My gift to you this holiday season is stress management techniques that will make your finals more bearable. Plus, these strategies will help you concentrate on your studies and maximize your performance. Casually read the fifteen tips below and good luck on finals!
Tip #1: Identify stress. Learn the symptoms of stress so you can manage it early. Common symptoms of stress include the following:
- Health or Medical: headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, dry mouth, loss of appetite, lack of energy, acne, lingering colds
- Mental or Emotional: irritability, tearfulness, difficulty concentrating, defensiveness
- Behavioral: insomnia, fidgeting, shouting, trembling, overeating, clenching your jaw
Tip #2: Eliminate routine stress. Minimize daily hassles such as running late and losing things. Get organized and learn to say no. Instead of saying “I really should study” when your friends invite you to hang out, say “You caught me in the middle of something important. I’ll call you later” or “I can’t go to the movies tonight, but I can go on Saturday.”
Tip #3: Celebrate it. Not all stress is negative. If you manage and reframe it, it can keep you alert, motivate you to face challenges and drive you to solve problems.
Tip #4: Anticipate stress and prepare for it. Stress is a natural part of life whether you are a student or a working professional. Learn to identify the busy times in your life and plan ahead to manage your “to do” list.
Tip #5: Relax & Reflect. Be still and know that He is God (Psalms 46:10). Take 15 minutes today for yourself. Attend a worship service. Pray. Enjoy coffee with a friend. Listen to your favorite music. If you still feel tense as you prepare to study, take four to five slow deep breaths. Stretch and turn your torso in your chair to relax. Roll your head to the right and to the left.
Tip #6: Be positive. “Let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of mind” Romans 12:2 (TEV). Although we often think that events themselves are stressful, researchers suggest that our interpretation of the event determines our response to them. Observe your thoughts. Consider the questions below to assess your own interpretation of events. Challenge unhelpful beliefs that only foster anxiety and replace them with more positive messages. Focus on learning instead of goals and view this as an opportunity instead of a problem.
● Do you feel a constant pressure to achieve?
● Do you criticize yourself when you’re not perfect?
● Do you feel you haven’t done enough no matter how hard you try?● Do you give up pleasure in order to be the best in everything you do?
● Do you have to be perfectly in control at all times?
● Do you worry about how you appear to others when you are nervous?
● Do you feel that any lack of control is a sign of weakness or failure?
● Are you uncomfortable delegating projects to others?
● Does your self-esteem depend on other’s opinion?
● Do you sometimes avoid activities because you’re afraid of disappointing someone?
● Are you better at caring for others than for yourself?
● Do you keep any negative feelings inside to avoid displeasing others?
● Do you feel you can never do as good a job as someone else?
● Do you feel your judgment is poor?
● Do you feel you lack common sense?
● Do you feel like an impostor when told your work is good?
Tip #7: Develop a plan. Be proactive. Let your stress motivate you to study and manage your time. Create a daily study schedule and set measureable, specific goals for each study session.
Tip #8: Laugh. You cannot laugh and hold tension at the same time. It helps your immune system and decreases your blood pressure. Watch your favorite comedy or TV show. Read your favorite comic or share a funny memory with a friend.
Tip #9: Take a break. Life is a pizza and academics are only one slice. Marathon study sessions also cause your brain to become overloaded. Shorter study sessions prevent fatigue.
Tip #10: Study in a productive environment. Avoid unnecessary interruptions and maximize your concentration. Turn off your cell phone, TV and iPod. Minimize interruptions by closing your residence hall door.
Tip #11: Utilize effective study strategies. For a list of quick tips, view my previous blog post Top Ten Emergency Test Prep Strategies.
Tip #12: Make healthy decisions. Go for a walk. Shoot hoops or go for a walk with a friend. Avoid junk food and caffeine. Get at least six hours of sleep.
Tip #13: Just get started. Don’t wait until you are “in the mood” to do homework. Act as if you want to study and the feeling will follow.
Tip #14: Reward yourself. Set daily goals and utilize enjoyable activities, such as Facebook or the X-box, to reward yourself.
Tip #15: Seek additional assistance. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you do not have to cope alone. Sometimes just talking about your concerns can help put them into perspective. Identify a supportive family member or friend. Visit with a staff member for individual and confidential consultation.