During my years as a college student, I have seen and met all kinds of people – but the one thing I can safely say we all have in common is the unwelcome presence of stress hanging over our heads. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is defined as the brain’s response to any demand – but that doesn’t seem to cover it, does it? To me, stress is the ten ton elephant in the room that seems to always travel in the company of its cousins, anxiety and panic.
Physiologically speaking, stress is a good thing. It keeps us moving, keeps us working – but an excess of it is what results in those rip your hair out moments we all seem to experience come finals time. And so, as we enter a new semester, I have decided to give you all some unsolicited advice to deal with the elephant and its cousins.
My first tip I am stealing from Douglas Adams’ book, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. That nugget of advice is this: Don’t Panic. Panic is the result of stressing about stressing, and it is counterproductive in that while panicking, that deadline that you are dreading is still approaching, so take a breath. It’s not the end of the world (although if you’ve read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it kind of was).
My second piece of advice is Get Ahead, then Plan Ahead. Getting ahead in work while you can is always a good idea, however do not expect to stay ahead – as many of us know, the semester seems to speed up around midterms and sometimes assignments may come in the form of curveballs. So have a plan. Buy a planner in the campus store or make one on your laptop, scheduling when and for how long you will work on assignments. Have a calendar in your room with assignment deadlines color coded to indicate importance. Make sure to do lists every week. That way, when you can no longer be ahead, you have a plan to make sure you don’t get behind.
My next nugget of knowledge is something most people forget when facing a stressful event because it seems counterintuitive – but it is important: Schedule Time for Fun. According to a plethora of studies conducted on undergraduates, taking breaks while studying has been found to improve memory and reduce anxiety – and I can tell you from experience that spending fifteen minutes every two hours of studying to play Sims or jog will make a huge difference, if not in grades than in your sanity.
Fourth (and this one is important) – dont procrastinate in the beginning of the semester because you think you can “catch up” later. You can’t and you won’t. We all know Facebook, Reddit, Pintrest, Twitter, Tumblr and social websites of the like are the Bermuda Triangle when trying to get work done. To help avoid temptation, consider using productivity applications such as SelfControl or Cold Turkey that block your access to these websites for a period of time. I think having Facebook on a Blacklist for a day is healthy once in a while.
Finally, I would like to remind everyone of the importance of sleep. Young adults ages 18-20 need 8 hours of sleep to function at their peak, and sleep is incredibly important for your physical and mental health. The more sleep you get, the more you will retain, the less you will need to cram before that 8 a.m. exam.
If my advice helps at least one of you de-stress, then I can say I’ve done my job. Happy spring semester everyone.