Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 25628

9 Ways To Have A Less Stressful Semester


You barely got through last semester without having a mental breakdown. All the partying, late nights and procrastination caught up to you in the form of one big stress snowball. This semester, you’re set on making changes to ensure that an avalanche doesn’t happen—and the good news is, you don't have to do it alone! We spoke to collegiettes about their experiences with stressful semesters and what they are now doing to make this semester less stressful. We also spoke to Susan Vincent, a counselor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, to get you expert tips on how to stay calm amidst all the craziness of college.

1. Be self-aware and realize which changes you need to make

Every collegiette is different. So while there are many great tips below, keep in mind that what works for one person might not work for another. Vincent suggests looking back at the stressful and successful times in your past semesters.

“Depending on who you are, maybe you want to start [looking] at what is causing you the most stress. So maybe you’ll start there,” says Vincent. “[For] other folks, maybe change is more difficult for them so they start [to change the] smallest thing.” She says it doesn’t matter what the first step is, what matters is that you make a change—no matter how little.

“Often with students, especially if they have a bad semester, they want to add on more [responsibilities] rather than slow down, look at what went wrong [and] self-evaluate to see what they can do differently. It’s about learning where you’re successful and building on that.”

2. List it out

A lot of stress can come from feeling like life is chaotic or disorganized.

Jocelyn Gollner, a student at Douglas College, likes to keep track of her tasks through lists, as a way to keep her priorities in order. “When I was always stressed, I tried to do time management lists. Tons of lists made me feel a bit better. Otherwise [the tasks] just stayed in my head and made me freak out.”

By making lists, you can write out all of your responsibilities and break them into smaller tasks that need to be accomplished. This way, all of the things you have to do won’t seem so big and overwhelming. It will be easier to pace yourself so you can take all your responsibilities one step at a time.

While some people prefer the good old-fashioned pen and paper list (nothing’s more satisfying than crossing off a task once you’ve completed it), there are plenty of list apps you can get on your smart phone, such as Any.Do, AnyList, Do It (Tomorrow), or Remember The Milk. If you have a gmail account, there’s also a tasks feature that you can use to your advantage.

Task lists and schedules can also lessen your chances of procrastinating. Procrastination seems like the temporary solution to our stress, but we all know that it is the cause of even more stress in the end!

Patricia, a student at Western University, experienced what many collegiettes do every semester: “I was feeling really lazy and unmotivated, so I pretty much didn't do any of my readings and procrastinated on all of my assignments,” says Patricia. “Then essay deadlines started coming and exams started happening, and that's when I started to get really stressed out and did a whole bunch of cramming and last minute stuff.”

Learning from her past experience, she has decided to plan her time better this semester, using a detailed schedule to keep her on track.

“I'm going to try to manage my time better and get into a better sleeping routine. Something that I've done is I made a weekly schedule for myself with all my classes and other commitments, and with times that I have for [spiritual] devotions, gym and studying. Hopefully that will go well and I'll be able to stick to it.”

Don’t forget to add breaks into your schedule! For example, you can plan to reward yourself with a half hour of TV for every five tasks you cross off your list (check out tip #5 for more on breaks).

3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle  

The thought of scheduling a gym session might not sound as appealing as scheduling weekly bar nights, but it might save you a load of stress in the end. Exercise is important not just for your physical health, but also for your mental health because it releases endorphins, which are hormones that can help reduce stress.

“When I’m working with students, I tell them that [exercise is] the thing you do not want to compromise on,” says Vincent. “We know moderate exercise can be very effective with depression so it should be the last thing, if you can, that should go.”

Although it might sound like the responsibility of going to the gym and scheduling a routine workout might add more stress, Michelle Lewis, HC's Senior Editor and UNC-Chapel Hill alum, found out that it actually does the opposite for her.

“I used to think that I never had enough time to exercise with my full course load and extracurriculars, and that trying to make time for the gym would stress me out more. However, I started going more often during the semester and it was actually a huge stress reliever,” she says.

“If you make it a regular part of your schedule (for example, I always went straight to the gym after my last Monday/Wednesday class) then you won't stress about using that time to not study, since it'll feel like part of your class schedule.”

In addition to regular exercise, work on keeping a fairly healthy diet. Because we tend to overeat or not eat enough when we are stressed, Vincent suggests paying close attention to your eating habits during stressful times. “It’s being able to notice that you’ve slipped into your bad habits again and doing something different.”

When you notice that you’ve started taking on negative habits, start to make a change, no matter how small, to slowly get back on track (whether it’s cutting down on alcohol or drinking more water).

“It’s stopping that downward slide. Because [when] you do more of the negative health things, your negative coping mechanisms, it’s like the snowball going downhill,” says Vincent.

4. Meditate (or do breathing exercises)

A big cause of stress and anxiety is worrying about the future. Will I have enough time to study for the test? Will I pass this class? Sometimes we need to let go of our worries and just live in the present. Nafisa Masud, a collegiette from the University of Utah, does yoga to get her through the stress of the semester. It helps her live in the moment and focus on her body and mind.

“I was always drawn to the Eastern philosophy behind yogic practice but what really kept me [going] was how much it helped me deal with stress,” says Nafisa, who is a certified yoga instructor. “By doing yoga I learned valuable exercises to control my breathing and relieve tension in my body, but I also learned how to live in the present moment and appreciate life's journey.”

Check to see if there are any yoga classes offered at your campus gym. If you don’t have enough money or prefer to do yoga in your own room, check out some yoga instruction clips on Youtube.

Because the Youtube clips are short, you can even do them during your study breaks. “There’s quite a bit on youtube. There’s little mp3 downloads on relaxation and guided meditation and guided imagery,” Vincent suggests. “They don’t have to be long. It’s whatever settles your system.”

5. Take a break, relax, and have fun

Although it might seem like a good idea to cram in all your work into one straight study session so that you can get on with other things, it is important to take breaks so that you don’t wear yourself out. Plan regular breaks to reward yourself for your hard work.

“Allocating time to yourself, even just a short half hour or hour to watch TV, go for coffee with a friend or go for dinner with your boyfriend makes all the difference,” says Lauren Hudson, a collegiette at University of Exeter. “Once I realized that I wasn't working all day, every day and getting stressed about it, my stress levels fell so quickly! It gives you something to look forward to every day and you can fill it exactly how you want to.”

Breaks are also helpful when writer’s block comes to visit. Getting stuck at a certain point can cause a lot of stress in the moment. Giving your brain a rest might help you see your work from a different perspective when you get back to it.

6. Admit when you’re taking on too much and cut down on your responsibilities

As much as we all want to be Super Collegiette, don’t forget that we’re all human. Ambition is admirable, but if you’re not eating or sleeping enough or if the stress is putting a strain on your relationships, you need to ask yourself if you’re overdoing it. If the answer is yes, you need to figure out what responsibilities to cut out.

Last year, Roxy*, a student at British Columbia Institute of Technology, was so busy that she did not have enough hours in the day to eat or sleep. It wasn’t until she experienced hallucinations from a lack of sleep that she realized she had too much on her plate.

“I had a mental breakdown last semester because of how stressed I was and all that was going on. Basically I just cut back on the workload. I started taking less classes and I'm so much happier now. I thought that by taking a lot of classes I'd finish sooner, but in the end it didn't even matter because I was so miserable,” says Roxy.

“Now it's going to take me a little longer to finish, but I'm actually enjoying myself and I'm so happy with life. Why should you put yourself in such a miserable situation when you really don't have to be? It seemed to be the best thing I could have done.”

Taking fewer classes or cutting down on work is not always an easy choice, and neither is cutting down on extracurriculars, which is what Michelle from UNC-Chapel Hill had to do.

“The fall of my junior year, I was involved in WAY too many extracurricular activities and constantly ran on little sleep and caffeine. I was always so stressed out, but I didn't want to give up any of my activities because I liked them all,” says Michelle.

It wasn’t until she studied abroad in France, where she had no extracurricular activities, that she realized how important it is to have free time and relax. “When I came back to UNC for my senior year, I dropped about half of my extracurricular activities and focused on the ones that I really loved. I've never been happier (or more stress-free!).”

But how do you know when you’re taking on too much? According to Vincent, this is the rule of thumb: “For every hour of class time, you need two hours for study and travel. So if you have 12 hours of class time a week, that means 24 hours for study and travel. So then if you add work on and then you add your private life and your social life and your family and eating and sleeping, there’s not much left over. So [do] whatever you can do to pare your life down.”

7. Plan study dates with friends who are experiencing the same thing

Every collegiette is bound to get stressed at certain times during the semester. It helps to know that there are other people going through the same thing who can help you take your mind off of the stress, but still keep you on track at the same time.

“A lot of times it helps me to get out and study with someone… that way it doesn't feel like you're the only one in the universe who is working on a Saturday morning,” says Andi*, a student at Trinity Western University. “The key is finding people who you will actually study with and not talk to the entire time.”

8. Realize when it’s not worth it to worry

Sometimes we create unnecessary stress by being too hard on ourselves. Hillary Coombs, a collegiette from Bryant University, realized one of the things she needed to stop worrying about was her already-good grades after she had two seizures and a 17 day migraine (as a direct result of being too stressed). “Usually high stressed people tend to freak out about anything less than an A. If you are in the A range, RELAX. You probably have plenty of back up on your resume to support your good grades — they don’t have to be perfect.”

9. Surround yourself with good people

The company you keep can add to or decrease your stress. Hillary became aware of this and decided to cut some people out of her life. “Only surround yourself with people who support you. It can be extremely difficult to unwind if you are surrounded by bad friends who talk behind your back [or] a boyfriend who constantly demands more time.”

It might not be easy to do but if there are people who increase your stress levels, at least try to spend less time with them and surround yourself with those who help you alleviate stress.

Every semester is sure to have its stressful points, so be aware of when those times might be and plan around them. Developing some of these habits and being mentally prepared will give you an edge to beat the stress.

*Names changed

Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 25628

Latest Images

Trending Articles

Latest Images