Exhale slowly.

Relax your muscles, and read onward.

Contrary to popular belief, success and stress do not go hand in hand. If they both went to a school dance, stress would be huddled in a dark corner while success shuffled to the beat at least 50 feet away. They keep their distance and don’t get along.

In reality, to excel in your passions (or even just regular passionless school activities) you don’t need to get 2 hours of sleep, or suffer from stress induced hypertension, or experience symptoms similar to anxiety.

This cat is getting a lot of sleep and therefore has very low stress levels. I want you to follow his lead and try to prioritize your mental health which will end up benefiting you more than overworking. (Image Source:

An infographic published by Forbes which showed the sleeping patterns of highly successful and busy people, such as Ellen DeGeneres, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates, revealed that the majority of people questioned received between 6 – 8 hours of sleep per night.

Most high schoolers, from my experience, get 4 – 6 hours while many others pull all nighters. Making sleep a priority should be your first priority. Getting more sleep will reduce stress levels, and help you function better the next day. You’ll spend less time on homework with an alert brain than with one that’s gone through less than half the necessary sleep cycles/night and a whole school day.

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Another issue with students skewed perspective on working hard is that the stress they’re putting themselves under has real, physical, repercussions. According to the American Psychology Association, stress causes your body to tense up, eventually leading to soreness, and increases blood pressure. Along with affecting your skeletal, muscular, and cardiovascular systems, stress affects your appetite, sleep quality, and mood.

Many people assume that working hard means that you’re not getting enough sleep, eating less, or compromising something. But, it doesn’t have to be a huge sacrifice. Of course in order to be successful, by anybody’s standards, you will need to work hard. However, you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) be working your body so hard it stops functioning properly. Staying up an extra hour, worrying about every little detail, or forcing yourself to work harder than your brain can handle won’t benefit you.

So try make getting at least 7 hours of sleep a priority for one week. If you don’t have extra homework done, if you couldn’t squeeze in some ACT study time, or if you’ve used up all your brain juice, just let it go and drift off to sleep.

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If you haven’t finished your homework and it’s late, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t complete it because I know it’s not what I would say to myself.  If you must stay up late, try to incorporate exercise, green tea, or something else that’s relaxing into your routine so that your brain can stay stronger for longer.

And, most importantly, know your limit. Getting sleep is the best way to decrease overall stress because you will function better the next day. However, when sleeping enough just isn’t possible, work but don’t work past the point where your brain and body can handle it.

Decreasing your stress levels will help you greatly in your journey to fame, fortune, happiness, leadership, or whatever else you define as success. So, sleep like Ellen DeGeneres or Bill Gates for the rest of the week and see how it goes!