Friday, 28 March 2014

How To: Manage Stress Part 1

Hi guys!

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So you've probably noticed that I haven't updated properly in about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, I am absolutely swamped with deadlines and exams at university at the minute and cannot spare a second. At the minute, I keep experiencing periods of intense 'I can't cope with life anymore' moments and I keep finding myself with my head in the fridge, or snapping at my boyfriend for breathing too loudly. I'm not going crazy. I'm just really, really stressed, and I'm sure many of you can relate.

I've been getting a bit better with it recently and have been researching some stress management tips that I would like to share with you guys, along with ways I've found help me, in case any of you are also going through this right now!

In this post, we're going to look at the practical tips for managing stress. In Part 2 (which I will hopefully publish some time this week) I will move on to discuss ways to mantain a good mental well-being during high stress periods.

Keep a Diary
Okay, this is possibly the most important thing if you have deadlines. Keeping a diary, or multiple, with all your deadline dates in not only ensures you don't miss any but also makes it a ton easier to organise how you're going to tackle your workload. I have my deadlines in my diary, on my phone calendar, on my Reminders on my computer and on a piece of paper on my wall. This has genuinely helped me get it into my head exactly what I need to do and when I need to do it by. Don't neglect this, it's really important!

Find a Peaceful Environment
It's vital you find a space without distractions. This can be the university or local library, your bedroom when no one else is around (and if you trust yourself not to sleep, or decide that you feel like you just have to watch Pretty Little Liars from the beginning again), a seperate room in the house like a dining room or study... anywhere you feel comfortable.

I know that I can only get work done at home about 20% of the time, and this had to be when my boyfriend is out so I tend to spend a great chunk of my time at the library. I literaly hole myself up in there pretty much everyday.

Even if you only end up spending 2 hours a day in your environment, trust me when I say it's 2 hours a day of getting more work done than if you tried to do it in the living room, or around your housemates. Which brings me to my next point...

Weigh up the Pros and Cons of Working with Other People
You might find that you hate working on your own. You might zone out, or get too easily distracted (don't go down the PLL route again!). This is where you need to ask yourself if you would work better with someone around to talk to, who could keep your brain active and whom you could discuss the work with.

However, I've peronally found this to be a very fine line to walk along. While having someone around to talk to can help, it can also be detrimental to your concentration. Because of this, I prefer to work alone, or if I do work around someone I make sure they know I have to get on with it myself and I have my headphones in. This way I can ensure I don't end up talking about irrelevant things but I also have someone there to prod when I could do with a bit of help. Failing this, I tend to use Facebook to harass people I need help from since this makes it easer to ask a question but then log off, or just don't respond when the conversaton diverts slightly.

During exams though, I need to be quizzed on the material, so human company is second-to-none. What works for me in this situation is to work alone on making notes and revising material, so at least it's all down away from distractions, and then find someone willing to help me out by quizzing me on my notes/flashcards once I've read it over a few times. Talking to them keeps my brain active (I'm awful at memorising things) and stops me from bashing my head against a table.

Try Listening to Classical Music
Seriously. I'm not asking you to go and hang out with your Nan but this really works! For me anyway. Most of you will be familiar with the Mozart Effect. That is, the theory that the more you listen to classical music, the more intellgent you become. While this claim has been widely explored and largely disputed, it is not denied that listening to music can help bolster concentration levels. In fact, many students find listening to music helps. In one brief expeirment, however, this was only found to work for a small percentage of participants, so it is really up to you to decide whether it works for you or not.

Listening to classical music, rather than music you are familiar with, or with lyrics, is arguably better for concentration. I personally find that I cannot listen to music I know the lyrics to, otherwise I find myself singing along or staring at the same sentence for a few minutes while I get lost in the music. Classical music on the other hand seems to keep my brain active but is merely backgroud noise so it doesn't distract me from my work.

Of course, it is all subjective, so try it out and see if it works for you!

Stay Organised
I know I've already mentioned keeping your deadline dates to hand, but there are many other ways to stay organised and on top of your workload. I use coloured sticky notes when making notes for an essay, for example. I coordinate the colours to mean different things. Because I am studying for a degree in History, I have to write a LOT of essays and I have to read a LOT of books. Remember, if you're writing an academic essay, it is extrememly important to keep track of your references/reference as you go along so you don't get confused when writing your essay and citing your sources! I will use one colour of my sticky notes for my historiography (I use blue) and I will stick it at the top of the page for easy referencing (remember you need the page number)! I also use different colours to indicate the historiography or evidence to support both the 'for' and 'against' arguments (for me, yellow indicates the 'for' arguments, while orange indicates the 'against').

Another way to stay organised is to keep everything in relevant folders. Whether you do this on your laptop/computer, or a physical folder full of notes, printed off material, lecturer's powerpoints etc., keep your stuff in organised folders. It sounds simple, but it's so effective at keeping your mind structured and focused on the issue at hand. Anything you may need to refer to will be one easy go-to place.

I hoped this helped you guys a bit when thinking how to practically tackle your workload. If you have any further tips, please put them in the comments. God knows I could always do with some more!

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