For many post-secondary students, each month comes with its individual obstacles but none seem as trying as when the middle of the school year comes hurtling. With assignments and papers mounting and the tide of upcoming exams swelling underneath, it’s all too easy to be swept away by the current of stress. While stress is a perfectly normal response to pressure, there are a number of strategies that can be used to manage it as healthily as possible.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
The most crucial step in avoiding or at the very least, taking control of stress is to set yourself up for success by organizing your tasks and managing your time accordingly. This can be accomplished in several ways: by creating daily to-do lists, keeping track of time when studying (à la the Pomodoro technique), and completing tasks in small steps rather than plunging yourself into the entirety of your work all at once. Although this strategy requires dedication and hard work, future you will thank the current you for staying on top of all of your assignments instead of allowing them to pile up as the deadlines draw near. Besides, there’s little else as satisfying as deleting a task or memo (or a few!) on a to-do list at the end of the day.
Take deep breaths and go on walks
Breaks are just as imperative as hard work to avoid burning out. Keep a tab on breaks to ensure that fifteen minutes won’t turn into half an hour and so forth but remember to take breaks nevertheless and truly treat them as breaks. If only for a moment, turn your attention off or refocus it on a less vigorous task. Take in some fresh air. Fix yourself a cup of tea. Go outside and take pictures of the most amazing trees.
Talk it out
In most instances, communicating with another person about your problems is a helpful solution that promotes mental and emotional wellbeing. Do not hesitate to speak to a family member or friend in times of trouble. If you would prefer not to talk, keeping a journal or diary would be just as beneficial in gauging an understanding of what might be feeling and identifying your stressors.
“To sleep, perchance to dream”
While Hamlet may not have been talking about sleep in its most literal sense, sleep is often neglected when schoolwork begins to take over. The image of the student with dark shadows under their eyes and nursing a coffee or else an energy drink is a painful but all-too-familiar sight, so don’t let that be you. It is recommended that the average student gets anywhere between seven to ten hours of sleep a night. Even if this goal seems unattainable, do not neglect sleep because it benefits the learning process in every way imaginable by improving focus and memory. Moreover, sleeping is one of the easiest solutions to take up and it almost always feels great. If that isn’t dreamy, nothing else is.
In addition to sleep, adequate nutrition, hydration, and physical activity are useful to bear in mind. It is shockingly easy to let your health slip when under stress so take extra measures to take care of yourself. Proper hydration ensures focus while food such as nuts, greens, blueberries, salmon, and yes, dark chocolate, provide important nutrients that keep your mind and body in prime condition. Meanwhile, exercise increases dopamine levels, improving your mood and even your memory by stimulating blood flow to the brain.
However, the most important reminder is to be kind to yourself. Always. In troubled times, the last thing anybody needs are unreasonably high expectations and a heaping helping of self-criticism. Instead, applaud yourself for your effort to push through the stressful situation and stay determined to not only survive but thrive in your academic performance.