Stress is a natural occurrence—it happens to all of us. There are two types of stress which bring about different symptoms. One is ‘eustress’, also known as ‘beneficial stress’, which can serve as motivation to continue working. The other is ‘distress’ and this is the negative kind of stress. We should worry about distress and try to keep it at bay, as it can affect you emotionally and physically, and may also negatively impact your academic performance. In fact, this survey from Headspace established that a worryingly high number of Australian university and TAFE students are stressed and anxious, sitting at 83.2%, with some even having thoughts of self-harm. Fortunately, distress can be controlled.
1. Work in short bursts
It can be hard for the human brain to concentrate on the same thing for long periods of time, so focusing for 45 minutes at a time and taking a 15-minute break in between is the best way to approach studying or writing an essay. But make sure you use those 15 minutes wisely to give your mind and body an actual rest. Try grabbing a snack or a cup of tea, going out for a short stroll to get your eyes off the screen and books, or even stretching.
2. Exercise and eat well
When we study, we often do it sitting down. The problem with this is that being in the same position all day is not good for your body. This is where exercise is key to keeping your stress levels low and your concentration levels high. Exercise will boost blood flow to the brain, and this will make you feel more focused. In addition, a balanced meal is also important because studying while hungry or eating unhealthy or low-calorie foods will affect your ability to concentrate. Eat foods that are digested slowly, such as whole grains, fresh vegetables and lean proteins. Likewise, think ahead and prepare nutritious meals in advance when you can.
3. Create a study plan
Having a visual study plan to refer to will help remind you of what you need to study and what you have already studied. Additionally, it’ll help you avoid procrastination, which is your number one enemy when you need to get things done. Your study plan should also take into consideration any commitments and activities you have, like exercise, work, social gatherings, and anything else you do daily. Contrary to what people believe, being successful at studying doesn’t mean neglecting all other aspects of your life, it just means you have to be organised.
Make sure you check your study plan regularly—update it accordingly with what you’ve already done, what needs to be done or re-visited, and any new goals you want to achieve. Lastly, if you have a job but feel you’ll need extra time for study, be sure to talk to your employer as early as you can.
4. Avoid distraction
Although it might seem impossible, you should consider taking a break from Facebook and Instagram when you’re trying to excel in your studies. Remember, that ‘I’ll-only-quickly-check-this-notification’ moment can extend into a neverending social media loop—so switch your phone off for study sessions.
5. Get enough rest
Relaxation is important when you’re trying to focus and succeed in your studies, especially before bed. It’s at night when your brain activity slows down and all the information you learnt during the day is processed—so a good sleep is crucial. You should aim to sleep at least eight hours every night. Try breathing exercises, taking a shower or bath, or drinking camomile tea before bed to help you sleep better.
6. Ask for help if you need to
Nobody is expecting you to understand everything straight away, so don’t be concerned if you have lots of questions. But make sure you get help if you need to, by talking to your classmates and emailing the people in charge of your studies. You can even organise online study groups if you need extra support.
Excel in your studies
Managing stress is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle while you’re studying. Failure to do so can result in negative consequences for yourself, both physically and emotionally. The good news is that by following the 6 simple steps above, you can be on the right path when it comes to keeping stress at bay and achieving the marks you want.
Studying without stress can be a lot of fun, and kimbweta offers a range of topics for students studying online and offline. Contact us for more information or browse our topics .