Five steps to overcome stress

As finals season approaches, integrate these easy practices into your studies to help relieve school-related anxieties.

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Here are five easy steps to manage stress.

Lily Journey, Freelance Writer

Tired eyes drag across a glimmering screen as your fingers slowly pound away at the paper you’ve been putting off for a week. Fluorescent lights hum overhead with the incessant cracking of electric buzz, adding to the dungeon-like feel of the cold basement library. 

A dingy particle-board cubicle is probably the last place you’d like to be at 2 a.m., but somehow you completely ignored this assignment until the last moment. Now that thing—that constricting feeling in your back and chest—sabotages your productivity.

The feeling is stress, and it’s vague presence plagues nearly every college student unnecessarily because they don’t have the tools to prevent it. According to Forbes Magazine, a 2014 American College Health Association assessment discovered that anxiety regularly afflicts 61% of college students. 

Anxiety, while sometimes an unrelated mental disorder, can often be traced back to the general demands of life, and its effects result in a surplus of stress and the inability to work efficiently.

When all of life’s tasks seem to demand your full attention, it is incredibly important to be able to navigate responsibilities and create priorities. 

  • Plan ahead: attack procrastination and avoid surprises 

The first step to forming a foundation of successful habits is to create an adequate plan. 

Invest in a planner or use an online calendar, like Google calendar. If you’re using a digital calendar, turn on your notifications so that you’re reminding when assignments are due. Creating a visual spreadsheet of all your upcoming assignments for the year will prevent unnecessary stress because you’ll know what to expect. 

Color-code your classes for easy recognition throughout the semester, and categorize what times of the day you’ll spend on specific classes. Getting into the habit of sketching out tasks and assignment goals for the next day will help conserve your brainpower the next morning.

  • Create goals: brainstorm your ideals

Just as it is vital to plan out assignments, it’s equally important to think through your personal, spiritual, academic and physical goals for the semester. Start by brainstorming small steps in the different spheres of your life. Perhaps you’d like to run a 5k with a friend. This would fall under the “physical goals” category. 

Think your way backward: think of where you are now and what you’ll have to do each month, week and day to accomplish that goal. This portions out your larger goal into attainable daily tasks. Just like your homework planning, goal mapping will consolidate a large ideal into concrete routines. 

  • Stay Accountable: Write it Down, Talk it Out

Written goals and relational input will increase your positive accountability. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that college students who took written notes were able to recall information more comprehensively and contextually than those who simply typed their notes. Writing things down will encourage you later when you need motivation to track your progress towards your goals. 

We weren’t made to live a perfect or insular liferelationships are key to managing stress. Having a friend or mentor to routinely ask you about your progress towards your goals will invite others into your new lifestyle and provide positive reinforcement when you’re feeling unmotivated. Maybe there’s a club you’ve always wanted to join but never felt like you had time for: write down your goals for club attendance, and get someone to keep you accountable to them throughout the semester. 

If all of these self-help, stress-managing tactics fail to bring your soul rest, reach out to a trusted counselor or therapist. These professionals are trained with the tools needed to help you psychologically and emotionally. Being your most efficient self doesn’t have to be a solo-mission of pure willpower. Change often comes through the help of mentors and professionals.

  • Embrace mental mindfulness: live a minimalist lifestyle

While “minimalism” is a trendy term smattered in the script of endless vlogs and Instagram captions, there are actual psychological benefits of living on—and thinking about—less.

Psychology Today draws a parallel between the popular “minimalist” lifestyle choices and a minimalist mentality. It’s just as important to actively declutter your mind as it is to take control of your material possessions. Mental minimalism can be achieved through preventing overcrowding, which gives your mind space to be fully present and imaginative instead of frenzied and worried. 

Just as being less emotionally attached to material possessions instills a sense of control and simplicity, surrendering your mental energies to the tasks or pleasures at hand enables you to enjoy your current situation. Pause throughout the day to enjoy the spaces around you. Worship God by taking your thoughts and senses captive to the world around you and practice mindfulness to ease stress. 

  • Schedule rituals of spiritual rest: escape the social media trap  

“Resting” doesn’t have to mean indulging in groggy mid-day nap routines, or stimulating your over-tired brain by scrolling through social media pages. Instead of scrolling, find times and places where you feel most relaxed and fill your free time with phone-less, peace-giving activities you enjoy. For some, this looks like sweating after a hard gym session; others find escape in a relaxing yoga class or sketching outside. 

Incorporating a spiritual discipline—such as fasting, Bible verse memorization, acts of service and prayer—into your routine can not only relieve physical symptoms of stress, they also strengthen your faith in practical ways. Get to know the heart of God more intimately while praying, which is a form of relaxing meditation that encourages both your body and brain to rest from the constant stimulation of the day. 

BECOMING AN EFFECTIVE STUDENT

In the end, the biggest step you can take to prevent stress and become a more efficient student is to simply embrace a more holistic and balanced perspective on life. By planning your days, practicing mindfulness, scheduling time for spiritual rest and knowing when to seek the help of counselors, you’ll start forming habits that will create a lifestyle conducive to productive learning and human thriving. 

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