10 Ways to Reduce Stress & Stay Motivated

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After spring break, summer feels so close, you can practically taste it! Too bad there are still a lot of important things left to do before the semester finishes. Whether you’re stressed about a big paper or exam standing between you and three months of freedom or you’re just having trouble focusing in general, check out some of the suggestions below to combat stress and study frustration the healthy way, no caffeine or all-nighters required!

1. Get outdoors

Don’t fight the elements – take advantage of them! When temperatures start to rise and it’s absolutely gorgeous out, move your study space outdoors.

Alexandra Churchill, a collegiette from the University of New Hampshire, says, “It helps me to take my books outside! If you can bring your work out into the open sunlight with you, you can't easily say that you didn't get to enjoy the weather!”

According to a study published on the Livestrong site, exposure to sun can increase levels of melatonin, a chemical in your brain that plays an important role in keeping serotonin, another brain chemical in check. According to the study, increased levels of serotonin can boost your mood and increase happiness!

Find a comfy spot where you can enjoy the nice weather and then hit the books. Rather than moping indoors, multi-task and enjoy beautiful temperatures while keeping your grades up.

2. Keep eating healthy

When you’re crunched for time and cramming at all hours of the night, healthy meals are often one of the first things to go. Make a consistent effort to stick to the same eating schedule you usually follow, and keep meals balanced. Many of the health benefits from fruits and vegetables keep you from getting sick, eliminating another potential stressor. Plus, water has many other awesome benefits.

Also be sure to watch portion size with meals or snacks. When you’re busy studying, it’s easy to munch your way through different snack foods and consume way more calories than you intended to. Also, substitute water for caffeinated drinks. It will keep you in better shape to focus and concentrate and perform better on end-of-year exams and projects. Her Campus has some great snack suggestions to get you started.

3. Stay active

Take time away from studying to get some exercise, too. Activities like lifting weights, going for a jog or practicing yoga are great for relaxing and relieving stress and improving your mood. Regular exercise can help relieve tension and get your mind off of high-pressure activities you have coming up.

Feel like you have too much studying to hit the gym? A lot of college or university gyms have a quiet zone reserved for those who wish to get a workout in while studying. Take advantage of these and other opportunities to stay in shape, which can help you focus and commit more mental energy to studying later. Learn how to get fit without spending hours at the gym, whether it’s abs in the dorm, squeezing quick exercises in during work or class, or any other creative way you can come up with to stay active!

4. Say bye-bye to unhealthy habits

Are you an avid coffee drinker? Even simple rituals like a daily mocha could be contributing to post-spring break stress more than you think.

Caffeine can do more harm than good when you’re stressed to the max. Caffeine has an adverse effect on many of the hormones in your body, which can make you groggier after your initial intake and make you more moody once the caffeine buzz wears off. In some cases, too much caffeine can even elevate your stress levels! Obviously, caffeine makes it harder to sleep as well, meaning you aren’t as well rested and prepared for busy, stressful days. Need help kicking the caffeine habit? Try some of these alternatives.

During periods of high stress, you might want to think twice about several other risky behaviors. If you’re a smoker, think about cutting back or quitting when you have a deadline approaching. Same goes for alcohol – cut back on the drinks and the partying the weekend before a major test or paper.

5. Prioritize (and make cuts if necessary)

If your grades are slipping, take a step back and take a hard look at your schedule. If you’re super busy zipping from your sorority meeting to an intramural volleyball game with no time left to study, it might be worth cutting something out of your schedule.

If possible, schedule things out at the beginning of the semester to get a good idea of what you can afford to take on. Then, use the beginning of each month to map out a more detailed schedule and see what lies ahead. That way, if you know a certain week is going to be absolutely insane, you have plenty of time to let those involved know you’ll be unable to make it, giving them plenty of time to plan around your absence.

You could always consider making use of time in the day you’re not used to using as well. Kristen Pye, a collegiette at McGill University, says, “When spring arrives, I wake up earlier than usual to complete work while the morning chill still makes the inside cozier than the outside! Once the day warms up, all bets are off on homework completion!”

Follow Kristen’s lead, and use early mornings or later nights to get things accomplished. This will allow you to enjoy nicer spring weather without having to sacrifice a grade, and lets you continue to do more of the fun things all of us collegiettes love!

6. Break things down and create a rewards system

Focusing on how many weeks you have left can make the end of the semester seem daunting. Instead, break up the remainder of the year into smaller, more manageable chunks to make the time fly by. At the end of a block of time, find a way to reward yourself for your hard work, whether it’s a weekend of shopping, a special outing with a friend or a Saturday devoted to laying around doing absolutely nothing.

Alicia Thomas from Penn State describes how she uses a similar strategy. “I promise myself that every time I finish my assignments for a subject, I'll do something fun to reward myself, like play a game of tennis or go to Urban Outfitters and buy a cute top,” she says.

7.  Stick to a routine

Whether you regularly write in an agenda, on a calendar, or use another organization tool, stick to it. Follow your normal routine while penciling in time to study. Brett Woods, a Stress Busters captain at the University of Missouri-Columbia, offers several suggestions when it comes to setting a schedule and sticking to it. Woods suggests setting an alarm or setting aside time in a daily planner for breaks to relax, chill, and de-stress throughout the day. Having structured time guarantees you’ll have a few minutes to yourself sprinkled throughout the day since you’re making it part of your routine. Woods also suggests taking time for something as simple as a walk around campus. A walk can cause an increase in your level of endorphins, boosting your mood and lowering stress even further! Other items he suggests incorporating into a routine to give you a little more structure while relieving stress include time for a long, relaxing shower, a conversation with a friend or family member or a daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle.

Not typically your thing? You might want to reconsider, especially if you’re having trouble staying focused and getting work done and submitted on time while still doing a quality job. Setting aside specific times to study can be extremely helpful. Make sure to give yourself time to relax and take it easy as well. After all, we all know the consequences that come from all work and no play!

8. Go to class

It can be tempting to skip that boring 200-person statistics lecture to hang with friends on the quad or skip for other fun spring activities, but going to class is still extremely important. Professors are just as anxious for the arrival of spring as students, but tend to get pretty upset when you ditch class just to enjoy nicer temperatures. Going to class regularly and taking good notes means you’ll have to work less outside of class, and will have already spent a good amount of time learning and reviewing material, cutting down on the amount of time you’ll have to devote to studying.

9. Use the buddy system

Rely on a friend to keep each other motivated. Organize group study dates, encourage each other to attend classes and keep up with readings, and plan ways to celebrate together periodically throughout the semester and once you’re all done. Finding and keeping motivation is a lot easier with another person sharing the load and helping you out!

Another great reason to buddy up: Who else can make you laugh better than your friends? Woods also stresses the importance of taking the time to laugh each day: “laughing may be the best medicine.”

10. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Of course, it never hurts to keep your end-goal in mind either. Hannah Orenstein, a collegiette at New York University, explains, “My RA keeps a countdown of how many days of school we have left on a bulletin board on our floor. Watching the days tick away keeps me motivated because I know I won't have to study forever!”

Keep your own countdown and watch the days fly by. A countdown can also keep things in perspective, and remind you how little time really is left in the semester. It can also be a great way to keep yourself on track and make sure you don’t put off important end-of-semester projects, assignments or tests.

 

It can be difficult to stay motivated and stick with exams when all you want to do is enjoy nice weather and the company of friends, but keep pushing. Once summer is finally here, you’ll be more than ready for relaxation!

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About The Author

Sydney is a junior double majoring in Media and Cultural Studies and Political Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., a short trip away from Minneapolis, her hometown. When Sydney is not producing content for a variety of platforms, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, reading, and indulging in a smoothie or tea from Caribou Coffee, the MN-based version of Starbucks.