Are you counting down? Most teens I know, at least here in the United States, are. Counting down the days until “I can stop feeling stressed,” as one of my friends put it. “Only one essay, one project, and five finals to go.”
That’s a pretty common refrain no matter where you are in the school year—that stress goes away only after you’ve handed in all your papers and taken all your tests. But what if you could feel that release from stress even before you take the test?
That requires looking at things from a whole different perspective. Just ask my friend Kaily—a Christian Scientist who’s just finishing up her senior year in high school. What she’s learned about God and her relation to Him brought a pretty dramatic shift in her approach to stressful school situations. Here’s her story in her own words:
“It was sophomore year. I was in Honors English II, and it was a really hard class—hard projects and tests, and the teacher was a hard grader.
What we know about God and our relation to Him can bring a pretty dramatic shift to stressful school situations.
“We were taking an eighty-question test that involved analyzing literature, along with answering super-detailed questions about literary analysis and techniques. Leading up to this test, I wasn’t thinking about it spiritually at all. I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School that I could pray about anything in my life, but in this case, I hadn’t prayed—I was just stressed about the test. I’d spent a lot of time studying, but in this class, that was no guarantee of a good grade.
“I had the class first period—at 7 a.m. I felt tired and nervous and was kind of freaking out. Five questions into the test I could already tell I was failing it. I was purely focused on whether I’d gotten enough sleep, had a good enough breakfast, studied enough—all the things that people tell you you’re supposed to do and care about.
“It hit me in that moment, right after question five: I’ve been approaching this the wrong way. I realized that all this stress was coming from thinking that doing well was up to me. Whether I was smart enough, had worked hard enough, and was abiding by the ‘rule’ of how to do well.
“That’s when I had a complete switch in the way I was approaching the test. I thought about what I knew about God. I knew that there is only one God, who is Mind, which means there is only one intelligence. And I also knew that I am a reflection of God, so I am that divine intelligence expressed. I am an unlimited expression of the one Mind.
“I actually paused right there in the middle of taking the test, closed my eyes, and really trusted in God—trusted that one Mind and one intelligence. I immediately felt calm, the stress kind of lifted off me, and I went back to working on the test. When I finished the test, I felt like it had been hard, but I also felt pretty good about it.
“A week later, we got the results back—not just a grade, but a slip of paper that told us exactly which questions we got right and which we got wrong. Questions one through five I got all wrong. Questions six through eighty I got all right. I was blown away, because that change in performance happened right at the place where I stopped making everything about me and trusted in God.
“That change in performance happened right at the place where I stopped making everything about me and trusted in God.”
“I still study hard before tests, but that experience definitely changed my approach to tests and other stressful aspects of school.”
Pretty cool, right? And what I love about Kaily’s experience is that it’s an example of what all of us can see in our lives. Because what’s true about God and about us as God’s reflection is true for everyone—and has practical effects we all can experience.
Developing our trust in God as Mind, and understanding that we are actually the full expression of that Mind, is an ongoing learning process. But how amazing is it to realize that we don’t have to wait for a change in circumstances, or the end of the school year, to be stress-free? The gift of Christian Science, and all that it shows us about our true identity as spiritual and unlimited, is that we can feel freedom from pressure and academic angst—not when the last bell finally rings for summer break, but right now.