“That assignment that was ages away is suddenly due tomorrow, now there are at least 4 more that are due next week; on top of me trying to work every spare minute so I can to cover my bills.” Who ever said college life was great must have been lying!
I am so stressed right now. Instead of being able to tackle my workload, all I want to do is curl up under the duvet and hide… and don’t even mention EXAMS!…
Does this sound familiar?
This time of year is very stressful for students, no matter how organised you are. The fear and anxiety creeps in and starts to cripple you. It is getting harder to focus and all of a sudden you are so overwhelmed and stressed out it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel i.e. summer.
Stop and take a breath. You can do this, you just need help to take perspective of the task ahead, and tackle it one step at a time.
Here are some tips to help you tackle the next few weeks while looking after your health and wellbeing:
- Identify all the tasks you need to do over the next few weeks. Put the deadlines beside each task and prioritise accordingly.
- Studying is like eating an apple; you eat it one bite at a time. Therefore, break the study into chunks, design your study plan, know what topics you need to be covering each day.
- Work with your strengths: know if you study better on your own or in a group, or if you study better in the morning or evening, or if you prefer totally silence or need some music in the background. Remove distractions where ever you are.
- Most important of all, schedule plenty of breaks. Research proves that we can only concentrate for 30-45mins at a time, so take regular breaks to help you recharge and keep focused on the topic you are studying. Include one day off so you can totally switch off and have fun.
Keep Things in Perspective
- When starting to get overwhelmed, it is good to stop and take some perspective. Remember, exams are not the end of everything, so try to look at it more as a challenge which you will get through.
- Exams don’t define you as a person or your ability, you have a lot more to offer than just academic knowledge
- Results aren’t everything, employers are no longer just focused on your results. They are more concerned about your attitude, if you are a team player and what skills you have.
- After each exam take 30mins to unwind and celebrate doing your best in the last exam. Don’t compare with friends, as you cannot change results now, just focus on relaxing and knowing that you have done challenging things in the past, and got through them: you will get through these too.
Good Coping Mechanisms
- Have a good diet; eat good foods for the brain, avoid processed & sugary foods and caffeine. These actually drain you of good energy needed for concentration, as it tends to give you that ‘brain fog’ feeling.
- Eat healthy snacks regularly, keep your blood sugars regulated.
- Drink lots of water… the brain needs lots of water every day, so generally aim for 2L a day if possible.
- Get exercise and fresh air each day – you have enough time; just get out and clear your head and it will re-energise you for next round of study.
- Relaxing activities are a must. Hours of scrolling through social media is not good for the brain. Have a bath, watch a movie; adult colouring and puzzles are also great for helping your mind switch off. The brain is more productive when relaxed and recharged, rather than coming from a place of stress and worry.
- Get quality sleep; once you finish study, unwind and let the mind switch off. If you are still stressed and can’t sleep, write down what is worrying you. This will help the brain relax and let you go to sleep.
Avoid Bad Habits
- Avoid stimulants, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs, as these tend to affect your concentration in the long term. Also, hangovers are not productive for studying, and messes up your sleep.
- Avoid smoking, as this will only increase your anxiety and tension. Plus, it will also save you a few more pennies by the end of the week.
- Avoid comfort eating; at times of stress we all reach for comfort food, however this is never a healthy habit to relieve stress. So, try make healthy food choices, and stock up at the start of the week. The way you feed your body actually has a big impact on how the body copes with stress.
- Don’t deny the signs that you are stressed and are becoming overwhelmed, try tackle it head on and remember: prevention is better than reaction.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People
- Talk to family and good friends about how you are coping, and preparing for your exams. This will help you relieve the stress, get it out of your system, and will also help you keep things in perspective.
- Don’t compare yourself to your peers; it may seem like they are doing lots of study, but is it productive study or are they just saying that to make themselves feel better? As long as you give it truly your best shot, no one else can say anything to you.
If you are feeling distressed and feeling like you can’t cope, please reach out and talk to someone. The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, and you can find a list of on-campus and off campus supports at www.pleasetalk.org for more information.