The Best Techniques to Help Combat Stress While Studying
By Nicholas Sinclair| Febuary 07, 2020
Stress is something we all deal with, but how we deal with it is something that differs from person to person. There are endless reasons why we stress, be it work, family or even study.
It’s estimated that a high number of students suffer from stress and anxiety due to things such as coursework deadlines, assessments and balancing their studies with other commitments. For some, the stress can be too much and can cause them to drop out of their course. But what is stress really and how do we manage it?
Well, stress can be defined as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension’, or ‘to give particular emphasis or importance to something’. While these definitions have different connotations, they speak the same truth.
At a core level, stress is the activation of our flight our fight response. A deep ingrained response we’ve developed over millions of years that helped keep us alive. But in today’s modern world, this fight or flight response has become confused.
How does stress affect us?
Many of us think that stress is something that just comes and goes, like the wind. But, our bodies store stress, which can lead to a range of health issues.
Did you know that stress can affect your brain size, it’s structure and how it functions? When we stress, our bodies release a chemical called cortisol, which readies our bodies for action, or in other words, prepares our flight or fight response.
A little bit of cortisol is fine, it is after all, our bodies own protection mechanism. But, in today’s world our bodies are continuously pumping out cortisol, which over time, wreaks havoc on the brain.
So, what can you do to combat stress whilst you study online? We’ve put together a few simple stress reduction techniques and lifestyle changes that can help you with this.
Figure out what is causing you stress
By this I mean, figure out what exactly is causing you stress and write it down. Maybe you have a course assessment coming up and you’re having a hard time understanding the course material. The best thing you can do is talk to someone about it – with a family member, friend, your educator or talk to a member of the student services team to see how they can help.
Work out your study schedule
Most institutions are quick to provide you with a course syllabus, so once you receive it, get cracking! Know when all your projects and exams will be so that you can prepare your life around them. If you’ve got kids, that extra time will be crucial if you need to organise a babysitter or negotiate with your partner or family on managing parental commitments. Know your study schedule in advance. Giving yourself time means that you’ve got time to make last-minute changes if necessary. For example, in the event of an emergency or last-minute commitment, no worries, you’ve given yourself that extra time to switch things around.
Move around and get active
Every day try to do at least one thing to get your body moving – this could include going for a walk, gardening or going for a swim (if the weather is hot). This is key to your overall wellbeing. Even if it’s just a 5-minute run around the block, this will get the blood pumping and start releasing those feel-good chemicals into your body and brain.
Do what you can, we’re thinking long-term, there’s no point exercising to the point of collapse if it means you’re not going to do anything tomorrow or the next day. Remember, like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race.
Maintain a healthy diet
Take a serious look at what you’re putting into your body. Is your sugar/caffeine /nicotine addiction getting the better of you? We all know that these things make us feel better in the short-term, but is that really why you’re here?
Everyone knows that students often have a poor diet. That’s why taking a few hours to prepare your meals for the week can stop bad eating habits from creeping in.
We’re not here to tell you to go “cold turkey” and stop drinking alcohol or eating mi goreng right now, but you could slowly start decreasing the number of times you have them during the week. Understanding why it is that you need these things in your life is a great place to start.
We cling to addictions because they give us something we feel like we wouldn’t have otherwise. Whatever your reasons, figuring these things out is part of life’s journey, so we can move on and become better versions of ourselves.
Don’t underestimate the power of meditation, there’s a reason all the gurus recommend this practice – because it works!
So, what is meditation? It’s the practice of calming your mind, calming the voice in your head that won’t be quiet. It’s about paying attention to yourself and the space around you by being “in the moment”.
When you obsessively think about something, you’ve consciously made the choice to grab hold of that thought and keep dwelling or thinking about it. When you practice mindfulness, you’re taking a step back and watching your thoughts and letting them pass by.
A helpful mindfulness technique, used by Headspace, called noting helps you to separate yourself from your thoughts by noting ‘thoughts’ and ‘feelings’ as they come into your head. This helps you to feel as though you’ve dealt with things and it makes it easier to let go of worries.
Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce levels of distress in students during assessments and exam periods.
Let others know how you feel
Communication is key. We live in a world today where people are too scared to burden others with how they feel. Don’t be that person, be the person that is open and honest. Tell the people around you the trust, if the learning material doesn’t make sense or if assessments are too hard let them know.
Communicate clearly and know what it is you’re trying to say. This is why it’s important to figure out what is causing you stress and how to navigate it. You’re not alone remember that!
Take it easy on yourself
The most important and most effective one of them all! Self-love, just pure self-love. Often in life we are our own greatest critics. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to another person, yet we seem happy to sit there and silently torture ourselves. This thought pattern can lead to a cycle of negative thinking.
But seriously, challenge these thoughts and ask yourself “what is the point of thinking this? Does it help me in any way? Are my expectations of myself too high?”. Remind yourself that you are doing this course to learn, you’re not going to know everything already.
I know that you know it doesn’t help even in the slightest. Stop being so mean to yourself, replace that negative monologue with positivity. Be positive in your thoughts, choose to see the good things. I believe in you!
Now, I’ve just given you a crash course in stress. I told you what it is, how it affects your mind and body but also a list of techniques to combat it. I promise you if you take my advice seriously and try what I've suggested you’ll feel a real difference. You’re stronger and more powerful than you know!
Where to get help
If you need help with your studies or are finding your stress unmanageable, Mentor Education recommends the following services: