Frazzled. adjective. According to the little dictionary on my Word toolbar, “Exhausted and confused or irritable; frayed.”
Even though it’s far less accurate, I am going to roll with the second half of that definition. Right now, I prefer to think of my brain as a worn-out electrical wire, outer rubber casing peeling away at the seams, staticky wires poking out at odd angles, rather than a sloppy mess of exhaustion. It seems a bit more endearing, like Albert Einstein’s nutty hair or one of those fuzzballs of a dog that permanently looks like it just stuck its nose in an electrical outlet.
Right now, I am not that endearing.
For the past few days, I have had 8,472 thoughts bouncing around in my head. Word counts and Chinese vocabulary and the grammar of Philippians 3: 7-11 and cleaning standards and Casablanca and Edgar Allan Poe and problem-based learning and running and media literacy and bilingualism are jostling each other for room. These ideas are all expected to come pouring from my brain to my fingers within the next few days, fully formed in lesson plans and essays and circled multiple choice answers. In other words, it’s finals week.
Finals week brings out the best and the worst in me. It showcases my organizational abilities and list-making skills, how I can strategize and plan so that second is squeezed of its potential. It shows me just how much I’ve learned over the semester. It brings out my competitive side, prompting smack talk like “You are goin’ down” to particularly frustrating assignments. It stretches my discipline and intellect to see what they can actually accomplish.
But finals week also brings out the not-so-hot side of strategic, competitive, achieving me. It makes me zoom in on the grades, the lists, the completion. Anything that stands in the way (like people or breathing) might get shoved aside. It makes me a big ol’ ball of stress who stares at her computer screen and sighs a lot, who speedwalks around campus hoping to waste as little time as possible, who gets a little snippety with anyone who asks for too much of her. In the words of Pinterest, “You know you’re stressed when you start getting on your own nerves.” And I am driving myself nuts.
Now, awareness of my own condition is great. It’s good to know that I’m beginning to fall apart at the seams and that the wires of my brain need a little patch job if I don’t want anything to start on fire. But there’s one little issue: I am no electrician, and I have no idea how to fix my fraying self.
I could quote research articles about beating stress. I could remind myself that I am loved and whole and intelligent regardless of whether I flunk a final. I could eat pounds of chocolate (for it’s stress-relieving antioxidants, of course). I could pray for a miracle that will sweep all of the things off my to-do list. All of these are good things, but if I’m really honest, none of this changes the fact that I would prefer not to fail my classes.
So what do I do? It sounds incredibly unglamorous, but I think the only thing left to do is keep on keeping on. I can accept that stress is a part of this week. I can say a little prayer for determination and energy, disconnect the Internet and its tempting distractions, and do what has to get done. I can take breaks for fun and friends, no matter how antsy I get when I’m not checking things off my to-do list. I can eat (a little) stress-relieving chocolate. I can breathe every once in a while. And best of all, I can remember that this stress-inducing season will soon be over, and my little frazzled brain will finally have a chance to recharge.
Until then, I would appreciate if someone stood by with a fire extinguisher. You know, just in case.