After a recent Twitter poll, we found that a large portion of our followers are students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. For many, the spring semester is just kicking into high gear and along with this can come mounting levels of stress. A recent study found that 61% of higher education students have accessed counseling services for anxiety, so stress is a significant and pervasive problem. Today we wanted to share several tips to help minimize and manage academic stress.
We have all told ourselves before that we have WAY too much work to take a break. When work is piling up it may feel like pushing through is the most effective way, however taking a break to do something you enjoy can bring you back to work feeling better and more productive. Take a walk, read a novel, or take a bath- do something you like that doesn’t involve too much thinking. While you are taking time off, do your best to clear your mind of your work and really relax!
If you know you have a lot of assignments coming up, begin working on them as early as possible. It can also be helpful to keep a semester long calendar where you can note assignment due dates as well as when you plan to start assignments by. Writing things down can make them seem less overwhelming. If you need a system to do this, check out our recent post about bullet journaling.
Get enough sleep
Pulling all-nighters takes a serious toll on your body and studies have found that they make your brain less able to absorb information. Prioritize sleep so your brain has time to rest and you will have an easier time retaining what you are studying. Researchers have found that those who got a few hours a sleep did better than those who stayed up all night studying even if they were equally prepared when the study began.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There is a serious social stigma around mental health care in the United States, but please do not hesitate to seek support if you need it. All college campuses offer counseling in their health centers which can often be accessed for free. Psychology Today is another great place to find mental health professionals in your area. If you are in need of immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Take a look at your schedule
If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed by what you need to accomplish it is time to take a careful look at the commitments on your schedule and determine what you can eliminate. You may feel guilty or like you are letting someone down if you say no to doing something, but with too many obligations you can’t be your best at any of them and everyone suffers. It can be difficult at first, but the more you practice setting boundaries the more natural it will become.
Focus on balance
In busy times, taking care of yourself can really take a backseat. However, in order to make your academic career sustainable and successful, work to create balance in your life. Make sure you eat nourishing meals everyday, get enough rest, keep doing your laundry, workout, and don’t skip out on showers. However you approach balance, make sure that your academic work remains an important part of your life but is not your whole life.
Change your thinking
Managing your expectations for yourself can help to reduce stress. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to do well, but often academics put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect. Take time to contemplate what you really want, what is really important, and what you need to do to succeed, rather than aiming for perfection.
Create a list of things to look forward to
Remember that the semester will eventually come to an end and you will once again have more free time and less stress. Creating a list of things to look forward to and hanging it where you can see it often can be very motivating as you push through a few difficult weeks. This practice can also help to remind you that there is always something to look forward to even when things seem tough.
Stop comparing yourself
Comparing yourself to others can add a lot of additional pressure on yourself that does not need to be there. Especially in today’s social media focused world, it can be easy to get into the mindset that everyone is doing better than you and that you need to strive to meet these unrealistic ideals. Check in with yourself and realize that the story someone chooses to tell the world is always the best version and that in reality everyone has struggles and stress just like you. Everyone is on their own journey in life and you do not need to strive to be anything but your best.
When you are more stressed you may be inclined to withdraw from friends and classmates, but know that they are going through the same things too! Reaching out to someone from school can make you feel much better about the situation. Even making connections on social media, for example using #PhDchat, can relieve feelings of loneliness and remind you that there is a world outside of your assignments.
How do you manage academic stress? Share your tips with us on Twitter, @Conserisapp! We hope you have a happy and healthy semester!
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