This week, I had at least a dozen separate conversations about stress. Here in the United States, it’s Advanced Placement (AP) test time, and students all over are studying for end-of-the-year exams. During the last few days, I had friends taking the AP environmental science test, AP art history, and AP physics, just to name a few. Everyone, it seems, is feeling stressed.
After the second conversation, I started to pray. Not for the person specifically, but for students everywhere who are struggling with stress and pressure. Maybe that includes you. This time of year, it almost seems like those feelings are “in the air”—like it’s normal to be feeling them.
Stress isn’t natural to us.
Stress is the belief that something is working against us. Maybe it’s time—like the fact that we feel we don’t have enough hours in the day to do all the studying we need to. Maybe it’s intelligence—like we aren’t smart enough to write a good essay or to remember a year’s worth of information for a final. In other words, stress is based on the belief of lack—a lack of something essential that pushes us to our breaking point.
In praying about this through lots of years of papers, tests, and weekly deadlines, one thought in particular has been especially helpful. But first, a little background. When I was a kid in the Christian Science Sunday School, one of the first things I learned is that each of us is God’s spiritual idea. Which means God, the all-knowing Mind, is our source, and we are Mind’s expression. I’ve always liked that idea, but it can sometimes feel pretty abstract. Which brings me back to this helpful thought.
What if we think about what it means to be God’s idea in relation to a number—like the number four. We know that four is an idea. It isn’t the symbol we see written on a math test; that’s just a representation of the idea of four. So no matter how many equations use the number four, no matter how many times it’s written in math textbooks all over the world, it’s never used up, never under any stress, because it’s an idea. Its essential qualities of “fourness” remain, because the principle of math ensures that its value is always intact.
This analogy has really helped me understand what we mean when we talk about ourselves as spiritual ideas. In the same way that the number four is totally complete, never lacking in any essential quality, never under pressure from heavy use, so we as spiritual ideas are endowed with everything we need, including intelligence, discernment, and discipline. And we, too, are supported by Principle—God, who is our infinite source. The Bible gets at this idea when it asks, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
When we start from the basis of one infinite God and His ideas, it takes us out of the arena of stress altogether.
So while stress can feel aggressive, it actually isn’t natural to us. This week, as I prayed about stress for students everywhere, I had to smile when the thought came: “The number four isn’t stressed.” It was a good reminder that when we start from the basis of one infinite God and His infinite ideas (that means us!), it takes us out of the arena of stress altogether. The practical effects of this prayer in my life have meant I’ve felt equipped to meet difficult deadlines, perform well on tests, and often to get projects done more quickly than I’d anticipated.
Other people have experienced similar freedom when they’ve prayed. So if you’re looking for more inspiration on the subject of test-taking pressure, check out William’s article, “Facing down test fears,” or Lizzie’s, which is called “If you’re tempted to cheat.”
Whatever challenges you might be facing during exam time, it’s reassuring—and powerful!—to realize that the healing experiences you’re reading about in this column, and elsewhere on TeenConnect, are based on universal spiritual laws. They apply to you, too. And as you recognize their presence and operation, you’ll find release from the unnatural burden of stress.