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How To Stay Focused On School When Life Keeps Intruding


People talk a lot about handling academic stress. Like many people, I started the school year with specific goals that it would be different and better than the ones before. I’d stay focused, I’d do my best to avoid procrastinating, and overall just live to improve myself and get rid of those pesky habits that held me back before.

But…I hadn’t prepared myself for the other types of anxiety: the personal ones, where friends and family become a burden instead of helping me through them. These problems often take over because they affect me on a deeply personal level, and they can lead to a daily anxiety that make it so hard to care about all those other awesome goals I made before. Here are some things I’m trying to practice to keep moving forward instead of giving in to the struggles. Hopefully they’ll be able to help you too!

1) Get out of bed (and in).

Some mornings, your bed is just so warm and reality seems so far away that you just don’t want to deal with anything. For a while, you can pretend that everything is fine and avoiding all the stuff you need to deal with seems like the best answer. But you should start your day right away, and the earlier you get out of bed, the earlier you’ll finish. Conversely, this means that instead of staying up late to squeeze in another (or two, or three) episodes on Netflix, go to bed. It’ll be worth it when the next day you realize how much you’ve already got done and it’s time for lunch. An hour is an hour, whether it’s in the morning or night, but we’re much more productive during the day. Plus, after a night of rest, we’re much less inclined to feel as emotional about everything.

2) Make a plan, then break it down.

Deadlines tend to pile up, and when we’re working under stress and trying to deal with personal problems, it’s harder to remember everything we need to do. Sometimes you’ll just stare at all those pages for homework and sit there, numb, wondering how you could have possibly thought you could do all this. So take that huge task, and break it down into steps. Just like when you decide to run five kilometers for the first time, it can seem daunting until you focus on putting one foot in front of the other. So when you break a problem down into individual steps, and focus on one step at a time, you’ll be able to breath easier knowing it’s possible.

3) Remember your dreams.

It’s easy to get bogged down by all the little things: another test to do, another meeting to make, and all the things you regret. Our perspective gets skewed because we’re so focused on the present that we forget about the whole reason we’re even here at university. So grab a pen, a piece of paper, and write down the biggest reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing. For most of us, getting the best grade in a class is a huge stress, but in the end, once we step out of the university life, no one will ever ask what we got in that same class. So remember your dreams, whether it’s going to Paris, making some new friends, or learning a new language. Choose what to focus on and what you’d be better off letting go. Four seasons come and go every year, as will these problems.

4) Remind yourself what you’re thankful for.

In the end, when it seems like life keeps throwing punches our way, we have to choose to stay positive and get up after stumbling. So whether it’s three, five, or six hundred, choose any number and figure out what you’re grateful to have in your life. It’s a small exercise that doesn’t require anything but for you to close your eyes and direct your thoughts in another direction. Even though you’re crying now and feel like breaking down, there’s still at least one reason why you can smile. Whether it’s the cup of tea you made this morning, being able to go out for walks, or that one friend who’s always there for you, remember that it’s all about the perspective you choose to take on the situation.

5) Listen to music

At the end of the day, when we’ve finished what we need to do, our own heads can be the worst place to be. All our reactions and emotions take up space in our minds and steal our focus, making it even harder to fall asleep. Find your favourite artists, put in those headphones, and just listen for a while. Relax and know that other people have felt pain and survived, and you will too. Whether it’s about ending a friendship or a relationship, facing betrayal or disappointment, music heals like nothing else.

In the end, just as change is the only constant, painful relationships don’t last forever. The only thing we can do is trust and focus ourselves, and everything else will settle itself.










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Mylan Ho

U Ottawa

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