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How to Juggle Stress and School During a Major Life Change BY NOOR NAJEEB

March 18 2019

The one factor that remains constant in all of our lives is change. It’s no debate that change can be scary; however, it can also be a fresh start - and a chance to improve our habits. Whether the change you’re enduring is a move, the loss of a close friend, or an identity crisis, juggling between academics, extracurriculars, and social life will intensify this stress. Here are some tips to help you not only balance school life during a transitional period, but grow in the process:

Acknowledge That Life is Always Changing

The first step to adjusting to change is accepting it. If we become so caught up in fighting off these adjustments, we end up not dealing with them. This will only prolong your pain in the long run. Instead of running away change, say to yourself, “life is changing, and it will be ok.” Only then can you begin the process of adapting to your new situation.

Organize (make a study schedule)

It is important to be proactive with the time you are given. According to a study in the US National Library of Medicine, when exposed to high stress levels, the prefrontal cortex (which is the part of the brain that accounts for decision making and regulates self control) can experience dysfunction. This makes it important to strategize and plan ahead so you have time for everything you need to get done. Try utilizing a planner (handheld or virtual), or setting reminders on your phone. This way, you are aware of your deadlines and can manage your time accordingly. As a result, practicing organization can lead to better study habits. Plus, it will help you maintain a sense of stability and order in your life.

Take Time for Yourself

During times of transition, you’re going to feel out of control. Next time you’re on the verge of a meltdown, simply take a break. Take a deep breath, go for a walk, exercise, or take a bath. Figure out what activities help you calm down. Studies have shown that you are more likely to remember what you studied when you give yourself time to relax. For example, the University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras led a study in which he showed that study breaks drastically improve one's ability to focus on a task for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, by taking a break, you'll not only maintain a sense of balance in your life: you'll also enhance your work efficiency.

Think Positively

Being told to “think positive” may be the most cliche advice out there. However, it could also be the most effective. Rewiring our brains to think optimistically can lower rates of depression and levels of distress and can lead to better coping skills during times of adjustment, according to Mayo Clinic. Rather than viewing stress as a force that triggers havoc on your mind and body, think of stress as a sign that something in your life needs to be improved upon. By challenging your negative thoughts, you can maintain focus and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Be Thankful

Being grateful during hardships is a fantastic gateway to viewing situations in a positive light. To practice gratefulness, Psychology Professor Robert Emmons recommends reframing how you think about a situation using "the language of thankfulness". To do so, he suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • What lessons did the experience teach me?
  • Can I find ways to be thankful for what happened to me now even though I was not at the time it happened?
  • What ability did the experience draw out of me that surprised me?
  • How am I now more the person I want to be because of it? Have my negative feelings about the experience limited or prevented my ability to feel gratitude in the time since it occurred?

Doing so, he states, can help us change our perspectives. To strengthen your gratuity, try keeping a journal about 3 things you are grateful for each day. This can significantly improve one’s memory and understanding. Additionally, evidence suggests that practicing gratuity in a journal for 6 weeks can improve one's happiness for up to several months.

Set Goals

When you set your sights on a future goal, you can focus on an overlying life purpose even when your current situation is uncertain. We are still in the beginning months of 2019. Use this time to create a resolution. Think about where you want to be by the end of the year and find the motivation to work towards that goal.

Seek Support

Don’t be hesitant to ask for help - whether it be from a parent, teacher, friend, or therapist. Professors and researchers in London have found that those given a recovery workbook and ten sessions of peer support were less likely to be hospitalized then individuals given a workbook without peer support. If you do not have a support system you can rely on, look into free online therapy resources such as 7 Cups.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Mistakes are lessons that teach us how to improve in our next chapter. Instead of beating yourself up over your shortcomings, target the problem and learn how to overcome it. If you start lagging in a school subject, set time aside to meet with your teachers. If you’re still not understanding how to balance redox equations or simplify square roots, utilize what’s in front of you! Some websites that are highly recommended by teachers (and students) across the nation include Khan Academy (for SAT, ACT, lessons, practice) and Study.com (for quick lessons and multiple choice practice). Furthermore, learning from your mistakes goes well beyond the classroom. If the change you're experiencing has to do with relationships, assessing your role in the situation can lead to clarity and self improvement.

Remember That Life Will Go On

When life doesn’t go as planned, it can feel like your whole world is crashing down around you. However, whether you make a conscious effort to or not, eventually you will most likely learn to accept and reframe. In times of crisis, always remember that your current situation isn't going to be forever.

For more advice on how to manage stress, try listening to these Ted Talks:

  1. How to Make Stress Your Friend - Kelly Mcgonigal
  2. Why the Secret to Success is Setting the Right Goals - John Doerr
  3. How to Stay Calm When You Know You'll be Stressed - Daniel Levitin

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Credits:

Created with images by seyhoop6 - "look out of the window fog car" • Ross Findon - "Change" • Cristina Gottardi - "untitled image" • sydney Rae - "untitled image" • Estée Janssens - "untitled image" • Kylli Kittus - "Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn, Estonia" • stevepb - "mistake spill slip-up" • ohurtsov - "girl young lifestyle"

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