Thompson Rivers University

Recognizing your stress triggers: Protecting your academic investment

  Posted on: November 29, 2016

“I just want to quit everything, curl up and binge watch Netflix until I die.”

Deep breaths, all. It’s “that” point in the semester.  Crumbling intellects, shrinking attention spans—behold the agony of the academic existential crisis. Naturally, the stress levels heighten as deadlines and exam dates start knocking down the door like vicious debt collectors. Why does it feel like you’re running out of time in a semester that might never end?

Remember that first week of school? You were fresh faced, enthusiastic and ready to take on the semester—no wait, the world! Taking notes on that first day of class, jotting every word down in pristine handwriting—now it looks like a hastily written ransom note written by someone’s non-dominant hand.

A lot has happened this semester, and it’s not just about the education.  When we’re being social, we’re thinking about school; when we’re working on school, we’re thinking of being social. Our minds and bodies need to meet up on the same day and stick to one subject at a time.

Burnt out and brain fried, you’re starting to look like a haggard, world weary traveler, lost in a foreign land. What am I even doing here?

Everyone can identify with those low-energy moments of weakness. What’s important is that you shift your perspective on your life. Discomfort and exhaustion are temporary, but your transcript is for life.

Treat your education as an investment. Protect your academic assets. Not every subject is going to be close to your heart, but consider the big picture when your focus begins to wander.  Speak with your professor, join a study group, connect with the Math and Writing Centre — take advantage of available resources that help you through the speed bumps and road blocks of semester-stress.

Jenna Goddard, Student Success Instructor, and Meaghan Hagerty from the Wellness Centre invite stressed out students to select one or all of these self-care methods.

Zone out: set an egg timer and spend some quiet time. Meditate, color, stretch or listen to the radio.

Look forward to fun: meet a friend for coffee, book a pedicure, make a massage appointment or schedule a yoga class.

Eat well: plan and prep meals, take time to shop.  Spend allotted free time making yummy dishes—maybe bake something for your study group.

Hello h2o: drink more water and limit alcohol and caffeine, which can trigger anxiety.  Did you know that dehydration leads to shorter attention spans, can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory?

Recognize stress triggers: write out a list. Acknowledge what constitutes your personal danger zones.

Cope strategically: note the calming effects of laughter, positivity, friendships and activities. Track soothing solutions alongside your list of woes and worries.

Talk it out: call your mom, chat with a friend; connect with a counsellor, check in with a Wellness team member.  No need to suffer silently.

Clean your room: declutter your bedroom and straighten up your work area. Write to-do lists, update your calendar, tidy up your email inbox, pack your bag and prepare your lunch before heading off to bed. Stress levels will reduce, as an organized life will feel easier to control.

Catch plenty of ZZZ’s:  create a bedtime ritual. Set a sleep time, switch off the screens, and slowly unwind.

Volunteer your time: meet new people, support worthwhile causes; it’s good for the heart, soul, community and resume.

Take a hike: ….literally! Kamloops has loads of walking trails not far from campus. Grab a friend and go on an adventure. That’ll clear your head.  Otherwise, consider taking a class, joining a group, taking a brisk walk around campus.  Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.

Meaghan adds, “more importantly, be nice to yourself! Consider some positive affirmations to replace self-defeatist remarks. Instead of ‘I’m going to bomb this test/assignment’ think ‘I’ve got this. I can do this.’”

Scholastic success is the collective goal, but so is surviving the challenges of university.  Protect your academic investment by caring for your health and well-being. Apply meaningful, mindful techniques that bolster you to graduation and beyond.