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Dazed and Confused: Dealing with the Stress of Challenging Classes

I understand that school is supposed to be challenging. I get that I’m supposed to push myself to comprehend material. Of course I will struggle with some subject matter.

But seriously, I never knew I would get so frustrated with my schoolwork.

There will be days where I go to lecture, take my notes, listen intently to the professor and completely comprehend the subject matter. I walk out of the hall confident in my abilities in that particular course and go on my merry way.

There’s homework, of course, and I finish it with ease. If I’m feeling especially studious, I’ll re-read my notes, add some of my own, or even throw another practice problem at myself.

That is me…on some days.

And then, there are those God-awful, quagmire-like lectures where I’m left with my jaw to the floor and I can’t get the glazed-over look out of my eye for at least 2 more hours. I ask those around me if the professor was even speaking English and stare down at my notes, which just looks like gibberish and exponents. I’ll walk down University Street in a daze, confounded. Then, the anxiety sets in.

What was that? I didn’t understand that lecture at all. I mean, I know he has a foreign accent…. but he was speaking English…. right? Holy crap, there’s a quiz in three days…Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I’m failing this course, for sure. I’m failing college for sure.

That’s right, I freak out. I’m not one to get easily frazzled, but after one confusing chapter, I turn into an asthmatic ten year-old with arachnophobia in a room full of tarantulas.

It seems silly, but I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen people break out in hives, students violently rip paper to shreds after attempting a problem over and over, and kids completely lose their appetites because they’re worried about exams.

We all get frustrated. I, personally, despise being confused. I like to know what I’m doing at all times, and when I don’t, I stress. However, I also understand that tensing up at the sight of an equation or a vocabulary word is an extremely easy way to get overwhelmed.

If I freak out every time I’m confused, I will never learn anything here. I’ll end up wasting all my time being angry and spend no time becoming educated in the subject matter. I mean classes are only going to get more challenging as the semester moves forward. Maybe I’ll have to swallow some pride and get a tutor, but at least I’ll be doing something productive.

Instead of gnashing my teeth, I’m going to simply step away from my problem and focus on something else. One possibility is writing a blog for surviving freshman year… eh? (I would’ve just suggestively raised one eyebrow at my own hilarity, if I could.) Or whatever I feel will calm me down, whether that is listening to some music, studying for a different class, doodling, talking to a loved one, anything that gets my breathing regular again. Then, I’ll be able to return to my issue with a fresh mind, perhaps ask someone to help me, and, hopefully, find some clarity.


Olivia is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with big aspirations in PR and advertising. With a love for writing, beauty and confidence, she’s making it through college one step at a time.
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