Everyone deals with stress differently. On those days when obligations seem as monumentally heavy as my sleepless eyelids, a trip outside my textbook-crushed mind does the trick. Deep breaths and an attempt at perspective often show me that I worry too much about trivial things. No matter what stresses you out, it’s possible to maintain. Use these thoughts to reorder your priorities and ease the heaviness in your chest.
1. You can only do so much with 24 hours.
The world expects a whole lot from you, and fulfilling every expectation is physically impossible. I tended to stress about not finishing my reading and feeling lost in class until I realized that perfection simply wasn’t attainable. Give yourself a break if you can’t finish everything. Pick and choose the most important tasks and worry about the rest when you can.
2. Acknowledge all the stressful things you’ve already conquered.
You may struggle with three group projects this week, but in your lifetime you have overcome something much worse. School and work struggles don’t even compare to life’s other stressors. Death in the family? The end of a long-term relationship? Thinking about the hardships you have faced and how you overcame them exemplifies your strength. Those unruly group members have nothing on your experience as a seasoned human being.
3. Health comes first. Get some sleep.
Fetal position, tears and breathlessness don’t do a single thing for stress. Not to mention, it checks nothing off your list. If you find that trying to work only results in mental breakdowns during a late night study session, and that you have lost the ability to contain your stress and move on, go to bed. Risking your health and sanity is not worth the grade.
4. A late assignment is not the end of the world.
Seriously, think about the worst thing that could happen if you turn in your paper a day late. Losing a few points? You’ll probably end up with a higher score from a good, late paper than from a bad, on-time paper anyway. Allow yourself an extra day and it might even enable you to continue working and finish in the nick of time. And if you really can’t finish, cut your losses and reflect on how you can do better next time.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James
5. Work as hard as possible and realize that nothing more can be done.
Did you truly do your best studying for that exam? Give yourself realistic expectations, and if you met them, you succeeded no matter the grade. Stressing about how you should have studied harder does not change your grade. Do what you can and the rest tends to work itself out. I promise that I’ve never received less than a B- on something I gave my all.
6. In the long run, the stressful stuff hardly matters.
We often stress about petty things like assignments, work and plans going awry. In days, weeks or months, you will forget about the stress and move on. Completing the paper or planning your roommate’s surprise birthday party with difficult roommates are small in the grand scheme of things. Stress makes small things monumental, unless we actively remember how little they matter in a world full of possibility.
7. Every stressor is temporary.
I like to read old journals and see the stress of my junior year of high school. It’s comforting to realize that I feel none of that same stress anymore. I panicked, finished the year and then it was over, as if the stress never even occurred. If you focus your energy on one obligation at a time, rather than the number of obligations you have, the stress goes away quicker. And it always goes away. Remember that the stress you feel during a lab experiment immediately disappears once the experiment is complete.
8. Balance is necessary.
Constant worry over school or work reveals a desire for perfection. Other areas suffer under the attempt to create that perfection. Balancing school, sleep, friends and fun relieves stress because no one area beats out another. My British literature class held importance, but not enough to lose an entire night of sleep just to finish one class worth of reading. When that mindset exists, you recognize the equality of all your needs.
“If the problem can be solved, why worry? If the problem cannot be solved, worrying will do you no good.” – Santideva
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(Main photo by spine)