Misguided Muse: Dealing with academic stress

Well, here we all are! After a week of relaxation from intense study sessions during midterms, we’re all refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester. It can be a cycle, really: receive assignment, procrastinate, cram the night before, turn it in with a passing grade but insomnia written all over your face. Rinse, lather, repeat. Whatever gets the job done, right?

Um, wrong. If I didn’t take responsibility for following that exact same study recipe at times, I would be preaching the biggest of all hypocrisies. I decided to come up with a list for myself and anyone who finds that recipe familiar as well, a list of possible alternatives that might help to make the rest of the semester and my academic future a tad less stressful.

1. Plan ahead.

The No. 1 recommendation is to make sure you’re managing your schedule so the world doesn’t hit you all at once. If you have, say, three papers due in the exact same week, the obvious choice is to take some intervals of time to work on each separately ahead of time. This is better than tackling them all in one day. This will include all your research time, formatting, drafting and editing of the actual paper as well. If you’re planning on doing all of this within 24 hours of the due date . . . good luck.

You’ll have a much better chance at survival if you take it one step at a time, even if it’s one significant source of research each night, taking some extra time to make sure everything is in MLA format. You are going to thank yourself for not relying on sheer forceĀ of will and two Rockstars within 12 hours of each other to keep you going. Trust me, I speak from experience.

2. Get the most difficult thing out of the way first.

If you’re hit with a list of impending doomsday tasks to accomplish, sometimes it’s best to take those aforementioned time management skills and put them toward what is actually going to take the most time. If you’ve got a book review and an art project that you know you can whip through in 30 minutes, but a page of math calculations that you know might take you into next week, it might be better to attempt the latter so you have enough time to actually get help and do it accurately. If you must save something for the last minute, make it the item on the list that is going to be easiest to fly through on autopilot.

3. Make your environment more comfortable.

Most of the time, we dread areas in which we must pursue responsibility, and we associate that area with the uninviting aura we assign the responsibility. However, if you modify these areas to be an opportunity of comfort instead of just a stiff-backed trip to mental strain, you may find yourself less likely to be dragged kicking and scream to sit down and get your work down. For example, sitting down and studying can mean a cold chair and staring into your computer screen or textbook until your eyes bleed, or it can be the time of day you’re allowed to curl up on your bed Indian-style with your beverage of choice and listen to relaxing music while getting all those pesky assignments done. It really all depends on your own level of concentration. If you can resist the sweet allure of YouTube and catnaps in your newly acquired “homework hut,” it can really make studying or any other long, bothersome project you have to endure less of a teeth-pulling endeavor.

4. Find an outlet for stress relief.

Sometimes, despite all the careful planning and regimens of the world, you will never be able to completely avoid stressing yourself out to get something done. I actually believe a little stress can be healthy in the long run. A bit of adrenaline in your system drives initiative, but you need to make sure you have an outlet for yourself before or afterward so you don’t completely short-circuit. Your outlet could be anything: yoga or meditation to help zone out the world and focus on your “inner self,” or a trip to the gym to productively exert your tension. It could be playing out your emotions on an instrument of your choice, or even just wailing it out to your favorite song on your playlist. The key is to indulge in something positive and productive that makes you happy and won’t leave you waking up with regrets later. You’ve already got enough problems, right? Why pass out with more?