Look…I get it. You’ve seen a million of these types of articles before, and the last thing you want to see is yet another reminder to “take care of yourself!!” when you have a To-Do list so intimidating that it could fight God given the opportunity, no thanks to Tulane’s admin. But, as someone who just got stress-induced sick, managing it is actually crucial for your mental and physical well-being and not just some lie that therapists made up to sell more sessions. For that, I wanted to make a Hypocrite’s Guide to Stress Management And Getting Work Done: Somewhat Reasonable Edition.
- Spend A Little Time Outside
I get that it’s tempting to hole up in your room or Howie-T for hours on end with only your computer and notes to comfort you. We’ve all done it, and quite frankly sometimes it has to happen. That being said, try your best to get at least a little bit of time outside between study sessions. Moderate sunlight exposure has been proven to increase serotonin production in the brain, which contributes to heightening your mood. It also lowers levels of melatonin production, which contributes to sleepiness, so time outside can help you focus more on your work. I know working outside isn’t always feasible (distractions, Internet connection, access to chargers, etc.) but a few moments outside can do you wonders. (source)
- Please For The Love Of All That Is Good: Take A Break Sometimes
I am going to say something controversial: I don’t care how smart or hard-working you are, you cannot study for eight or more hours straight. You just can’t. I can’t find a single source that says the human attention span is any longer than 2 hours, and after that a break is so important. Study techniques like the Pomodoro promote taking twenty-five-minute study “sprints” and breaking for five, then taking a thirty-minute break after four “sprints”. Though your breaks don’t necessarily have to be so regimented, they are vital in giving you time to decompress and not feel as overwhelmed by the task at hand.
- Catch That Disaster Thinking
Admittedly, this one is more of a reminder for myself than actual advice for others, but I cannot imagine I am alone in this. When my work gets too overwhelming, I get way too in my head about what I have to do and end up stressing myself out instead of actually doing the stressful task. My thoughts are long sentences connected with “and” that just make the list of things worse and what I have to do more impossible. I understand “simply stop doing that” is not always possible, but our reaction to our thoughts is something that can be controlled. Instead of keeping that to-do list in your head, giving your brain free reign of how to format it, write it down! Putting that list down on paper can help make it seem a lot more manageable.
- Express Yourself and How You’re Feeling
High stress is sometimes unavoidable. Instead of bottling up and wallowing in it, give yourself space to externalize those feelings. Whether it’s writing it down in a journal, crying, talking to a trusted person in your life, or even screaming at the top of your lungs, expression is not embarrassing or weak, but crucial and completely normal. The cathartic effect of fully expressing yourself and letting it out can help your stress not feel all-consuming and unbearable and lower your stress level, making work more possible to complete.
Obviously, this is not an all-exhaustive list. Stress affects everyone differently, and not everything will work for everyone. But learning how to manage it and the ways that work best for you are crucial in maintaining your health and well-being at a fast-paced university. If you feel like your stress-levels are becoming unmanageable or out of proportion with the stressor and are impacting your ability to function as-usual, please reach out to a mental health professor and schedule an appointment.