According to a 2018 American Psychological Association study, unhealthy levels of stress are on the rise and the ability of our youth to cope is declining. Close to half (42%) of our youth reported they didn’t know how to cope with their stress. And 82% cited the school as their #1 stressor!
This short article gives you tips and tools to help manage your stress so it works in your favour instead of becoming a barrier to your success.
We might understand the biology of stress, and how much more effective we can be in our management of stress. But can we do it? You’ll need to commit to finding a balance that works for you in the face of overwhelming demands on your time and on your performance. We know that too much stress hinders our ability to feel good, perform well, and can even result in cognitive challenges and declined performance!. Life is stressful and we need to learn to deal with stress effectively for our success.
In Cal Newport's book, “How to Become a Straight-A Student”, he studied the secret study habits of straight-A students from Harvard and other Ivy League Universities. The majority of these students spent a minimum of 5-minutes a day organizing their schedules and recording it in their planners. Each day, they wrote down upcoming assignments and tests. Once home at the end of the day, they’d take 5 minutes to record this into a calendar. They’d write due dates and the blocks of time they’d use to complete these tasks. This took little time to do, but had huge benefits! This level of attention to organization ensured they had time for interests outside of school including socializing and maintaining connections. So, staying organized is a big help and a predictor of success when it comes to schoolwork.
However, what about keeping your mind organized?
Observe your thoughts and choose supportive and kind ones:
Identifying your thoughts and how they are influencing your state of mind is an essential aspect of stress management. Does your self-talk support your relaxation and success? Or does it paralyze you? We all have non-stop chatter in our minds. Take charge of yours to ensure it is kind, supportive and encouraging! Say something nice to yourself today because building your confidence is something you can do with your inner thoughts. This confidence will help you better manage stress. Make a list of 4-6 thoughts that empower you.
Take time for yourself outside of your studies for exercise:
In his research on student success, Newport found that being social, having fun and free time are all part of what makes a great student. So, it’s important to do things outside of study time that energize you and brings you pleasure. According to Harvard researchers, exercising starts a biological cascade of events in the body to the benefit of sleep, mood, and decreased anxiety. It spurs the release of a protein called neurotrophic factor causing nerve growth and connection. Simply doing 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week will do the trick! So, be sure to prioritize the physically active time that you enjoy to help you manage your stress and increase your fun time!
Take care of your body with a balanced diet:
Newport also found that the most successful students don’t skip meals and they drink lots of water. They consider their body to be like a machine that requires regular daily nourishment in order for the brain to deliver its best performance. These students are right. Treat your body well and provide it with the proper sustenance it needs!
Social connection makes for happier people:
Lastly, and very well most importantly, consider how you will spend your fun time connecting with friends and family. The research is clear that those who are more socially connected are happier over time. Newport found that top students in his research ensure they get their connection time to nurture their social relationships.
Remember stress is a normal part of life. Your task is to gain more skills and tools to better manage stress, not to make it disappear. How are you managing your stress? What is your plan to maintain balance in your life? Talking with your loved ones about your stress can also help alleviate tension. If your stress becomes too much for you, there is a help. Don’t wait before asking for help.
We hope these few simple steps help you to better manage your transition back into school.
Heather Bach brings 20 years of experience and training to her role as Clinical Director of the Bach Counselling. With her Master of Arts in Psychology, she is certified with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Heather works primarily with couples and individuals using evidence-based approaches in dealing with relationship issues, separation, anxiety, depression, trauma, disordered eating, and ADHD.
Heather uses a number of evidence-based tools and techniques to bring her clients closer to their goals.
Solution Focused, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT),
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT),
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR),
Short-Term Psychodynamic Therapy,
Bowen Family Systems and Process Oriented Jungian Therapy