The Smart Student’s Guide to Overcoming Stress
How do you handle stress in school?
The best way to succeed at college is not by pulling all-nighters and having frequent anxiety attacks. Rather, it’s by learning how to balance your studies with smart, stress-busting tactics.
With challenging exams, high expectations, dense materials, and the forever-present “future” looming in front of you, there is no question that higher education can quickly become an incredibly stressful environment. However, that success you chase so fervently should be exciting and not crippling.
So instead of spending the night in the library—black coffee in hand and eyes glazed over—consider these quick tricks to keep you calm while your head is in the game.
1. Time Management
This is more of a proactive solution than a quick fix, but mapping out a daily schedule can not only help keep you on track, but it can also prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Instead of sweating the 64 other assignments floating around in your mental to-do list, taking a moment to look down at your schedule allows you the freedom to take a deep breath and say, “Alright, for the next hour I am only focusing on this.”
Most of us spend more time worrying than actually working when studies get too demanding. So take a moment to prioritize your daily schedule with deadlines in mind.
2. Avoid Procrastination
Remember that beautiful schedule you just made? Don’t put in all that smart work and then neglect it because something else sounds more fun. Let’s face it: Studying will never be the most fun part of your day, but putting it off won’t make it go away.
Procrastination can stress you out more than anything else. It makes your deadlines come quicker. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that doing something else for a while will help you in some way, when really you’re just distracting yourself from the more pressing task at hand.
So buckle down and fight the urge to procrastinate by penciling in breaks in your schedule.
3. Don’t Become a Machine
You are a student. You are human. These things are important to remember when you feel like you can’t keep up with everything you have to do.
Sometimes you need a coffee break with a friend, or a yoga class to stretch it out, or even just a nap! It’s important to give yourself time to recharge.
Higher education is not only for growing your intelligence and skillset, but it can be a perfect opportunity for overall self-improvement. You are pursuing your career; you are not your career. Give yourself the time to remember that.
4. Prioritize Sleep
It may be the oldest trick in the book, but it is not something to neglect. A lack of sleep can not only affect your focus and mood during the day, but it can also interfere with memory and concentration.
Without giving your brain the proper time to absorb information and recover, those facts and figures won’t stick. So ditch the all-nighters. Instead, study before bed and sleep on it. You not only will avoid a bad mood in the morning, but you’ll be better prepared for class. That pillow looks pretty good now, huh?
5. Diet and Exercise
Most stress is strongly correlated with health problems.
“I can’t get this done, I’m too tired…”
“I’m so scared I will fail this, I can’t sleep…”
Sound familiar? Quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to sleep because even the most stressful days should include a solid 6-8 hours. But a poor diet can cause you to toss and turn at night.
Try to avoid sugar and energy drinks while studying late, and learn what foods can help you focus. Sometimes the foods that make you feel better in the short-run do not help you perform your best. I promise you, that pint of ice cream is not your friend. Maybe turn to tea or black coffee, trail mix, or a crunchy salad.
It is a common misconception that exercise is only for athletes. Even if you don’t need a bikini body, adding something physical to your day could help you blow off steam when you’re stressed. Make it something you enjoy! Hate running? Try going on a hike! Hate the gym? Take an outdoor yoga class! Grab a friend and try something new. You will laugh and move and allow your body the same exercise you’ve been giving your brain.
Regular exercise will help you sleep, eat, relax, and therefore help you learn. That sounds like a win-win to me.
With challenging studies, stress may be impossible to avoid, but that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it. By implementing these stress-busting techniques, you can out-smart the stress that can so quickly sneak up on you in college. It’s just a simple balancing act of taking care of both your education and yourself. You’ve got this.
About the Author
Madison Martin is a graduate of Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she received her BFA in Drama. Madison is a passionate actress driven by the story, consistently working to create real living, breathing characters with purpose. Before moving to Los Angeles, she spent the last four years intensively studying with The Meisner Studio and Stonestreet Film and Television Studios in New York City.