School stress has made its annual return, and you may already be feeling stretched thin with the daunting tasks outlined on syllabi adding up to form one big intimidating mound of academic labor. If you’re a freshman, not only do you have the new weight of college education hanging over you, it’s likely that you’re also experiencing a massive adjustment to your living situation. It’s so easy to feel buried, and each hour that passes without feeling like you’ve made it one inch upwards can cause exponential amounts of stress. While such challenges seems to be unavoidable in college, I think we can all utilize certain strategies when trying to cope with it. A lot of it will probably come down to what works best for you. Here are a few methods that I find useful:
Renew Your Sense of the Big Picture
To put it another way, perspective. The feeling of suffocation that comes from schoolwork can make it seem as if there is nothing else outside of the imposing academic bubble, a sensation that can build until it feels like our lives will be determined based on whether or not we complete a relatively small homework assignment. Not that I’m encouraging anyone to blow off their studies; we all have our goals and reasons for being here of course, but there’s so much more to who you are than what your life is inside campus. I think remembering this in times of stress can provide an instant shot of confidence and energy towards the task(s) at hand.
Keep Solidarity in Mind
You are not in this alone, even if you’re all by yourself in a big empty room. We all know that there are many out there experiencing similar levels and causes of stress, but it’s easy to forget when we’re in the thick of it. Taking a moment to remember that we’re struggling together can make the struggling part less frightening.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I should say that this is coming from someone afraid to ask for help on most anything. For some people it’s easy, but for the rest of us the act of reaching out for assistance is always difficult, a strain on our strong need to feel self-reliant and our fear of being indebted to another person. The thing is, once the threshold is crossed, asking for help feels great, and doing so is an act of engagement that professors always seem to appreciate. It can also give you a lot of personal satisfaction, conquering your own discomfort over asking while feeling as if you truly are trying your best.
Take it Bird by Bird
Writer Anne Lamott is the author of a fantastic book called “Bird by Bird,” the title of which she applies to the process of writing and work in general. It’s another way of saying “one thing at a time,” the old adage that never seems to lose its truth. Assignments and things that need doing will always be more imposing if looked at all together. If we can look at tasks as individual steps more than a collective pile of obligation (something easier said than done), the act of moving forward seems less and less impossible.
Listen to Amy Poehler
About that last method? It sounds even better when the amazing Amy Poehler talks about it:
How do you relieve stress?