Managing Stress in College

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It’s getting to be a busy time of the semester. Classes are racing towards the finish line, work is piling up, and due dates are overlapping. And if you’re anything like me, you probably feel like you haven’t stopped working, yet you still have a heap of things to get done.

While it might be easy to panic, stress, and feel guilty whenever you aren’t working, it’s through these times that it’s most important to unwind and take time for yourself. Here’s how…

1.) Take a break with another activity.

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Whether you’re deciding what to make for dinner or reading a book for pleasure, taking a break and refocusing your mind on something else for a little while will allow you to return to your work refueled.

2.) Listen to music.

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Give your brain a rest and activate the creative area of your mind. (Separately from working, preferably. While music can be a great destresser, it can be a distraction while you’re working.)

3.) Get outside.

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Whether you’re taking a ten-minute walk or spending a Saturday on a more vigorous hike, stepping away from the books and the screens will clear your mind and send you back to your work more motivated.

4.) Treat yourself.

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You’re doing your best, and that’s all that matters. Go easy on yourself, remember to forgive your mistakes as long as you learn from them, and take a moment to indulge in something- it can be as small as a Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks (which I highly recommend, by the way)!

 

How do you manage stress in college?

 

Surviving College Finals Week Madness

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Finals week is known for the anxiety it provokes: hyperventilating in a library study room, binging on junk food, getting very little sleep, and so on. However, suffering through final exams and papers doesn’t mean we have to let go of our health and sanity. Making thoughtful, health-centered decisions can actually help you perform better on your exams and lessen your test anxiety. Here are some simple steps you can take today.

 

1. Load Up Your Pantry

Healthy food and meals means not crashing on coffee and junk food or dealing with stomach pains during your exam. Load up on servings of fruits and veggies. Bring fruit bars, soups, and whole wheat snacks to your study room. And don’t forget to hydrate! Water is important for keeping up your energy.

 

2. Take Your Vitamins

If you’re stuck with cafeteria options only, a vitamin can ensure you’re getting a dose of what you need. Some good brain-boosting vitamins are D3 (which are also great if you’re indoors during darker nights), folic acid for memory, and B-complex to help reduce stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping, go for all-natural melatonin instead of sleep aids.  

 

3. Take Advantage of De-Stress Perks

Most likely, your college offers fun ways to de-stress during finals. Some popular ideas include cuddling with therapy dogs, getting a 10-minute massage, taking a yoga class, or learning basic meditations. You can even see if they provide nap rooms or dark spaces if you’re a commuter in need of a nap.

 

4. Find Time for Breaks

Breaks are important for retaining information and lowering pressure. One method you can use is called the Pomodoro Technique. Study or work for 20 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Use your phone’s timer to keep you on track. And you’re easily distracted, use extensions to your browser that ban you from sites like Facebook for a period of time.  

 

5. Keep Up Your Gym Routine

Make time to sweat! It helps clear your mind and recoup from a long day of test-taking. Plus, working out can help keep your immune system running. Another reason to get your morning run in is that routines like this can help you ease stress and give you the sense that today’s just another day, even if there’s a test at the end of it.

 

6. Reward Yourself With Self-Care

Who says your only reward for surviving finals should be your grade? Save up for finals week and enjoy your favorite restaurant with friends or get a manicure or pedicure. Space out your rewards so that you are motivated to stay on track. By picking relaxing rewards, you do double duty in following through and keeping your anxiety at a low.

 

7. Check-In With Loved Ones

If the stress is too much, don’t just carry it on your back for the entire week. Schedule a call to someone you love and trust to get your vent time in. By talking through your worries or problems, you may be able to see the solution that wasn’t there before. Reaffirming that you have someone who loves and supports you no matter what will help you survive college final week madness with your friends and family seeing you through.

 

What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Falling Behind in College

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Great news! You’re almost done with your first semester of the year. How are you feeling? Are your classes going well? Are your grades what you hoped they would be? I am sure some of you out there are shaking your heads ‘no’ to both of those questions. Feeling like you’re falling behind is pretty common, even for overachievers. Figuring out how to recover in the middle of a rough semester can seem impossible. These steps will help you make a plan to get back on track and get the grade you want.

 

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Step 1: Audit Yourself

To begin, you need to know what you’re facing. This means figuring out your current grades ASAP — if you can, by percentage. Take out a notebook or grab your whiteboard and write each and every one of them down. That way, your current situation is out there, in full, so you can strategize on what you need to work on and what classes you can put less time in.

Step 2: Talk It Out

When you feel like you’re failing (or you know you are), there is no time to waste. You need to get your professor or academic advisor involved. Showing that you recognize your problem and that you’re proactive puts you in such better standing than someone who waits until the week of finals to ask for help. Set up a time to sit down and evaluate together so that they can help you pinpoint what is the problem and maybe give you some personalized solutions on how to make it better.

Step 3:  Plan Your Calendar

For most colleges, you have about five more weeks until break. That seems like a ton, but in the grand scheme of things, there are midterm reviews, project deadlines, meetings, and final study sessions to take up your time. Grab your syllabus and go through each class. Mark on your calendar, planner, or phone important deadlines along with reminders a week, 3 days, and 1 day in advance. You’ll feel less overwhelmed when the days ahead are spelled out.

Step 4: Goal Set

Now that you’ve got a realistic picture of what you need to do and when it is due, it’s time to set a goal for yourself. The most important part of goal setting is to be realistic. Unless your professor is really lax on grading, you’re not going to go from a D- to an A+ in half a semester. But passing with a C or even a strong B could be in reach. Use that calendar to write in check-in marks each week where you see how you have progressed on that goal line.

Step 5: Reward Yourself

You need to reward yourself for when you do hit those goals. The grade and the relief are enough, but you may also want to treat yourself to a celebration dinner or a new poster for your dorm room. Adding a reward to the goals doubles your chances of success and helps you establish good study habits for future semesters.

Step 6: Cut Yourself Some Slack

Finally, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you get to finals week and you’re still feeling crushed, take a moment and think of what you have accomplished, what you have learned, and how far you’ve gone (even if it doesn’t seem like a lot). Then, decide what it was that you did wrong. Maybe the class was too advanced or you took on too much this semester. While you don’t want to make excuses, knowing why you feel like you’re falling behind can help you pick yourself up for next semester.

3 Ways to De-stress before Midterms

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With school in full swing and midterms soon upon us, it can be really stressful to balance all the various tests and class work along with the extra clubs and activities. With that in mind, I wanted to share the three things I like to do when I get really stressed to help me relax and take my mind off everything for a little while.

1. Go to the Gym

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Sometimes the best way to relax is to just sweat it out. The gym is the perfect place to take out all your frustrations from classes and it’s good for you too. Try a fitness class or grab a friend and walk the track. My personal favorite is the sauna, you can just feel the weight of any stress you may have lifting off your shoulders. So if you’ve hit a road block in your studying or just can’t talk it out anymore, head over to the gym and distract yourself. You’ll be sure to feel rejuvenated afterwards.

2. Have a Girls Night

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A girls night is another great way to take a break from all the hustle! Invite all your girlfriends over, load up on sweet and salty snacks and pop in your favorite film. Being with the girls is instantly relaxing because you know that you can vent to them and they will listen and comfort you. And in most cases they have some the same classes and tests as you so they can relate. When you all get together it makes for a relaxing and fun evening.

3. Call Home

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When I get super stressed or don’t know what to do, I always call my mom. Even though she might have the answer, just hearing her voice and getting to talk things through with her helps ten fold.  Sometimes you just want to feel like you at home even though you can’t actually be there.

Hopefully one of this things will come in handy as midterms get going! And good luck on all those tests too!

Cheers.

Mental Health Awareness – What College Has Taught Me

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Growing up I knew something was different about how I coped with stress and dealt with my emotions. I have very vivid memories of waiting outside by the mailbox almost an hour before the school bus was expected to arrive because I was so afraid to miss it. On bad weather days I would stare out the front window instead, nerves building and building, just waiting for the bus to show up. Who even does that?

Fast forward to today, a year out of college and I feel that I have just now figured it out… and I’ll be the first to tell you that college was not at all easy living with these illnesses. Starting in 2009 when I had my first visit to any kind of therapist, I have been diagnosed with both anxiety and depression. I feel that during my four years in school I have learned SO MUCH, both about myself and about the illnesses so many people misunderstand and oftentimes fear.

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 1.  “Seriously, It’s NOT That Serious!”

This is a big one for me – anxiety makes mountains out of mole hills (what are mole hills anyways?) The problem here is that ‘sweating the small stuff’ adds up and can affect our overall mental health. Daily negative feelings of stress coupled with the inability to cope with minor events can have a long-term impact on mental health. The worst part? You’re stressing away the best days of your life… take a few breaths, find humor in things and try to enjoy it! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later!

2.  Take Time Out For Yourself

Don’t forget about YOU! Whether you’re working three jobs on campus, president of your senior class council or just a little overwhelmed by your workload; take time out to just relax and do what YOU want. Being busy is a nice way to keep your mind off reality but let’s be honest – you need time to kick back and relax. Your body needs it and will thank you for it.

3.  Don’t Feel Ashamed – Challenge the Stigma

Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma can be defined as a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart in a negative way and can bring feelings of shame, hopelessness and distress. Hanging your head because you feel ashamed can be a normal reaction, but it doesn’t have to be. Everyone is different, everyone has their own story… and this is yours. Whether it’s with your boss, your professor, your significant other, your roommate or your parents… we all know honesty is the best policy! If something is bothering you about anything in your life, speak up and let your voice be heard. Be open and honest about your feelings and don’t bottle it up – because we all know that only causes more problems.

4.  Know When to Seek Help and From Where

Signs that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety are not always recognizable at first glance. For depression it could be loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, tiredness and lack of energy, slowed or trouble thinking, and sudden disturbances in sleep. For anxiety it could be feeling restless or on edge, tiring easily, experiencing muscle tension and prolonged irritability. If you feel as though you may be depressed or suffering from anxiety, but are reluctant to seek treatment… talk to a friend, a loved one, or someone else you trust. This is the first step to getting help! Seek professional help (like your school’s counseling services, public safety, or even 911) if you feel as though you are in crisis, or have thoughts of suicide or self harm.

I remember the first time I sought professional help for my mental illness and can recall almost every detail about that appointment, because of how traumatic it was for me. I was SO reluctant and toyed around with the idea for months – I felt like I was being judged and that seeking professional help wasn’t “normal”. It’s not like anyone actually wants to go see a therapist or psychiatrist. It’s not the type of thing someone wakes up in the morning and says “Wow, I’ve been missing something in my life. I’d love to chat with a stranger about my innermost personal fears, thoughts, and feelings and see exactly how screwed up I really am!” Instead of fighting these feelings, it is best to just accept them as part of the process of getting better.