I SPEND a significant amount of time in my car.
Last week, I travelled 1115 kilometres to get to the places I needed to be.
Coming from a rural area and heading off to boarding school at age 14, I believe it was embedded in me from a young age that driving over an hour to reach your destination is just as normal as brushing your teeth.
While the time spent in my car, (in particular the 45-minute drive to and from work each day), can lacklustre and at times be tiring, it's a chance for reflection.
Last weekend, when travelling back to Swan Hill following my five-year high school reunion at Ballarat, I had a three hour drive to contemplate life since finishing school.
The drive, which I know nearly as well as the back of my hand got me thinking about what I wish I had known when I was a student inside those wrought iron gates five years ago.
So, I've decided to dedicate this column as advice to recent high school graduates.
In a recent survey conducted by the frontline youth service Reach Out, it was revealed that regional students are more worried about finding a job after school compared to their city counterparts.
Of 1000 young people aged between 14 and 25 years, from both regional and metropolitan areas, it was found that 60 per cent of regional students are showing worrying levels of stress, with nearly half (43 per cent) attributing it to concerns about getting a job after school.
This is compared to one in three students living in capital cities (35 per cent).
Putting pressure on yourself is one of the leading causes of stress during exam time (69 per cent), followed by worries about the future in general (43 per cent).
If you are in year 12 and worried about your future, my best advice is worry less.
Instead, invest your time in seeking work experience in the the field you are interested in and creating connections.
Employers grab at people who have experience.
Another piece of advice would be to think carefully before enrolling into your university degree.
I can't fathom the amount of people I spoke to at the reunion who had either swapped degrees, dropped out of university or taken time off study simply because they had rushed their initial decision.
"Finding your passion takes patience," as stated by Australia's 2018 Local Hero Eddie Woo and it is absolutely okay if you don't know what to do straight out of school.
Chances are you may end up changing your mind along the way anyway.
I have one friend who began studying dietetics and now works as a fashion designer at Cotton On, another who completed a Bachelor of Science but works in human resources, one who graduated with a biomedical degree and is now a ranger for National Parks Australia.
Another bunch of people had either deferred university or withdrawn from their course simply because they had changed their mind halfway through.
Which is also absolutely okay.
Life choices can be a series of trial and error and more often than not, there might not be just the one direct pathway for you.
In a world where unstable mental health is more prevalent than ever, it is so important to realise you are not alone.
After school, aim to experience new things, see new places and talk to lots of people.
Voice your concerns and take the time to work out if something is or isn't right for you.
The best worker in any field is one who wants to be there and with the average intended retirement age on the brink of 65, it is vital to be happy, not stressed.
TIPS FOR COPING WITH STRESS
My top tips for coping with exam stress include:
1. Get plenty of sleep -- this will not only help with your everyday mood but sleep is a vital time for reconciling information.
2. Keep active -- go for a walk each morning, ride your bike, swim after school. Fresh air is magic.
3. Eat nutritious meals -- plenty of veggies and fruit. They will help you metabolically and mentally.
4. Spend time with friends, family and pets -- these are all invaluable resources.
5. Worry less (it will only give you wrinkles!)
Students can head to ReachOut.com to access a wide range of content about coping with exam stress.
Parents can head to ReachOut/Parents for information about how to support their young person when it comes to exam stress.