10 Great Stress Management Tips to Navigate Finals
If you’ve been to school any length of time, you already know a lot about stress management. But during the end of a semester, it can be nice to have a reminder of how to do it effectively. After all, nothing is quite so stressful than when tackling a single exam or project that could knock you down a whole letter grade!
In the following article, we’re going to do our best to help you master the stress load for the academic challenges you’re about to tackle. But first, let’s examine some of the reasons we tend to get stressed out in the first place!
Factors That Lead to Stress Overload
Some people are genetically predisposed to handle stress poorly while the opposite is true of the “cool cucumbers” among us (i.e., those people who seemingly never get stressed about anything and yet somehow manage to get perfect grades). But no matter where we are on the stress spectrum, we all can fall prey to it from time to time. And when that happens, it’s generally for the following reasons.
We tend to place what should be major priorities onto the back burner and figure we’ll get around to it when we can. Then, a week before the due date, we realize we’ve got two weeks’ worth of work to get done. That’s improper planning, and the best way around it is to constantly revisit your schedule and reevaluate your tasks.
Trouble Getting Started
Some projects are so enormous that they intimidate us into procrastinating. Many times, you’ll find these things aren’t as bad as they seem. But it takes longer to “get there” than it should because your brain is busy blowing up the difficulty of the task beyond what it should be. The best way through it is to take that first step, no matter how small.
Pushing Yourself Too Hard
There is such thing as working too hard. Don’t conflate long hours with quality work because the two seldom produce a favorable outcome. Whenever you feel yourself start to wane, listen to that call. Take a short break and move around. Do something to break the monotony. Your final grades will thank you for it.
We have entirely too much crap on our phones, and we look at them way too much. That’s true for you, and it’s true for us. Since we’re clearly failing the Man vs. Technology test, we’ve got to figure out ways to “outsmart” the device. More on that in a moment.
Lack of Proper Reflection
Reflecting on what you’ve accomplished can be a really great motivator for future work. It can also be the kick in the pants that you need to get started when you’re feeling too overwhelmed or intimidated.
No Pressure Release Valves
You’ve got to find a way to deal with the frustrations that will inevitably occur. A nice kickboxing class, run, or other form of exercise could be the antidote. The number one thing is to get out that pent up energy and aggression in proper ways. Rewarding ways that allow you to de-stress.
Getting Intimidated by the Task at Hand
No task is so difficult to be impossible. Think about the resources that are out there online, at your school, or maybe even at work or home. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, note it. That makes it a lot easier to address later.
Now that we know the factors that lead to stress, it’s time to look at the best ways of overcoming them. Here’s our top 10!
1. Give It 90 Minutes
Ninety minutes is plenty long enough to get a lot done but not so long that we’ll get burned out on what we’re doing. If you can sit through a short 90-minute movie, you can direct your brain to take care of business for that same length of time. And if you need to take a short five-minute break in between chunks of work, go for it. Just make sure the bulk of that 90-minute window is devoted to what you’re hoping to accomplish from a study-time standpoint.
2. Work in Short Study Breaks
We’ve noted the importance of short study breaks. But we need to go a lot further in explaining how to do them properly. Remember the keyword is short. A 30-minute break or even a 10-minute break inside of a 90-minute work window is too much. Now, if you wanted to take three five-minute breaks, knock yourself out. Just make sure you’re not pulling your engaged study-brain away from what it’s supposed to be doing for too long.
3. Stop Scrolling
The worst thing social media could have ever done to society is the endless scroll. See, at one time, you could come to the end of your newsfeed and rest peacefully knowing you’ve seen all there was to see. Not so anymore. Today, social networks do their best to keep you engaged for as long as possible. The endless scroll of status updates ensures this. So break the cycle. You can do this by first realizing why the function works that way and the reality that it’s attempting to manipulate you. Be stronger and smarter than the algorithm. Learn to “walk away” from it and get back to work.
4. Master Your Mornings
Getting a good hour of self-time in each morning before the obligations of the day begin will go a long way in priming your brain for the higher-level tasks ahead. Work out a routine you enjoy and stick to it.
The act of writing your thoughts or jotting lists in a journal is a good tool for keeping your brain on track. It helps you straighten out the mental clutter and realize what you’ve done, what you need to do, and which individual tasks are necessary for bringing it all about.
6. Un-Tether from Your Smartphone
Your smartphone demands your attention. And while it can be helpful in locating information, it’s quite distracting when it comes to learning and internalizing a key concept that’ll be on your final exam. Learn to put your smartphone in another location and forget about it while you’re studying. If you need a piece of information while you’re studying, just note that to yourself and look it up later. Don’t break your flow, or your smartphone will go on controlling you.
7. Empty Out Your Bag
Book bags often collect an equal amount of clutter to your own bedroom, but they do it in a smaller space. It’s easy to lose past exams, notes, and other key information that’ll show up on your tests when you stuff all of it in a bag. So take some time to unzip and clean out your book bag from time to time. Chunk what you don’t need and set aside the forgotten gems that’ll help you prepare for the final.
8. Apply Force
A forceful activity may take you out of your comfort zone, but it can also help you straighten out your thoughts and recharge your batteries once the information overload becomes too much. Some great suggestions: squeezing a stress ball, punching a speed or heavy bag, and taking martial arts classes.
9. Know Your Burnout Triggers
We all reach a point where we just can’t take it anymore. When this occurs, there will be signs. It could be blurry vision, chronic daydreaming, or irritability. Figure out what it is that makes you feel in a state of burnout and learn to recognize when it’s setting in so you can then address it with a short break or some form of needed escape.
10. Break It Up
It’s much easier to accomplish a large task – like running a marathon, for instance – if you break it up into multiple smaller tasks. Just keeping your eyes on the finish line 26.2 miles in the distance the whole time is enough to wear out anyone. So don’t fall into the trap. Figure out how many manageable steps will be involved in bringing about a full understanding of what it is you’re studying. Then just focus on nothing further than that next micro-action. This allows you to feel the energy from several victories rather than working like a dog for little progress.
Stress Management Is Not Elimination
You have to learn how to deal with stress management, and the best way to do that is to realize you’re managing stress, not eliminating it. If you’re prepared to acknowledge that fact, then the rest of the tips on this list will come easy for you.
Now it’s your turn, readers. What are some stress management tips that helped you the most, especially during finals week? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]