Asking for a Friend: Help! I’m so unmotivated in school and I want to give up

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  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a student rethinking their class choices and wondering how to get back on track after falling behind
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Feeling overwhelmed? We can relate! Here are some tips for getting back on track when you feel like you’ve fallen behind. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us. If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google Form. Don’t worry – you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

I think I chose the wrong electives this year. My classmates are doing well; I’m the only one who seems to be losing motivation. I can’t catch up with my homework and I am behind on my revision. I’m so stressed, and I have become addicted to my phone. My grades are very disappointing and I want to give up. What should I do?

Signed, Unmotivated

I can’t keep up with my classmates in school, and I feel lost and depressed

Dear Unmotivated,

We understand why you’re feeling so down. Many students struggle with academic pressure; Hong Kong’s workload can be exceptionally demanding. Please don’t give up! It may be helpful for you to try a few time and stress management techniques to help you get back on track. Let’s look at a few:

Stress management is key when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Photo: Shutterstock

Tackle the work you have now

Have you tried speaking to your teacher about how you feel? You could talk to them privately about how overwhelmed you feel; they may be willing to discuss the assignment with you or hold an after-school study session to help you catch up. You can also ask your classmates the same thing. They might be willing to help you understand the homework, and you could make a new friend.

You should also create a study schedule that you force yourself to stick to. For example, maybe you head to the school library after class twice a week to finish your work or spend 30 minutes studying every night before dinner. Give yourself a plan and stick to it – you can even enlist your parents or a friend to check in on you and ensure you’re keeping up with your schedule.

You mention you’ve become addicted to your phone, and it sounds like you’re using it to avoid your work. While it’s common to try and avoid things that stress you out, it just creates more stress in the long run because then you feel like you are even more behind than before. You can download an app to help you minimise your screen time. For example, Forest lets you plant a seed and grow a tree that blooms while you focus on your work. If you leave the app halfway through to scroll on social media, the tree will die. But if you concentrate on the task at hand, it will bloom and grow – giving you a visual representation of your hard work.

My friend doesn’t work as hard as I do, but she gets better grades than me. What do I do?

Learn to manage your stress

Good stress management is the key to getting through a challenging time. You already know the basic things you should do: get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet, exercise on a regular basis, and talk to your support network – whether friends or family – when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

You can also try mindfulness or meditation to calm down and get back on track when you’re feeling too stressed; even devoting 10 minutes a day to the practice can do wonders for your physical and mental health.

We’re sorry you’re going through a challenging time. Keep your strengths in mind, along with your reasons for choosing the electives you did. We know you can handle this!

Sincerely, Friend of a Friend

For further information, check out the links below:

The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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