Saturday 13 December 2014

How I Handle: Academic Stress

This post is a few hours late, so it's probably fitting that it's about handling stress.

It's exam season for universities and people are pretty much driving themselves up walls and into holes in the ground, just trying to keep their GPA up.

And if you're like me, you really push yourself to do well. So your thought process, when you're working hard to get somewhere later on in life and really testing your own limits, is like this:

It's a little disheartening because most of the time, the reward is going to take years to show up, and you know it. And after you get all fired up and you work your ass off (if you even get to that stage), you start declining into these 4:

  1. Mild frustration. As in, you don't understand why you're doing this to yourself, but you are, so you push forward. 
  2. Desperation. You start questioning why you're persevering, or doing anything at all, and you're clinging to your bottom-of-the-barrel reasons even though you're simultaneously trying to study and ask your friends why you can't catch hypothermia to skip your exam. 
  3. Not worth it. You, at some point, decide that what you're doing is no longer worth doing. You should've just saved yourself the effort and not started at all, but might as well quit now. I'm going to go home, put on my cat onesie, and eat all of my advent calendar chocolate on the same day so take that, world.
  4. Step 4 is optional. But it's the one you need to take. It's pausing (not stopping), taking a deep breath, and sorting out what you're going to do. 
When I'm in a high-pressure atmosphere or I know I am going to enter a week full of stress, I plan it all out, whether it's on paper or in my head. In the mornings, I wake up and make sure I know what I'm going to do that day.

That includes how long I'm going to study for or how much content I'm going to cover, where I'm going to work, and what my sleep schedule is going to be like.

I try to make things easier for myself. You know all of the extra-step things that you want someone to do for you? Do it for yourself. Make yourself tea. Write yourself encouraging sticky notes in your workspace. Little breaks like that clear your head and make your work environment better. 

That being said, I try to make things easier for other people when I can. If you're already getting yourself a coffee, get one for or with someone else. You're not the only one running low on time, but even seeing a friend for the time it takes to get to the front of the Starbucks line is honestly refreshing. 

Study with a friend, but time it right. You start to get antsy if you feel like you're the only one working really hard, but studying with a friend (one who isn't distracting!) will help you both focus. If you focus well with friends, great! Take advantage! If not, study on your own and then test each other, or co-ordinate your study breaks. 

And most importantly, remember that you can 100%, definitely, I can guarantee to anyone reading this right now, handle it. 

It's far from the end of the world if you fail an exam (or even just don't do as well as you hope). Everyone does it at least once. And if you came to university and aced everything, you're clearly paying a whole crapload of tuition just so that you can not learn anything new, right?

Be glad you have the opportunity to try at this thing. It's frustrating, but in a macro kind of way, it's exciting. 

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